The Torah reading this week begins with G-d speaking to Moshe, “after the deaths of the two sons of Aharon.” G-d has a lesson for Aharon, that he should not enter the Holy of Holies except as directed. Why is this told to Aharon “after the deaths of [his] two sons?”
Rashi gives us a parable of two doctors, both of whom make the same recommendation to a patient. The second doctor, however, tells the patient that he should follow the recommendation in order to avoid dying like someone else they know. Obviously, is the second doctor who drives the lesson home.
There is something very unfortunate about this parable: in order for the second doctor to be able to provide an example, the other person had to die from the same illness. There had to be a tragic example. In order for G-d to speak to Aharon “after the death of his sons,” his sons had to die.
We say that everyone learns from their own mistakes, but the wise man learns from the mistakes of others. In the Chapter of the Fathers, however, we learn a different standard: “Who is Wise? He who sees the likely future [lit., that which will be born].”
The Sages gave us a higher standard. Don’t wait until someone else meets the terrible consequences, before acknowledging what is likely to happen. No one wants to be the example that the doctors will use to warn future patients!
On a lighter note, please welcome the return of the Kotel Cam, live streaming video of the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org