The Torah portion of Acharei begins by stating:1G‑d spoke to Moshe after the death of Aharon’s two sons … Speak to your brother Aharon. [Tell him that] he is not to always enter the Holy of Holies….”

What lesson can we learn from a law that appears to apply only to the High Priest?

In explaining why the verse tells us that the exhortation to Aharon followed the passing of his two sons, Rashi says:

“It is similar to an ill person who was visited by a doctor. The doctor said to him, ‘Do not eat cold things nor sleep in a damp place.’ Another [doctor] came and exhorted him: ‘Do not eat cold things nor sleep in a damp place, so that you will not die as did another.’ The latter made him more heedful than the former. Therefore the verse states, ‘after the death of Aharon’s two sons.’ ”

The verse is thus exhorting Aharon to follow G‑d’s command so he can avoid that which befell his two sons when they entered the Holy of Holies in an unauthorized manner.

This must be understood. Someone like Aharon would understand the matter even if he were not threatened with such dire consequences. Moreover, why should this command to Aharon be different from many other commands, both to him and to the entire Jewish people, where no harsh consequences are apprised for failing to obey?

The passing of Aharon’s two sons came about as a result of their “drawing so close to G‑d that they died.”2 Though they realized that drawing too close to Him might result in their demise, it did not keep them from attaining so great an attachment and so powerful a degree of ecstasy that their souls literally fled their bodies.3

In other words, the passing of Aharon’s sons was not (only) a punishment. This is also the meaning of “sick” in the positive sense, as in the verse, “I am lovesick for You.”4 Aharon and his sons were “lovesick” as a result of their great longing for G‑d — a love that could not be quenched.

Because of Aharon’s “lovesick state,” it was necessary for G‑d not only to forbid him from entering the Holy of Holies whenever he desired, but also to forewarn him of the consequences.

G‑d knew that Aharon’s love for Him was so great that he would always desire to enter the Holy of Holies. However, by doing so, it could cause his soul to leave his body, as happened with his sons. G‑d therefore informed told him of the need to keep his soul within his body so that he could fulfill his mission in this world — transforming it into a dwelling place for G‑d.

The lesson we can learn from the command to Aharon is that every Jew has the capacity to love G‑d, and indeed is commanded to do so, as the verse states: “You shall love your G‑d with all your heart, soul and might.”5

Further, every Jew has the capacity to grow in his love to such a degree that he becomes positively “lovesick.” So each one must be warned not to cause his soul to flee his body, and instead fulfill his mission in this world.

This is stressed again in Kedoshim , the second Torah portion read on this Shabbos, which begins with G‑d telling the Jewish people that they are to be holy, “for I, G‑d their L-rd, am Holy.”6 The verse informs us that a Jew’s sanctity can be of such magnitude that it comes to resemble G‑d’s.

So it is that, before giving the Torah, G‑d tells the Jewish people: “You shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”7 In other words, every Jew has the capacity to reach the lofty level of a “High Priest,”8 with the same measure of love for G‑d as Aharon and his sons displayed. Moreover, man’s potential for sanctification is such that it even bears a degree of comparison to G‑d’s.

Based on Sefer HaSichos 5748, Vol. II, pp. 428-432.