1. "And Hashem spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron... and Hashem said to Moses" (Vayikra 16:1). Rabbi Yehuda comments: Since the verse says, "And Hashem spoke to Moses," what need is there to repeat "and Hashem said to Moses, Speak to your brother Aaron...?" The first statement should have sufficed. HE ANSWERS: We learn that it is written, "And Hashem (lit. 'He') called to Moses and (lit. 'Hashem') spoke to him" (Vayikra 1:1) and also, "And He said to Moses, Come up to Hashem" (Shemot 24:1). It has already been established that the discourse here, NAMELY "AND HE CALLED TO MOSES" OR "AND HE SAID TO MOSES" represents one level, NAMELY MALCHUT. Afterwards, the words, "AND HASHEM SPOKE TO HIM" OR "COME UP TO HASHEM" represent another level, NAMELY ZEIR ANPIN. Here too in our text, "And Hashem spoke to Moses" represents one level, NAMELY THE LEVEL OF JUDGMENT REFERRED TO AS 'SPEAKING,' and afterwards the verse, "And Hashem said to Moses, Speak to your brother Aaron" represents another level, NAMELY THE QUALITY OF MERCY REFERRED TO AS 'SAYING.' IN BOTH INSTANCES THE NAME YUD HEI VAV HEI IS MENTIONED, which reveals that they carry one equal scale and all are joined from one source. THIS MEANS THAT BOTH LEVELS, JUDGMENT AND MERCY, ARE OF ONE SCALE FROM ONE SOURCE, WHICH IS ZEIR ANPIN REFERRED TO AS YUD HEI VAV HEI.
2. "After the death of the two sons of Aaron:" Rabbi Yitzchak opened the discussion saying, "Serve Hashem in fear, and rejoice with trembling" (Tehilim 2:11). It is also written, "Serve Hashem with gladness: come before Him with singing" (Tehilim 100:2). These verses appear to contradict one another, as ONE SAYS TO SERVE IN FEAR AND TREMBLING WHILE THE OTHER SAYS WITH GLADNESS AND SINGING. HE ANSWERS: We have learned that "serve Hashem in fear" means that one must first show fear and awe in every act he wishes to perform before his Master. As a result of this reverence before his Master, he will merit to serve with joy the commandments of the Torah. Therefore, it is written, "What does Hashem your Elohim require of you, but to fear" (Devarim 10:12). THROUGH FEAR, HE WILL MERIT IT ALL.
5. Come and see: It is written here, "After the death" and later, "Speak to Aaron your brother...Thus shall Aaron come." (Vayikra 16:2-3). WHAT CONNECTION IS THERE BETWEEN "AFTER THE DEATH OF" TO THE VERSE, "THUS (LIT. 'WITH THIS') SHALL AARON COME?" HE ANSWERS: FROM THE DEATH OF THE SONS OF AARON commences the warning to each of the priests that they must be mindful of Zot (Eng. 'this' fem.), which is the fear of Hashem, WHICH IS MALCHUT. FOR THE DEATHS OF THE SONS OF AARON WERE AS A RESULT OF THEIR NEGLIGENCE IN RELATION TO MALCHUT.
6. Another explanation for, "After the death of the two sons of Aaron." Rabbi Yosi said: It should have read, 'After the death of Nadab and Abihu,' so what is the reason THAT IT SAYS, "The two sons of Aaron?" It is obvious that they were his sons. HE ANSWERS: We have learned that until that time they were not adults but still under the authority of their father; CONSEQUENTLY, THE VERSE REFERS TO THEM AS THE SONS OF AARON. Hence, "when they came near before Hashem, and died" (Vayikra 16:1), they were rushing the time OF OFFERING INCENSE during the lifetime of their father, AS IS INDICATED LATER, and there was more, MEANING OTHER CAUSES PRECIPITATED THEIR DEATH. ALSO, because of the sin they committed "when they offered a foreign fire" (Bemidbar 3:4) as we learned, in one place it is written, "When they offered a foreign fire," AND FOR THIS REASON THEY DIED. In another place, it is written, "When they came near before Hashem," THEY DIED BECAUSE THEY SACRIFICED, BECAUSE THEY RUSHED THE TIME TO BURN INCENSE DURING THE LIFETIME OF THEIR FATHER, AS MENTIONED ABOVE. THIS MEANS THE COMBINATION OF both matters CAUSED THEIR DEATHS, and so it is written here, "The two sons of Aaron" TO TEACH THAT THEY WERE STILL UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF AARON, AS DECLARED ABOVE. It is written, "When they came near," FOR THE DEATH WAS AS A RESULT OF THEIR APPROACH BEFORE HASHEM, DURING THE LIFETIME OF THEIR FATHER.
9. Furthermore, they said: Every time that the righteous depart this world, there is likewise annulled from this world all the harsh decrees, and the death of the righteous brings forgiveness for the sins of the generation. Therefore, we read the portion dealing with the sons of Aaron on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) to bring forgiveness for the sins of Yisrael. The Holy One, blessed be He, says, 'Contemplate the death of these pious ones, and it will be accredited for you, as if you offered sacrifice this day to attain forgiveness.' We have learned that as long as Yisrael will be in exile and neither be able to offer offerings on this day nor will they be able to offer the two goats, they will at least have the memory of the two sons of Aaron. Thus, it will serve as atonement for them.
12. "And Hashem spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron" (Vayikra 16:1): Rabbi Chizkiyah opened the discussion saying, "Therefore, thus says Hashem concerning the house of Jacob, who redeemed Abraham..." (Yeshayah 29:22). This verse is troublesome. It should read, 'Therefore, thus says Hashem, who redeemed Abraham.' Why does it say "Therefore, thus says Hashem concerning the house of Jacob, who redeemed Abraham?"
19. The two sons of Aaron offered a foreign fire, as they did not unify His Name properly and, therefore, were consumed in fire. Rabbi Yitzchak stated that it is written, "After the death" and it is later written, "and died" IN THE SAME VERSE. If it states "after the death of the two sons of Aaron" (Vayikra 16:1), wouldn't I know that they died? HE ANSWERS: We are taught that there were two deaths, one before Hashem and one because they left no children, for one who does not merit children is CONSIDERED dead. For this reason, it is written, "After the death...and died;" NAMELY, "AFTER THE DEATH" IS TO BE UNDERSTOOD LITERALLY AND "AND DIED" REFERS TO THEIR NOT HAVING CHILDREN.
20. Rabbi Aba said that it is written, "And Nadab and Abihu died before Hashem, when they offered a foreign fire before Hashem in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children: and Elazar and Itamar ministered in the priest's office" (Bemidbar 3:4). HE QUESTIONS: What connection does one have with the other in saying, "And they had no children: and Elazar and Itamar ministered in the priest's office?" DID THE LATTER INHERIT THE PRIESTHOOD FROM NADAB AND ABIHU BECAUSE THEY WERE CHILDLESS? HE ANSWERS: This is what I have said THAT they died because they had no children AND WERE CONSIDERED AS IF DEAD. This is definite, but not like other people even though they did not marry, for they died only a physical death and not a spiritual one.
21. From where do we know THAT THEY DID NOT DIE A SPIRITUAL DEATH? For it is written, "And Elazar, son of Aaron took him one of the daughters of Putiel to wife; and she bore him Pinchas: these are the heads of the fathers of the Levites according to their families" (Shemot 6:25). HE QUESTIONS: IT SAYS "these," yet Pinchas alone is mentioned, and it says, "heads of the fathers of the Levites" OF PINCHAS ALONE. THIS IS BECAUSE NADAB AND ABIHU WERE REINCARNATED IN PINCHAS; THEREFORE, THE VERSE READS OF HIM, "THESE ARE THE HEADS," A PLURAL EXPRESSION. According to this, their deaths were physical not spiritual, as THEY WERE REINCARNATED IN PINCHAS. Rabbi Elazar said: THIS IS SO and it is understood WHEN IT IS WRITTEN ABOUT HIM, "These," A PLURAL EXPRESSION. It is likewise inherent WHEN IT IS WRITTEN ABOUT HIM, "Heads," A PLURAL EXPRESSION.
29. We also learn from here that every person who has afflictions visited upon him from his Master, they serve as atonement for sins. All who have distress for affliction brought upon the just will have their sins pass away from this world. For this reason, on this day, YOM KIPPUR, we read about, "After the death of the two sons of Aaron" so that the congregation listens and feels distress for the pious who were lost and thus the congregation have their sins forgiven. Of him, who feels sorrow for the righteous who perished, or sheds tears for them, the Holy One, blessed be He, announces, "And your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged" (Yeshayah 6:7). Furthermore, he is reassured that his children will not die during his lifetime and it is written about him, "He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days" (Yeshayah 53:10).
49. Another explanation for "the virgins (Heb. alamot) love you:" It is fine to read this verse as: 'over death (Heb. al mavet) they love you,' for with this, NAMELY OIL WHICH DENOTES CHASSADIM, the harsh prosecutors embalm themselves, AS 'ALAMOT' IS SPELLED WITH THE SAME LETTERS AS 'AL MAVET.' For incense, SIGNIFYING THE ILLUMINATION OF CHOCHMAH, joins with the higher level ointment, WHICH IS CHASSADIM, and is held in high esteem before the Holy One, blessed be He, more than all sacrifices and burnt offerings. The Congregation of Yisrael said: I am like the incense, DENOTING MALCHUT, AS MALCHUT IS THE SECRET MEANING OF LOWER CHOCHMAH, and You, DENOTING ZEIR ANPIN, are like ointment, DENOTING CHASSADIM. THEREFORE, "Draw me, we will run after you" (Shir Hashirim 1:4). "We will run" IS A PLURAL EXPRESSION, as in, "therefore do the virgins love you," THAT IS, I and all my troops, who all hold onto me. Hence, "draw me," as they are all dependent on me.
68. Rabbi Elazar rose and opened the discussion saying, "And Hashem spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron..." (Vayikra 16:1). This verse needs introspection, for it appears that it is superfluous, as it writes afterwards, "And Hashem said to Moses, Speak to Aaron your brother." Now WE SHOULD ASK, if at the beginning of the portion, in the first verse, it says, "And Hashem spoke to Moses," what did He say to him, SEEING THAT afterwards it is written, "And Hashem said to Moses?"
70. We have learned Moses was pondering who caused them to make this mistake OF OFFERING FOREIGN FIRE, and was sad. It is written, "And Hashem spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron." What did He say to him? "When they came near before Hashem, and died" (Vayikra 16:1) It is not written: 'offered,' but "came near." The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses, 'This is what caused them this, for they hurried the hour TO OFFER INCENSE during the lifetime of their father.' They erred in this, IN OFFERING FOREIGN FIRE, so the verse says, "Which He commanded them not" (Vayikra 10:1). They were not commanded to OFFER, for only Aaron did He command. SO THE EXPLANATION OF THE VERSE, "AND OFFERED FOREIGN FIRE BEFORE HASHEM" (IBID.) IS THAT THEY ERRED IN THIS BECAUSE "HE COMMANDED THEM NOT" TO OFFER INCENSE BUT HE COMMANDED AARON ALONE. And if the two sons of Aaron, by rushing the time during their father's lifetime, brought all this on themselves, this is all the more true for me, in relation to my father and Rabbi Pinchas and the other friends. I AM NOT PERMITTED TO RUSH THE HOUR AND SAY NOVEL TORAH INTERPRETATIONS IN THEIR STEAD. Rabbi Pinchas came forth, and kissed and blessed him.
136. They ask ben Zoma: Is it permissible FOR US to emasculate a dog? He replies, "Neither shall you do thus in your land" (Vayikra 22:24). THE MEANING IS, you shall not do thus to anything in your land, EVEN TO A DOG, for as the world needs one thing, it needs another, MEANING THERE IS NOTHING IN THE WORLD THAT IS NOT NEEDED. Therefore, we learned that "and, behold, it was very good" (Beresheet 1:31) refers to the Angel of Death that he should not be blotted from the world, BECAUSE the world needs him. Even though it is written about him, THE ANGEL OF DEATH, "Yea, the dogs are greedy, they never have enough..." (Yeshayah 56:11). IT IS NOT GOOD that they should become extinct from the world. Everything is needed, BOTH good and bad.
276. We have learned that Rabbi Shimon said to the friends: In my day, there will not be a need for mankind to do this, TO BRING OUT A TORAH SCROLL INTO THE STREET. Rabbi Yosi said to him: The righteous shield the world during their lifetime and even more so after their death, as it is written, "For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake, and for the sake of David My servant" (Yeshayah 37:35). Yet during the lifetime OF DAVID, it was not expressed. Rabbi Yehuda said, Why is this verse different, saying, "For My own sake, and for the sake of David My servant," giving the two equal importance? HE ANSWERS: The reason is that David merited to be joined to the holy Chariot of the Patriarchs, AS HE IS FOURTH TO THEM, THE SECRET OF MALCHUT. For this reason, everything is one. Blessed is He forever and ever.
357. "You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister..." (Vayikra 18:12). Rabbi Chiya opened the discussion saying, "And if a man shall take his sister, his father's daughter, or his mother's daughter, and see her nakedness..." (Vayikra 20:17). We have learned that Adam lived apart from his wife for 130 years and did not beget children, since Adam did not want to copulate with his wife after Cain slew Abel. Rabbi Yosi taught that from the time death was decreed for him and all mankind, he has said, why should I beget children that will be destroyed? He immediately separated from his wife.