Volume 6 Issue 27
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
At the most importune time in the history of a fledgling nation, tragedy
strikes. On the eighth day of the inaugural ceremonies for the Mishkan, in
a terribly marring scenario, the Torah tells us that "the sons of Aaron,
Nadav and Avihu, each took his fire pan, they put fire in them and placed
incense upon it; and they brought before Hashem an alien fire that He had
not commanded them to bring." Immediately, "a fire came forth from before
Hashem and consumed them, and they died before Hashem" (Leviticus 10:1-2).
In the next verse, Moshe consoled his brother with words that may not have
appeased lesser mortals, "of this did Hashem speak, saying 'I will be
sanctified through those who are nearest Me, thus I will be honored before
the entire people." Ahron understood the true meaning, implications, and
essence of the message; and the Torah tells us "vayidon Ahron," "and Ahron
was silent." The Torah uses words more powerful than Ahron was
quieted. It tells us he was. The Hebrew word dohme has the same
association as dohmaim, an inanimate object. That is how Ahron is
described after hearing Moshe's words: totally subdued and content.
Rashi tells us that in the merit of Ahron's subjugation and total
subservience to Hashem's decree, he merited to hear a Kohanic law, alone,
directly from the Almighty, a route that normally precluded him or at best
had him included as secondary to Moshe. The law bestowed on Ahron
concerned the prohibition of kohanim in drinking intoxicating beverages
before serving in the sanctuary. The Torah tells us, "Do not drink
intoxicating wine, you and your sons with you, when you come to the Tent of
Meeting, that you not die -- this is an eternal decree for your
generations" (Leviticus 10:9).Torah principles usually correlate the reward
with the act that merited it. What, then, is the connection between
Ahron's silence in response to tragedy and his being the sole student of
the Heavenly ordinance against Divine service under the influence? Why did
the meritorious acceptance of the Almighty decree prompt a private
transmission of the laws against priestly intoxication?
Bill, and his friend were having too much to drink, when they collapsed in
a stupor. Bill managed to fall on dry ground, while his friend had
collapsed in the mud.
When Bill awoke and saw his friend he thought that he, too, suffered the
same filthy fate. Leaving his friend asleep in the grime, he stumbled
toward town, looking for a bucket of water to wash himself. In the dark of
night he found a bucket, brimming with liquid and sitting in front of the
local hardware store.
Bill thought it was filled with water. It was not. It was filled with
Intending to wash himself with it, he poured the contents over his body,
and scrubbed thoroughly. Satisfied, Bill drifted toward a grocery for
something more to drink.
Upon seeing the awful spectacle, the proprietor gasped, "Why, Bill, what in
Heaven's name is the matter?"
To which Bill proudly proclaimed, "You should have seen me before I washed
In order to understand the correlation between the prohibition of drunken
service and Ahron's stoic acceptance of Hashem's decree, one must
appreciate that a Kohen would, in his mind, drink to elevate his spirit,
albeit artificially, and thus his service. As one who accepts Hashem's
decree, with no cry or outside manipulation, Ahron HaKohen showed that he
understood that there is no artificial source for lifting spirits or
understanding G-d. Peace and strength come from within the soul and spirit
of those who service Him. When one is content with his perfect relation
with Hashem, when he realizes that though he may have fallen he has the
innate capacity to rebound, he needs no stimuli.
Acceptance of a decree with no complaints is a recognition that the spirit,
form, and embodiment, of a mortal being is completely subservient to the
force of Hashem, content with his total situation with no need for outside
dispensation, compensation, declarations, or mollifications. He is one
with his Creator and His will.
When one looks for outside stimulants, even in the service of Hashem, he
looks for more than is necessary to fulfill his mission. He is bathing
himself in what he thinks is cleanser, but it is not. It will
unnecessarily alter the perfect facilities that Hashem gave him, and that
is no benefit, it is rather even harmful. When entering the perfect
service of Hashem, one must be perfect with one's self. Those who can
accept Hashem's decrees in perfect harmony and live with whatever Hashem
has bestowed upon them need no stimulants. Outside intoxicants don't clean
the mind; they add confusion. And those who live in holy partnership of
their pure selves and the joy of the Almighty, are worthy of carrying the
banner of understanding, silence, solitude, and perfect unadulterated
serenity. Good Shabbos ©2000 Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
Dedicated in honor of the Parkoff Family by the Finkelstein Family
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The author is the Associate Dean of theYeshiva of South Shore.
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