Parshas Shemini begins with the words Vayehi Beyom HaShemini. We learn that the opening Vayehi, And It Was, portends a mixture of tragedy and joy. As in Vayehi Yaakov, that saw Yaakov reunited and living with his son Yosef but in exile and as a prelude to slavery.
begins with the final dedication of the Mishkan, on the eight day after
seven days of Moshe Rabbeinu performing the Avodah, bringing the
Korbanot, Aaron steps into his role as Kohen Gadol, brings the Korbanot
and as both brothers leave the Ohel Moed at the conclusions, they are
privileged to see the Shekihna appear. A heavenly fire consumes the
Korbanot. But Vayhei, though there is celebration there is also tragedy.
of Aaron's sons bring an alien fire and are killed by fire from heaven.
Moshe tells Aaron that with this event the word of G-d, Bekrovai
Ekodesh, has been fulfilled. Moshe warns his brother and the remaining
sons not to leave, not to mourn and to eat of the Mincha. Aaron and his
sons do all this and eat of the Mincha but the Seir brought for Rosh
Chodesh, they burn entirely and Moshe demands an explanation.
answer however is enigmatic, indicating that he had acted properly and
seems to fully satisfy his brother. Yet is short on detail. The two most
common explanations are that either the animal became posul or that
only Kodshei Shaa like the Mincha were to be eaten, while Onenim, but
not Kodshei Dorot. Yet this too leaves something out.
notable that the Pasuk appears to be engaging in a virtual pun, as Aaron
and his two remaining sons, NaNotrim, are told to eat the Mincha,
HaNotrot. Both Aaron's surviving sons and the Mincha seems to be
described with the same term. But obviously it's not mere wordplay,
there is a message and a point to it.
The Mincha that they are to
eat is the remaining Mincha that had not been burnt, just as the two
surviving sons, were the remaining sons who had not been burnt. Moshe
describes the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, not as punishment but as
glorification, much like a Korban. Like the Mincha, part had been burnt
and part remained for Aaron. When Moshe warns them about leaving with
the oil on them, as there is oil on the Mincha, the implication is that
they too will die. This is what is done with a Korban that becomes
Posul, to be burnt outside. So if they leave, they too will be burned
outside and what has been a Mincha will become an entirely Posul Korban,
which could altogether invalidate the entire Miluim.
his sons eat the Mincha and the Korbanot which are Kodshei Shaa. Even
though the sons are regular Kohanim and Onenim. But they are Onenim over
the deaths of Nadav and Avihu and Nadav and Avihu were themselves a
Kodshei Shaa Korban, so to speak, a one time event. Both those deaths
and the special status of Elazar and Yithamar were unique events, Shaa.
By contrast the Seir of Rosh Chodesh was a Kodshei Dorot and as far as
the Dorot were to be concerned, Kohanim Onenim could not consume
Kodshim. The holiness of the hour had been gained at great cost, like
the reunion of Yosef and Yaakov, a terrible price had been paid. But it
was a temporary price. The achievement that had been gained however was
one for generations.