After the 7 days of the Chanukas Hamishkan, the Mishkan is finally fully operational. Aharon takes over the Avodah from Moshe Rabbenu. After bringing his first Karbanos, Aharon Hacohen blesses the people and the glory of Hashem descends on the nation. As promised in Parshas Terumah, the Jewish people built for Hashem a sanctuary and Hashem dwells with them. A fire descends from Hashem and consumes the Olah and fats. The people fall on their faces in awe. Nadav and Avihu, Aharon's elder sons, in a state of religious ecstasy take fire pans, put in them fire and incense, and bring them before G-d, a strange fire that had not been commanded to them. A fire comes out from Hashem, consuming them as they die before Hashem. What went wrong?
רש"י ויקרא פרק י
(ב) ותצא אש - רבי אליעזר אומר לא מתו בני אהרן אלא על ידי שהורו הלכה בפני משה רבן. רבי ישמעאל אומר שתויי יין נכנסו למקדש, תדע שאחר מיתתן הזהיר הנותרים שלא יכנסו שתויי יין למקדש. משל למלך, שהיה לו בן בית וכו', כדאיתא בויקרא רבה:Verse 2: A fire came forth.
Rabbi Eliezer says: The sons of Aharon died only because they rendered halachic decisions in the presence of their master Moshe.33 Rabbi Yishmo'el says: Intoxicated with wine they entered the Sanctuary.34 You should know [that this is true], for after their death He warned the survivors not to enter the Sanctuary [while] intoxicated with wine. [This] may be compared to a king who had a [faithful] member of his household, etc. as it is [explained] in Vayikro Rabbo.35
The Lubavitcher Rebbe asks, why does Rashi provide these two reasons for the death of Nadav and Avihu and ignore the more simple pshat that they died because they brought an אֵשׁ זָרָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוָּה אֹתָם, a foreign fire that God had not commanded. He explains that in reality Nadav and Avihu died Midah Keneged Midah. They brought an אֵשׁ זָרָה, a foreign fire, and וַתֵּצֵא אֵשׁ מִלִּפְנֵי יְקֹוָק וַתֹּאכַל אוֹתָם וַיָּמֻתוּ לִפְנֵי יְקֹוָק , a fire came from before God and consumed them and they died before God. However, Rashi wants to know how could a fire from Hashem be a vehicle of punishment if just 2 verses earlier it represented the apex of divine reward when it says וַתֵּצֵא אֵשׁ מִלִּפְנֵי יְקֹוָק וַתֹּאכַל עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ אֶת הָעֹלָה וְאֶת הַחֲלָבִים וַיַּרְא כָּל הָעָם וַיָּרֹנּוּ וַיִּפְּלוּ עַל פְּנֵיהֶם: , a fuire came from before God and consumed the altar, the Olah, and the fats, and the nation saw and they sang and they fell on their faces. Therefore Rashi says that Nadav and Avihu did not die because of the act of Avodah itself which inherently was an act of Kedusha. Rather they died because they did not consult with Moshe Rabbenu.
But how did it enter their hearts to do such a thing? After weeks of Moshe Rabbenu's detailed presentation of every aspect of the Avodah, how could they fail to consult with him prior to offering their own innovation? To answer this, Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky explains, is the second peshat in Rashi. The root cause of their arrogance was the wine that they ingested. If one considers, this wine was not yet forbidden. Only after this unfortunate incident, does Hashem command, "No drinking and serving". On such a happy day as the dedication of the Temple it was understandable that Nadav and Avihu wished to celebrate with some wine. Does it not say in Tehillim in Barchei Nafshi that we recite on every Rosh Chodesh: (טו) וְיַיִן יְשַׂמַּח לְבַב אֱנוֹשׁ לְהַצְהִיל פָּנִים מִשָּׁמֶן וְלֶחֶם לְבַב אֱנוֹשׁ יִסְעָד:, wine makes the heart happy? But they should have realized that the awe with which one approaches the temple and the happiness one experiences with alcohol do not mix. When one drinks one's inhibitions go down and one often behaves in silly or inappropriate ways as the Gemara says in Eruvin נכנס יין יצא סוד when wine comes in the secrets come out.
But can't wine be a positive thing? I remember in Yeshiva on Purim that some of the Rebbeim would get drunk and the only secrets that would leave their mouths was Torah. So why would wine be condemned in Nadav and Avihu such holy people. The Sfas Emes looks at these verses metaphorically:
שפת אמת ספר ויקרא - פרשת שמיני - שנת [תרמ"ז[
בענין שאמחז"ל על נדב ואביהוא *שתויי* *יין* נכנסו למקדש. גם לפי פשוטו חלילה לומר שהיו מזלזלין ח"ו בעבודה. רק כענין שמצינו אגברי' חמרא לדרדקא כי היכי דלימרו מילי. ואיתא חמרי פקחין כו'. שהיין מעורר הלב כמ"ש ותירוש ינובב בתולות. אך הכהן שהוא שלוחו של מקום לא הי' רשאי להוסיף שום כח והתפעלות מצידו. וזה נקרא אשר לא צוה אותם שהי' צריך להיות כל העבודה רק בשליחות המקום ב"ה. והקב"ה מדקדק עם הצדיקים כחוט השערה:
Wine represents coming to do the Avodah with one's own wisdom and creativity. However, in the service of Hashem one must be totally subservient to God. This was the sin of Nadav and Avihu. Rather than using the Avodah to subjugate their will to the will of the one above, they created their own Avodah.
There is an old Minhag to fast on the Monday, Thursday, and Monday after Rosh Hodesh following Pesach and Sukkos. This is known as Taanis BehaB. I do not advocate this custom for any of you. But what is the idea behind it. That the celebration on Pesach and Sukkos can lead to over exuberance, too much eating and especially too much drinking and for this we need an atonement. This was the sin of Nadav and Avihu. How often do some of us follow this example? How many of us ingest too much drink at Simchas, Kiddushes, and Shalom Zachors? Even if we claim that secrets don't come out, what example does this provide to our children? Let us learn from Nadav and Avihu.