This week’s parsha also discusses the deaths of Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu. These two men were talented, holy, and righteous men, so why were they killed? When the two men were offering sacrifices to Hashem, they decided to kindle fire on their own alter, in addition to the communal alter. Nadav and Avihu were great Torah scholars and they took the verse in the Torah that discusses the process of offering the sacrifices and they formulated their own halacha-law- in front of Moshe. Although they had good intentions, Hashem regards this as a transgression punishable by death. When Nadav and Avihu formulated this new law without consulting their rebbe-teacher- Moshe, they embarrassed him. Torah law dictates that by publicly shaming someone, it is like committing murder. A student who puts his teacher to shame, by acting as if the student knows more than the teacher, he becomes deserving of the death penalty. Although Judaism encourages students probing, questioning, and debating, Torah tradition dictates that the knowledge from prior generations is much greater than that of newer generations, because the Jewish world has been on such a spiritual decline since the mass-revelation at Sinai. For someone to teach his rebbe, as if he is on a spiritually higher level is deserving of death because he puts his rebbe’s knowledge to shame and inferiority. Moreover, we can see the power shame has on one’s neshama, it is likened to death.
We are on such a spiritual decline, even compared to our own grandparents. The vast amount of knowledge, determination, dedication, and self-discipline that our earlier generations exhibited is incomparable to our standards of a Torah education today. From this, is it clear to see why Hashem is angered by those who display disrespect for their earlier generations of Torah scholars. Moreover, this should motivate us all to persevere to learn the ancient traditions of our forefathers as in-depth as possible, so that one day maybe we can restore the academic caliber of our previous generations.