Parshas Shemini #1
On the Eighth Day
“And a fire emerged from before Hashem and consumed them, and they died before Hashem. And Moshe said to Aharon, ‘This is as Hashem spoke, saying, through those close to Me, I will be sanctified, and before the entire nation, I will be honored. And Aharon was silent” (Vayikra 10:3).
The eighth day of the dedication of the Mishkan would be the first time Aharon and his sons served as Kohanim, unaided by Moshe. This was a momentous occasion for the Jewish people, because when Aharon brought the korbanos, the Shechinah would come to rest upon the Mishkan. Tragically, the joy of this great day was marred by the death of Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu. Rather than waiting for Heavenly fire to consume the ketores (incense), as it had for the other sacrifices (Vayikra 9:24), they decided to place a fire of their own upon the Mizbeach. In punishment, a Heavenly fire emerged from the Kodesh Kodashim and consumed their souls (Sifra).
Aharon, their father, lost two children on the day that should have been the high point of his life. His reaction, recorded by the Torah for all time, has become the symbol of unquestioning acceptance of the ratzon Hashem, no matter how difficult: in the face of this painful double tragedy, “Aharon was silent.”
The commentaries provide insight into Aharon’s actions upon the death of his sons. The Ramban writes that he started crying aloud and then restrained himself, and was quiet.
HaKesav V’HaKabbalah cites the Ramban but disagrees with his explanation, based on the passuk’s use of the word vayidom, rather than vayishtok. Vayishtok would have implied a cessation of sound or speech, as the Ramban wrote: Aharon had wept aloud, and then stopped. Vayidom tells us that there was no sound – no crying or complaint – to begin with. Aharon never even complained, because he had immediately accepted Hashem’s judgment.
We all hope and pray to see only good in our lives, but everyone experiences their share of pain and loss. And yet, Chazal teach us, “man is obligated to make a brachah over the bad, just as he makes a brachah over the good” (Berachos 9:5); we should bless Hashem when we hear bad news, just as we do when we hear good news. The Rambam (Peirush HaMishnayos ibid.) explains that this is because in the long run, we really do not know what will be “good” and what will be “bad.” Events that appeared to be disastrous have turned out to be beneficial, while others that seemed promising and positive were ultimately far from good. We do not know – Hashem does. Tosfos Yom Tov (ibid.) adds that we should view trouble and hardship as atonement for our sins.
The Shulchan Aruch describes a high level of avodas Hashem which we should all strive for. We should bless Hashem for bad, knowingly and wholeheartedly, just as we bless Him joyfully for good. A servant of Hashem takes a positive view of the hardships he encounters, happy to serve Hashem by accepting His decree with joy (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 222:3).
Question for Discussion:
When did you accept a difficult event without complaint?Click Here To Respond
I was privileged to be friends with Dovid Romanowsky, a”h. This brilliant young talmid chacham, a graduate of Stanford University at the age of nineteen, was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was only twenty-nine. When I heard the news, I wanted to let him know that I was aware of the situation, and wish him a refuah sheleimah. One day on the way home from shul I said, “Dovid, I heard that you are not well.” At first, he did not even understand what I was talking about – as far as he was concerned, everything was fine. When he realized what I was getting at, he gave me a big, genuine smile, telling me without words that if this was what Hashem wanted, everything really was fine.
Over the next few years, as his health deteriorated, I spent a great deal of time with Dovid. These were years of terrible suffering for him, but Dovid never complained. When it became too difficult for him to daven by himself, I would say Kerias Shema with him. When even that was too much for him, he would listen, and at the sound of the words “Hashem Elokeichem Emes,” his face always lit up with a smile.
In his last year, he suffered from splitting headaches which made it difficult for him to concentrate. He would often ask, “What should I do now?” For Dovid, the real issue was not the excruciating pain, but the concern over whether it was time for him to daven, or if he needed to make a brachah. To the very end, he had no complaints.
Yehi zichro baruch.