For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"These are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab the firstborn Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar" (Num. 3:2)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Ohr HaChayim: "The sons of Aaron the firstborn: Nadab"
When the Torah repeats these words, first in verse one and again in our verse here, it is to stress that only the four sons of Aaron had been anointed. Had the Torah not repeated those words here we might have assumed that other Levites had been anointed, since the chapter began with "And these."

Remez (hinted meaning):

Baal HaTurim: "The sons of Aaron the firstborn: Nadab" (verse 3)
The cantillation sign Paseik, meaning pause, appears between the word ‘firstborn’ and the Nadab. This indicates that the term ‘the firstborn’ does not refer to Nadab, for Nadab died without children, and therefore the fact that he was a firstborn is not significant. Rather, ‘firstborn’ refers to Aaron who was older than Moses.

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Ramban: The previous verse notes the generations of Aaron and Moses, but our verse only enumerates the sons of Aaron. They were indeed the sons of Aaron, but they are called the generations of Moses because he taught them Torah. This establishes the principle that if one teaches Torah to one's fellow man, Scripture accounts it to him as if he had begotten him. That is Rashi on verse one. Ramban agrees with the Sages that say the principal that the sons of Aaron are also the sons of Moses because he taught them Torah, for it is the way of Torah to explain and to allude to spiritual truths. the one that all acclaim and praise are for him.

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar Acharei 57:
The firstborn Nadab stands on his own merits and Abihu rests on his own, and each one is considered equal to both Elazar and Ithamar. But 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 Israel. Therefore, it is written, "But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning". (Lev. 10:6) Rabbi Shimon said: "Nadab the firstborn," meaning he is the one that all acclaim and praise are for him. How much more so with Nadab and Abihu, because these two have no equal among all Israel.

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
Is it possible to love too much? Perhaps the answer the Zohar can hint to is YES! See, even with love, their needs to be balance. Should one give a street beggar the heroin or crack cocaine that he desperately wants, cloaked in a request for "any spare change, man"? Does love mean sacrificing one's physical self or one's family's health for one family member? Does love mean that we need to jump into a fire to show our affection?

The Song of Songs states: "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it; if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, he would utterly be condemned". (Songs 8:7) So even in the Holy of Holies — the Song of Songs — we are told no, no one should not give the substance of his house in the name of love. one should not give the substance of his house in the name of love.
Nadab and Abihu loved, they loved too much, they loved so much that they couldn't get enough lovin', so they went over and beyond, in pure ecstasy.

We mourn our loss of these two who were equal to the 70 others, as the Zohar says. We are commanded in the twice-daily Shema prayer: "And you shall love G‑d your G‑d with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might." The Sages interpret this to mean to love G‑d with both "sides" of our heart [good and bad]; to love G‑d even to sacrifice our body for His honor, and to love G‑d with all of our material resources.

The problem with Nadab and Abihu is that they frankly loved too much. What we are commanded is to approach matters of spirituality with proper balance, as King David said: "I have set G‑d always before me; surely He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." (Psalms 16:8) The Baal Shem Tov's gloss on this verse is that ‘Shiviti/I set’ hints to Histavut/balance, reading "I am balanced before G‑d always".

None of this fly-by-night intensity that burns out by dawn's break. Rather consistency, dependability, mindfulness, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second.

That is what is asked of us. Nothing more, nothing less.

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