10. We have learned that it is written, "These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the priests" (Bemidbar 3:3) and also, "Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Elazar and Itamar" (Ibid. 2). HE QUESTIONS: It should read: 'And Elazar and Itamar' JUST LIKE IT SAYS "AND ABIHU," so why write "Elazar and Itamar?" WHY DELETE THE CONNECTING 'AND' (VAV) FROM ELAZAR? HE ANSWERS: Abihu was equal to his two brothers. The VERSE EQUATES ABIHU TO ELAZAR AND ITAMAR, and Nadab is equal to all the others.
11. The firstborn Nadab stands on his own merits and Abihu rests on his own, AND FOLLOWING THEM ELAZAR AND ITAMAR ARE READ AS JOINED TOGETHER TO TEACH that each one OF NADAB AND ABIHU are considered in the eyes OF SCRIPTURE as both Elazar and Itamar TOGETHER. But BOTH Nadab and Abihu by themselves are each considered equal to the seventy members of the Sanhedrin who served before Moses. For this reason, their deaths atoned for Yisrael. Therefore, it is written, "But let your brethren, the whole house of Yisrael bewail the burning" (Vayikra 10:6). Rabbi Shimon said: THEREFORE THE VERSE SPECIFIES "Nadab the firstborn," meaning he is the one that all acclaim and praise are his. How much more so with Nadab and Abihu TOGETHER, because these two have no equal among all Yisrael.
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.
22. Due to this, it is written, "Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aaron the priest" (Bemidbar 25:7) and also it is written, "And Pinchas son of Elazar, son of Aaron" (Shoftim 20:28) was a priest in those days. It should simply read: 'Pinchas, the son of Elazar the priest;' WHY MENTION "SON OF AARON THE PRIEST?" He wished to tell us that whenever Pinchas is mentioned, IT IS WRITTEN, "son of Aaron the priest." BUT WITH REGARD TO ELAZAR, it is only written, "Elazar the priest" AND NO MENTION OF SON OF AARON, as we find written, "Before Elazar the priest" (Bemidbar 27:21) or "And Elazar the priest said" (Bemidbar 31:21). THIS IS DUE TO THE FACT THAT NADAB AND ABIHU, SONS OF AARON, WERE REINCARNATED IN PINCHAS; THEREFORE, THE VERSE MENTIONS 'SON OF AARON' REGARDING HIM. Consequently, their deaths were physical but spiritually they did not die, AS THEY WERE REINCARNATED IN PINCHAS.
24. Rabbi Elazar inquired of his father: Behold, NADAB AND ABIHU were two individuals, why were there not two, MEANING WHY WERE THEY NOT REINCARNATED INTO TWO PEOPLE, BUT ONLY IN PINCHAS? He replied: Each was a half body because they did not marry, AND ONE WHO DOES NOT MARRY IS CONSIDERED A HALF PERSON. For this reason, the two are incorporated in one, as it is written, "And she bore him Pinchas: these are the heads."
26. HE QUESTIONS: What is apparent here, MEANING WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN A FOREIGN FIRE TO A FOREIGN WOMAN? HE ANSWERS: At the beginning, they brought near TO THE HOLINESS something that was far removed FROM HOLINESS AND DEFILED THE HOLINESS, as it is written, "When they offered a foreign fire." Here too, Zimri COMMITTED THE VERY SAME SIN in that he brought near THAT which was far FROM HOLINESS (NAMELY, THE FOREIGN WOMAN TO THE HOLINESS) BECAUSE he brought near the name of the King, THE SIGN OF THE HOLY COVENANT, to the distant one - NAMELY, THE FOREIGN WOMAN. Immediately, "When Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation" (Bemidbar 25:7). At this point, he corrected the earlier crookedness. Then the Yud was added to his name to enjoin the letters together, THE SECRET OF YESOD THAT CONNECTS ZEIR ANPIN WITH MALCHUT. Thus, he was promised peace, WHICH IS YESOD REFERRED TO AS PEACE, as it is written, "Wherefore say, Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace" (Ibid. 12), My very covenant, NAMELY YESOD.
98. HE ANSWERS: We have learned from the holy luminary that the Holy One, blessed be He, concerned Himself with their honor, so inwardly their bodies were tinged with fire, but their soul was not lost, as we have already established. Come and see that even before the deaths of Aaron's sons, it is written, "And Elazar, Aaron's son took of the daughters of Putiel to wife; AND SHE BORE HIM PINCHAS" (Shemot 6:25). He was called Pinchas because he was destined to straighten that which is crooked, MEANING TO CORRECT THE DAMAGE OF NADAB AND ABIHU, AS EXPLAINED EARLIER, EVEN THOUGH NADAB AND ABIHU HAD NOT YET DIED. This is the essence of the verse, "And that which is to be has already been."