Parshas Shemini – Torah Themes

Repeat Offense


We find the story of the death of the two sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, in our parsha. The Zohar explains, “Just as Adam sinned by drinking wine from the eitz hadas, so too Noach stumbled with wine as well. Noach got drunk after the Flood and revealed himself. Similarly, the two sons of Aharon drank wine and then performed the service, thereby causing themselves to be punished with death too.” What does this all mean?


The Yalkut Reuveni quotes the Eimek Hamelech who sheds light upon this. “Nadav and Avihu were a spark from Kayin. The good part of Kayin went into Aharon Hakohen and the negative part went into Yisro (see essay on Parshas Yisro for elaboration of this and the tikkun -YT). Nadav and Avihu, like Kayin, wished to get close to Hashem through a sacrifice, and thus, they pushed themselves inappropriately forward and were killed by an aish, fire. The letters of aish (אש) make up the acronym of A’dam S’hes. After this, they came back as Chafni and Pinchas and then into two Jews who sinned with meat. They came back again as the two ravens that supplied meat to Eliyahu Hanavi to fix this.


The Yalkut Reuveni also brings down the following: Nadav and Avihu came into Pinchas after he killed Zimri and Kuzbi. That which two people came back in one (Pinchas) was because Nadav and Avihu sinned by not getting married and were thus only half a body each (Zohar).


Eliyahu Hanavi got the ibur (different than gilgul, see further) of Nadav and Avihu during his lifetime. When someone is a gilgul, this is throughout an entire lifetime. But for an ibur, it can start at a specific time and it can end mid-life as well. Elisha asked his rebbe Eliyahu for “please (נא) give me pi shnayim, double, your spirit.” The word nah, please, is an acronym for Nadav and Avihu. That is why is says that Hashem did not accept (ה״עש לא) the sacrifices of Kayin, but here Elisha (ה״אלשע) fixed that (Arizal).


Bringing it all together, the sin of Nadav and Avihu was a form of repeating that which Kayin did wrong. Their lofty souls were meant to repair this sin, yet they too sinned with wine, the ultimate item that represents a self-focused indulgence. Their path ended up being complex and circuitous until the tikkun was finally achieved.

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