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.
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.
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.
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."
25. The Yud in Pinchas was put in him to enjoin the letters only when he has been zealous for the Holy One, blessed be He, and came to straighten that which was crooked upon seeing the sign of the member of the Holy Covenant that Zimri inserted into another territory. NADAB AND ABIHU were corrected here from their earlier deviation, for NADAB AND ABIHU deviated in a foreign female, as it is written, "When they offered a foreign fire" (Bemidbar 3:4). They were corrected through the foreign woman THAT PINCHAS SLEW, as it is written, "And has married the daughter of a strange El" (Malachi 2:11). Just as in the first case there was a foreign fire, here too was a foreign woman.
69. HE ANSWERS: At the time when the Holy One, blessed be He, gave the sweet incense to Aaron, He wanted no one else to deal with this during his lifetime. For what reason? Because Aaron increased peace in the world. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: 'Since you wish to increase peace in the world, peace will multiply above through you. The sweet incense will be transmitted to you from now on, AS INCENSE INCREASES PEACE ABOVE, and during your life, no one else will be permitted to deal with it.' During their father's lifetime, Nadab and Abihu hastened to offer that which was not given to them, and this matter caused them to make a mistake BY OFFERING A FOREIGN FIRE.
97. Come and see that the sons of Aaron had no equal in Yisrael, except for Moses and Aaron. They were called "the nobles of the children of Yisrael" (Shemot 24:11) and they died because they erred before the Holy King. HE QUESTIONS: Did the Holy One, blessed be He, wish that they should perish? Did we not learn in the secret of the Mishnah that the Holy One, blessed be He, does kindness with everyone, and even evildoers He does not wish to cause to perish. But these most saintly ones, NADAB AND ABIHU, will it enter your mind that they should perish from the world? Where were their merits, the merits of their ancestors and also the merit of Moses? How could they have perished?
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."