10 Iyyar 5777 – Achrei Mot-Kedoshim

I had an interesting discussion this week with a young man about meaningful relationships. He posed to me deep questions that I am still thinking about today and which comprise some of my thoughts in this message.

Question: In the relationships that we share, do we perhaps, all too often, assume that we know what the other person wants from us when in truth, they may want something very different? In our homes, our workplaces and community, do we try to project a certain image as to who we are and what we can provide, when in reality this may not be what they really want from us or need us to be?

This week in Shul we read about the tragic passing of Aharon’s two sons Nadav and Avihu. Aharon was the brother of Moses and the first serving High Priest. His two sons were killed when they entered, without permission, the holiest space in the world – the innermost room of the Temple (the Holy of Holies). Now, these were the sons of Aharon! They were incredibly holy people and leaders of the nation. How could they have made such a terrible mistake?

There are many answers to this question but I would like to suggest a novel one.

Aharon’s two sons were deeply spiritual and aflame with passion and love for G-d. They assumed that going into the holiest space would bring them even closer to G-d, an act akin to a groom entering into the bridal chamber in a moment of burning desire and ecstasy. Yet they were wrong. G-d did not feel the same way; He wanted something very different from their relationship.

You see, through their action, Nadav and Avihu demonstrated their belief that they could not experience genuine closeness and connection to G-d other than in the spiritual confines of the Temple – and not in everyday life and interaction. They felt that the two were at odds. They couldn’t grasp how one could become spiritual when surrounded with earthly and material things. Indeed how can we become spiritual and holy when we have to run to the office in the morning, settle a dispute in the afternoon and do the dishes when we get home? That is why they felt they needed to enter the Holy of Holies in their moment of passion and spiritual excitement. They felt that only there could they really and truly experience the moment!

Yet G-d demonstrated to them and to the nation the exact opposite. Straight after they died, G-d issued the instruction ensuring that such an event could never take place again. He forbade anyone entering or even coming near the inner sanctuary, bar the High Priest and only once a year. Essentially G-d was communicating His desire for a relationship NOT in the spiritual confines of the “Temple”, but rather in the grind of everyday life. We do this not by running away from the world towards the heavens but rather by bringing the heavens down to earth. We do this through imbuing our physical environment – our homes, schools and workplaces – with meaning, holiness and truth.

What emerges from this tragic story is a powerful lesson that may greatly enhance or our own relationships with our spouses, children, clients and friends: To be a partner in a good relationship involves honesty with ourselves and with others and the humility needed to sometimes just ask the question. We must never be smug and assume to know exactly what the other side wants or needs from us.. because sometimes, it can be just the opposite!

Wishing you and your families Shabbat Shalom. See you in Shule!

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman

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