In the Torah portion of Shemini, we read about the sin and subsequent deaths of Nadav and Avihu, the two oldest sons of Aharon, as the verse says, “And Aharon’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, each took his pan, put fire in it, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before the L-rd foreign fire, which He had not commanded them. And fire went forth from before the L-rd and consumed them, and they died before the L-rd.”
There are many opinions as to what sin they actually committed. Here are some of them:
- They did not consult with their teacher Moshe (or even with each other) before entering the Holy of Holies.
- They had spoken disrespectfully about Moshe and Aharon. They were walking behind them and one said to the other “When will these old men die so that we can lead the generation?”
- They entered the Holy of Holies without permission and sacrificed incense which they had not been commanded to do.
- They used an ordinary fire from an oven for this service rather than a fire from the outer altar.
- Both of them sacrificed the incense instead of just one of them.
- They entered while inebriated.
- They were not wearing all of the bigdei Kehuna (clothes of the kohanim).
- They had not washed their hands and feet before serving in the Mishkan that day.
- They had not gotten married and fathered children. This was done out of arrogance, as they considered themselves so special that no prospective bride was good enough for them.
- They had previously gazed improperly at the Shechina (Divine Presence).
- Tthey died as a result of their intense yearning to cleave to G-d.
How are we serving God? Are we pursuing holiness?
Are we studying the scriptures with a Rabbi? Are we performing Mitzvas? Giving Tzedakah?