The Torah tells us that Nadav and Avihu died during the joyous dedication ceremony of the Mishkan. After a heavenly fire descended and consumed the sacrificial offerings, revealing the Divine Presence, the verse states that these two of Aharon’s sons “offered before Hashem alien fire, which He had not enjoined upon them” (Leviticus 10:1). The severe consequence of this act was that they were then consumed as well, also by heavenly fire. The Netziv suggests that their motivation for bringing the forbidden fire was the closeness that they felt to God at the moment of revelation; they were so overcome with this feeling that they desired to get even closer with an offering of their own, which they brought into the Holy of Holies. Though their intentions were pure, the offering was unauthorized and entry into the Holy sanctuary was forbidden, so they were punished. Nadav and Avihu were indeed close to God, as Moshe says of them “Through those near to Me I show Myself holy, and gain glory before all the people” (Leviticus 10:3), but such closeness does not grant a license to bend the rules. Nadav and Avihu teach us that holy places must be approached with awe and trepidation, and that holy people are held to a higher standard. One of the lessons for our generation is that the Children of Israel, living in the Land of Israel, must be especially careful to respect its sanctity and to behave in a way that will bring glory to God’s name.
I Chronicles 24:2
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