The Torah for the past 20 chapters (8 weeks) has focused around the laws of building the Tabernable. Each aspect of its creation was commanded by God, meticulously studied by the people and followed to the letter. The various parts have been built by conscientious craftsmen, and the priests have prepared for and learned their duties. The Jewish People watched as this magnificent centrepiece took shape, and will reach its goal as a hub for their daily religious practice. In order to inaugurate the Mishkan, Moshe led a 7-day-long service preparing it for regular use, and demonstrating its wonders.
These magnificent celebrations were wondrous for the devoted crowds, but a simultaneous event would scar their elation and bring a sombre tone to the festivities.
Caught up in all the excitement the sons of Aaron, Nadav and Avihu approached the Altar and performed an unauthorised sacrifice before Hashem. Their grave error of judgment angers God and His fire consumed them where they stood. They both died instantly, leaving their grieving father and uncle to lead the people at this momentous time.
There is an important lesson to learn from Nadav & Avihu, who it would appear had the sincerest of intentions. In fact, we know that Moshe held them in high distinction, not just because they were the sons of Aaron, but because in their own right they were respected individuals. The severity of their actions was such that they had to lose their lives, so we must understand what led them to act in this manner.
They were not given creative licence in the Temple, as Cohanim they had very specific instructions. With meticulous detail the Torah laid out exactly how they should act. Therefore, their decision to bring their own offering even out of love and commitment to God, was not acceptable and though heartfelt, devastating in the service of Hashem. Their second error was to act without thinking. With great zeal and passion they rushed into their temple service, but clearly without thought and concern for their actions, as this was not what God wanted of them.
We should take these lessons to heart as there is much to learn from them. Our actions in life can be genuine and sincere, but without proper thought can have grave consequences. Whether that can be in our personal or professional lives, we should always think about the people who will be affected by what we do, and the outcomes that can transpire. We must also realise that in life there are times when we must follow instructions. That can mean either following the laws of society like driving within the speed limit and paying taxes, but more specifically, when asked to do something for someone else, it is important we listen to the needs and requests of others rather than acting based on our emotions.
The deaths of Nadav and Avihu should forever remind us the effects our actions can have.