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Shabbat Parashat Kedoshim 5776

Parashat Hashavua: Danger to Two Sons

Harav Yosef Carmel

[Since we did not have a parasha sheet for Acharei Mot and in honor of our friends abroad who are reading it this week, the d’var Torah on the parasha will relate to Acharei Mot.]

The parasha begins with mention of the death of two of Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu (Vayikra 10:2-6). Reams of paper have been used to analyze the cause of their death. We would like to add an insight as well.

Let us remember others whose sons died (or could have died) and look for connections. The Torah creates symmetry between the lives of two rival brothers, Yehuda and Yosef. Among other things, Yehuda, who, due to the sale of Yosef, caused his father to be shown Yosef’s cloak and had him asked “haker na … (do you recognize this as …)” (Bereishit 37:32), was himself shown an upsetting object and asked a similarly worded question (ibid. 38:25). And indeed, in a related manner to that story, two sons of Yehuda died at very young ages.

There were other major participants in the horrible sale: Reuven Shimon, and Levi. We may recall that in Sefer Bereishit, Reuven offered to have his two sons killed – if he did not succeed in returning Binyamin to his father, Yaakov, after bringing him down to Egypt by order of the disguised Yosef (Bereishit 42:37). Reuven understood the appropriateness of taking responsibility that if Binyamin would also disappear, he would shoulder responsibility in the form of two sons’ death. However, at the end, since Reuven came out against killing Yosef and he was not present when Yosef was sold, he escaped the fate of losing his sons. Levi, who was one of those who decided to kill Yosef and went along with the plan to sell him, paid the price in that two of his prominent great-grandchildren, Nadav and Avihu, were killed. Chazal indicated that there was a connection between Aharon’s participation in the Sin of the Golden Calf and the deaths of his sons, and we have indicated in the past that there are significant connections between that tragedy and the sale of Yosef. (We will discuss some other time the price that Shimon had to pay for his involvement.)

The selling of a brother, with its accompanying harming of the unity of the nation, can be the cause of serious divine displeasure. Unity and peace between siblings is beloved to Hashem and causes divine pleasure. We should mention the explanation of Chazal of the prophecy of Hoshea (4:17): “Ephrayim is connected to idols; leave him.” They explain: “Great is peace, for when Israel were worshipping idols but there was peace between them, Hashem said that he does not want to harm them. In contrast, regarding when there is dispute, it says: ‘Their heart was split; now they will be blamed.’ Thus, peace is great, and dispute is despised” (Derech Eretz 7).

We should all try to internalize this idea, especially at the time of sefirat haomer, when we commemorate the death of the students of Rabbi Akiva, for not showing respect to each other. That historical event also ended the chance of Israeli independence in its Land, something that required almost two millennia to rectify.
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