Shmini – Loving You is greater than Understanding You As a little kid, we are generally taught how Nadav And Avihu weren’t good people, and that is why they suffered the way they ended up suffering .Being consumed by a heavenly fire, and not in the good way. We count all their different sins and give dvar torahs about it.
The problem with this begging once you grow up a bit and learn the two words through which Moshe Rabbeinu describes the reason behind their death. Bikrovai Akadesh. I sanctify myself amongst those who are closest to me. It gets even more difficult when learning that based on the works of the Arizal, they were reincarnated into the souls of Eliyahu Hanavi, who was also the soul of Pinchas.
To begin to understand this dychotomy – lets ask ourselves the following question.
Did any of us receive any enjoyment that we can remember from the last mitzvah we did? Not because the mitzvah felt good but from he mere fact that we did something which our creator told us to do.
When it talks about Nadav and Avihu, the torah clearly states asher lo trivia hashem.
During the rest of the first portion of the parsha, the torah repeatedly states that when it comes to Moshe Rabbeinu’s service of G-d ‘K’aasher Tziva Hashem’, as G-d had commanded.
For some reason, we don’t really enjoy doing the ka’asher tziva. although he Gemara ins We want to be from those that do things that no one tells us to do.
There are no thrills when i do what I’m supposed to do. When your child ends up doing something that they weren’t asked to do, surprising you, versus following a request you had from them. Somehow, there is a tremendous limmud that we have, davis, from seeing this whole concept of nadav and avid, seeing what foreign fire is through the eyes of the Sfas Emes.
The Sfas Emes, Shmini 1876, quoted his grandfather.
The pshat in the Torah says that all the did wrong was that they brought a fire that they weren’t commanded to bring. That’s it.
What is it that truly instills strength into man? We are generally under the false assumption that it is wisdom and intellect. Knowledge is definitely important, valuable and vital, but that which makes man most powerful is not intellect, it is when when we attach ourselves to the words “Ka’asher Tziva Hashem”, because G-d says so.”
What does this look like?
When we say a bracha, do we say the words “Baruch at a Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’olam Asher Hevanu Et Mitzvotav”, blessed are you our G-d king of the universe who we understand? No, we say “Asher Kidshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu, the one who sanctified us through his mitzvah and commanded us”.
When the consciousness behind the observance and adherence is that you are doing something because Hashem told you to do it – there is nothing more powerful.
Nadav and Avihu were tremendously huge and righteous people. What they did was for the sake of heaven. While they brought forth what they brought, they were davening the most passionate prayer. They were sweating with holiness, but the Torah makes sure to let us know that the only thing that was lacking was that no one told them to bring what they brought.
One’s motives can be very holy, but if Hashem didn’t ask us to do it, what defines it as absolute holiness? There have been so many people who have come onto the scene with tremendous passion and enthusiasm, ending up causing tremendous confusion in Am Yisrael. I would like to believe that white often their motives were holy, and while some of them were tzaddikim, that was not the point. in the course of history, anyone in Am Yisrael who said “I’m so on fire for G-d” while Halacha stopped being their thing, none of them lasted.
Many people say “I am not going to do anything until I understand why I’m doing what I’m told to do.” It may sound holy, but not that holy.
Our sages tell us that one of the reasons behind the sin of Nadav and Avihu was that they came in drunk. The Sfas Emes says that grasping the reasons behind torah law is called the yeyna shel torah, the wine of torah. However, even once you understand why you do what you do, do you end up doing it because you understand the reason behind it, or are you able to still do it because Hashem said so?
Lets take the mitzvah of tefiln. Let’s say we spent a whole year understanding the reasons behind the mitzvah of tefilin. At the end of the day, am i able to still put on tefilin simply because hashem said so, or am I now only able to do it cause it made sense to me?
The Sfas Emes says this is why Nadav and Avihu are called “shtuei yayin”. They weren’t really drunk, but they were drunk with “I got this, i understand it.”
I once spent a whole Yom Kippur, standing next to a Professor of theology in shul. He didn’t open the machzor once, he was reading a book on the Rambam. He didn’t need to open the book, because he understood the point of davening. Since he understood what davening achieves, and why chapel orchestrated the davening in the manner that they did ,he didn’t need to daven.
So therefore, the Sfas Emes says that we can understand the famous phrase from Shir Hashirim ‘tovim dodecha miyayin’, loving you is greater than understaning you. One of the most intriguing parts of love is not being able to fully understand your feeling, but being close and clinging to hashem is far greater than any mindful grasping a person can have about G-d. So even after a year of learning about tefilin, and finally understanding all the reasons, it still does not come close to how good and sweet it feels to put on tefilin, simply because Hashem wants us too.
May we all taste the bliss of a world where Ka’asher Tziva Hashem leads our hearts and souls.