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Divine Overdose

Friday, 25 March, 2022 - 7:56 am

The world order seems to be changing in front of our eyes.  War that seemed unfathomable in the twenty-first century is today’s reality. The global economy of yesterday may not be tomorrow’s economy. The morals and values that we consider sacred are being shockingly tested.

Purim has just passed and Passover is around the corner. Here again, our mind starts racing. What is the meaning of Pesach and true freedom? How can I internalize it into my life?


This week’s parsha, Shmini, tells of the tragic death of two of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu. The Torah states that they died because “each of them took his censer, and put fire in it, and put incense on it, and offered strange fire before G-d, which He commanded them not.” Subsequently, “A fire went out from G-d, and consumed them, and they died before G-d.”

Strangely, Moshe considers them sacred, even after their sin and death. He said to Aharon: "My brother, at Sinai, G-d said to me: 'I will sanctify this House, and through a great man would I sanctify it,' and I thought that either through me or through you would this House be sanctified; but now I see that your two sons are greater than you or I."

So, ultimately, Nadav and Avihu are both punished and praised for the same deed. How can it be?

Chassidic thought teaches that Nadav and Avihu sinned gravely, but with a holy motive. They simply overdosed on G-d.  Yes, they were so passionate about cleaving to the essence of spirit, that bodily affairs meant nothing to them. In fact, the yearning for spirit and divinity was so strong that their souls simply departed their bodies.

Their passion is commendable, but the results are never to be condoned. Judaism charges us with a mission of bringing G-dliness and sanctity into this world – not to abandon the physical for the spiritual.  When it comes to dealing with the material world, we must transform and elevate rather than denigrate and discard.

This helps us understand Judaism’s infatuation with deed. It’s more important to do the right thing than to have the right feelings.

Nadav and Avihu were great proponents of G-d. But their passion took them to the polar opposite of their very mission.

As we observe a world in chaos, replete with enormous challenges, we must remember that action is where G-d can truly be found.

We must study about Pesach; we must understand freedom. But, more importantly – to be truly free and G-dly – we must observe Passover.

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