Dvar for Shemini

After two of Aaron’s sons die, G-d directly warns Aaron, “drink no wine or intoxicant, you or your children, when you enter the Ohel Moed, so that you will not die. This is a law for all time” (10:8-9). From this, one can infer that Aaron’s deceased sons, Nadav and Avihu, were drunk while performing their service, even though it was never stated explicitly. What did they do wrong if G-d hadn’t previously warned them about intoxication?

Rabbi Riskin explains that Nadav and Avihu were holy people that had achieved great spiritual heights yet still failed to distinguish between what G-d wanted and what they wanted to do for G-d, a lack of clarity that one can attribute to intoxication. Taking this thought further, since this is a warning “for all generations” and “for you and your children,” it can also serve as a universal warning not to confuse what people actually want with what we think is best for people. Respecting boundaries is a vital component of any relationship, engendering trust and growth in those we love most.