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Shabbat Parashat Acharei Mot Kedoshim| 5770

Parashat Hashavuah: The Two Sons

Harav Yosef Carmel

Our parshiyot begin with yet another mention of the tragic death of two of Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu. These were deaths that are hard to understand at that glorious time despite the explanations of what they did wrong.

We will look this week at a novel idea related to two words from the parasha’s opening introduction, “shnei bnei (the two sons of…), regarding Nadav and Avihu. We find those words in two other places in the Torah. One is the description of the massacre carried out by Shimon and Levi, “the two sons of” Yaakov (Bereishit 34:25). The other is when Yaakov was reluctant to let Reuven take Binyamin to Egypt, Reuven said to Yaakov that if he did not bring Binyamin back, “my two sons you shall kill” (ibid. 42: 36-37).

Both of these p’sukim have links to the sale of Yosef. Yaakov, before his death, connected the sins of Shimon and Levi: the massacre of Shechem and the sale of Yosef (see ibid 49:5-7 with Rashi). As a result of their sins, the two, along with Reuven, who preceded them, lost the right to be the leaders of the nation.

Before we continue, let us consider what logic there was, to the extent that there was some, in Reuven’s offer to have his two sons killed. The Torah says that one who steals has to pay double (Shemot 23:3). If one steals a person (kidnaps) and then sells him, he is deserving of the death penalty (ibid. 21:16). Although it might be somewhat deserving, we cannot double the punishment, as a person can be killed only once. Yehuda sold Yosef, but on the other hand, saved him from possibly being killed by Shimon and Levi. Instead of being killed by Hashem, two of Yehuda’s sons died, albeit for their own sins, but in a manner that acutely pained Yehuda. An element of double pay was preserved. Reuven, in offering his two sons, imitated the Divine concept of paying double, if he would not return Binyamin to his proper place. He made a mistake in offering such a thing, which Hashem would do if He found it appropriate.

Shimon was a major partner in the sin of selling Yosef, but he, for whatever reason, was punished in a different manner, by being put into jail and kept in exile in Egypt, as the other brothers returned to their father.

Levi, then, is the only one who seems to have escaped punishment for his involvement in the harsh treatment of Yosef. Perhaps this comes through Aharon, spiritual leader of the whole tribe, on the day of the inauguration of his service in the Temple. Aharon’s sons were enticed to sin and deserve death, and Aharon experienced that which was coming to his grandfather, as his two sons died.

Let us internalize during these days of remembrance and celebration, that while sometimes serious disagreement between brothers cannot be avoided, we must demand of ourselves to preserve unity, even when we do not expect uniformity.



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This week’s Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
R' Meir ben
Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld

Hemdat Yamim is endowed by
Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker and
Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.


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