Parshas Achrei Mos – Is Anyone Good Enough?

This week’s parsha, Parshas Achrei Mos, begins with the following pasuk (verse): And Hashem spoke to Moshe, after the deaths of the two sons of Aharon, when they came close to Hashem, and they died (Vayikra 16:1).

This pasuk is referring to an incident mentioned previously in Vayikra 10:1-7, Parshas Shemini, which outlines the sin, and subsequent sudden deaths, of Nadav and Avihu, the two eldest sons of Aharon Ha’Kohen

On the eighth day of the inauguration of the Mishkan, in their religious ecstasy and fervor, the sons of Aharon each took a fire pan, put in it fire and ketores (incense) and entered the Kodesh Kodashim (Holy of Holies), offering a foreign fire that G-d had not commanded them to offer.  Immediately, a Divine fire emanated and consumed their souls, and they died.

Their precise sin is difficult to discern, and on the textual level, we are told that they came close and offered אֵשׁ זָרָה–אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוָּה, אֹתָם, a foreign fire that they were not commanded (Vayikra 10:1). However, Chazal offer a number of different explanations of their sin, and subsequent deaths.  The Da’as Zekeinim (Vayikra 16:1) quotes Medrash Vayikra Rabbah:

.בחוריו אכלה אש ובתולותיו לא הוללו. למה בחורי בני אהרן אכלה אש? לפי שבתולות לא הוללו שהרי כמה בתולות נאות יושבות עגונות וממתינות להם, והם אמרו אחי אבינו מלך אבינו כהן גדול אחי אמנו נשיא אנחנו סגני כהונה! אי זו אשה ההוגנת לנו?! ולכך לא נשאו ומתו בלא בנים

Fire consumed His young men, and His maidens had no marriage celebration (Tehillim 78:63).  Why were the sons of Aharon consumed by fire? Because the young women had no marriage celebrations.  For there were many pleasant young maidens who were sitting and waiting for them (for a marriage proposal), and yet, they said, ‘The brother of our father (Moshe) is a king, our father is the Kohen Gadol, the brother of our mother (Nachshon ben Aminadav) is a prince, and we are kohanim, and next in line!  What woman would possibly be appropriate for us!?’  And so, they did not marry and died childless.”

It is worth quoting the powerful words and teaching of R’ Yissochor Frand, and here I quote R’ Frand verbatim:

“This [teaching about Nadav and Avihu not marrying because they deemed no girl good enough for them] is a frightening thought to contemplate considering the state of the ‘shidduch market’ today.  I deal with many eligible young men, and I can tell you that many of them are honestly trying their hardest to find a mate, and they just have not been zocheh to find the right one expeditiously.

“Let’s be honest though: many young men nowadays are too picky and petty in their search for a shidduch.  There are boys out there who think that the girl they will marry has to be perfect: She has to be beautiful, come from a wealthy family with perfect yichus, she has to have a great personality, and the lists go on ad nauseam.  This type of boy meets girl after girl, and none of them can possibly meet every single one of his expectations, so he rejects them all.

“In a society in which we have become used to our cars being perfect, and our coffee being served up exactly right, young people grow up thinking that their spouses will also be perfect.  But people are not perfect.  Everyone has areas in which they need to improve.

“If there is any message that we must take from Nadav and Avihu’s tragic passing, it’s that we must stress to our single young men and women (and their parents) that they need to be humble enough to look for a shidduch that is appropriate for them, and not wait for Mr. or Miss Perfect to come along” (The Power of a Vort, p. 199-200). 

In regard to children being rejected from schools, R’ Aharon Leib Shteinman zt’l famously declared, “Gayvah, gayvah, gayvah (It is from haughtiness that these children are rejected)!  With the criteria that some schools are setting up today, even Avraham Avinu couldn’t get accepted to a ‘good’ school!  After all, he was the son of Terach, an idol merchant!

“Rivka Imainu would definitely have trouble getting accepted as well, with Besuel for a father and Lavan for a brother!  Let’s not forget that Besuel had poison readily available to kill Eliezer; they probably didn’t have to send Lavan to the drugstore to pick up a dose!  Who knows how many other people he killed with the poison at his disposal! 

“And our Imahos, Rachel and Leah, daughters of Lavan the swindler, wouldn’t get accepted either.  In fact, a good portion of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs wouldn’t be able to get into our schools today!

“In Brisk, when I was growing up, there was one central cheder for those who wanted an authentic Jewish education.  Everyone learned there – from the children of the Brisker Rav to the children of the simple craftsmen, laborers, and even Communists – we all learned Torah together” (Reb Aharon Leib, p.152). 

There are many lessons to be learned from the tragic deaths of Nadav and Avihu.  Yet let us all carefully read and learn the words of R’ Frand, as they relate to our society today.  If no one is ever good enough, how and who will our children marry; if no child or family is good enough, to what schools will our precious children go?

Would we have been meshadech with the families of Avraham, Rivka, Rachel and Leah…?  Would we have accepted the son of Terach the idolator into our schools…?   

May we be graced with the wisdom to know that while there is no such thing as “perfect” in the eyes of fellow man (for we are humans and not angels), we are all beloved and perfect to the RS”O.   If we are good enough for Him, should we not be good enough for each other?

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


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