Shabbat is more than a day of refraining from worldly activity.

When experienced to its spiritual fullest, its holiness enlightens all other days of the week.

We invite you to enhance your Shabbat with these words of Torah.


Nadav and Avihu getting burned by Hashem after putting foreign fire on the Mizbeach

Parashat Shemini – You Are What You Eight

Parashat Shemini – You Are What You Eight

Winston, Rabbi Pinchas
April 4, 2024

The story of Nadav and Avihu underscores the paramount value of Torah mesorah—tradition—in Judaism.

Mesorah represents not just the transmission of Torah law from one generation to the next but encapsulates a deeper connection to divine will and the precise manner in which G-d wishes to be worshipped and served.

Through this narrative, the Torah conveys that serving G-d involves more than personal sincerity or innovation; it requires adherence to a set path, deeply rooted in tradition.

The Tragic Error of Nadav and Avihu

Nadav and Avihu, sons of Aharon, took their incense pans and put fire and incense in them, and offered an unauthorized fire before G-d, which He did not command them to do. A fire went out from before G-d and burned them up, and they died before G-d. (Vayikra 10:1-2) 

…. The service of G-d is not a free-for-all, and, although it is a person’s heart that G-d ultimately desires, still, there are guidelines to the service of G-d. … 

The Price of Presumption and the Importance of Guidance

Rebi Eliezer said: The sons of Aharon only died because they decided a law before Moshe, their teacher…. 

…without first consulting with Moshe Rabbeinu, and, as a result, they became culpable to a death penalty to be carried out by Heaven itself.  

The Talmud then launches into a discussion at what point it is permissible to decide a legal matter while one’s teacher is still living. … 

The Essence of Torah Transmission and the Role of Tradition

It begs the question: Is the system of transmission just a vehicle to transmit Torah law from generation to generation, or, is it something more than this? 

…at the heart of the matter are two issues. First of all, did G-d speak to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai and give the Torah, and, secondly, if He did speak, is what we have today what He revealed then?… 

Actually, the answer to the first question is embedded in the answer to the second question: look at the emphasis on mesorah (tradition) in the Torah, and in the halachic world. One need only visit an existing Orthodox study hall, and witness first hand the emphasis on accuracy of learning; even more so, a poseik (halachic-decisor) who is rendering new law for future generations of G-d-fearing Jews. 

True, we are in doubt about many issues today, the result of continuous persecution and other negative spiritual forces, and we have often become stringent as a result. However, what we know we know that we know, and record it accordingly.  

 Furthermore, if one traces the transmission of Torah law throughout the past ages, one can see an amazing thread of Torah-consciousness flowing all the way back to Mt. Sinai. 

The Intention Behind and the Implications of Their Act

…Nadav and Avihu’s …elucidation was brilliant, and yes, they acted with sincerity and a desire to express their love for G-d. However, what was being offered on the altar that day was the very process by which we know HOW to serve G-d correctly, which is above human genius and drive.