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    The punishment of Aaron’s sons – Acharei Mot

    This week’s reading begins (Lev. 16:1) with the punishment of Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu.

    The rabbis explain that one of the reasons for their punishment by summary death was that they came up to the altar in a state of drunkenness after drinking too much wine.

    One of the Chassidic teachers, Rabbi Simchah Bunim, found this explanation hard to take. He said, “But surely the Psalmist says, Iv’du et HaShem b’simchah, ‘Serve God with joy’ (Psalm 100:2), and he also says, Yayin yesammach l’vav enosh, ‘Wine makes the human heart joyful’ (Psalm 104:15). So the two men must have only been doing their duty!”

    Simchah Bunim however realised that wine can make you tipsy and unaware of how to behave in the sanctuary. More than this, wine is an artificial means of reaching a high.

    The better way of being joyful is to feel a sense of ecstasy at being in the Divine Presence, able to carry out the requirements of the Tabernacle service with spiritual joy.

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