Leviticus 9:1 – 11:47; Haftarah: II Samuel 6:1 – 7:17
With this week’s parasha we find ourselves at the center of the Torah – which, from the standpoint of number of words and of number of letters, is to be found in our portion. As we study the teaching that lies at the center of the Torah we realise that Scripture is instructing us to “seek diligently” (the expression used at the center of the Torah from the standpoint of words) let we fall into the deception of the snake in the garden (the expression – at the letter – found at the center of the Torah from the standpoint of letters)… Now that we are told to “seek diligently” we enter into this portion and contemplate Nadab and Abihu – even though the vast majority of commentators throughout the ages saw Nadab and Abihu very negatively, we join the tiny minority of commentators who saw the very positively — just like our Lord, Jesus Christ, was judged negatively by the majority – while He was God incarnate!… Finally we see how Nadab and Abihu are embedded into the 12 chapter of the gospel of John.
Six days before ithe Passover, jJesus therefore came to Bethany, kwhere Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. lMartha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 mMary therefore took a pound1 of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii2 and ngiven to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and nhaving charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it3 for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
Philo of Alexandria – on dreams, 2.67
But Moses will not allow the sacred reasonings about Nadab to be bewailed; for they have not been carried off by a savage beast, but have been taken up by unextinguishable violence and imperishable light; because, having discarded all fear and hesitation, they had duly consecrated the fervent and fiery zeal, consuming the flesh, and very easily and vehemently excited towards piety, which is unconnected with creation, but is akin to God, not going up to the altar by the regular steps, for that was forbidden by law, but proceeding rapidly onwards with a favourable gale, and being conducted up even to the threshold of heaven, becoming dissolved into ethereal beams like a whole burnt-offering.
Philo of Alexandria – on Allegorical Interpretation II 56–58
On this account the high priest “will not come into the holy of holies clad in a garment reaching to the feet (lev 16:4); but having put off the robe of opinion and vain fancy of the soul, and having left that for those who love the things which are without, and who honour opinion in preference to truth, will come forward naked, without colours or any sounds, to make an offering of the blood of the soul, and to sacrifice the whole mind to God the Saviour and Benefactor; and certainly Nadab and Abihu, who came near to God, and left this mortal life and received a share of immortal life, are seen to be naked, that is, free from all new and mortal opinion; for they would not have carried it in their garments and borne it about, if they had not been naked, having broken to pieces every bond of passion and of corporeal necessity, in order that their nakedness and absence of corporeality might not be adulterated by the accession of atheistical reasonings; for it may not be permitted to all men to behold the secret mysteries of God, but only to those who are able to cover them up and guard them; on which account Mishael and his partisans concealed them not in their own garments, but in those of Nadab and Abihu, who had been burnt with fire and taken upwards; for having stripped off all the garments that covered them, they brought their nakedness before God, and left their tunics about Mishael.
Philo of Alexandria – who is the heir of divine things 309
But we owe great gratitude to him who has scattered those sparks, in order that our mind may not become cold like a lifeless corpse, being warmed and vivified by the gentle increasing heat of virtue, may feel a glow until it receives the change to holy fire, like Nadab and Abihu.
Philo of Alexandria – on flight and finding 58-59
She [“Consideration”] also confirmed her statement by another passage in scripture of the following purport: “Behold, I have set before thy face life and death, and good and evil.” Therefore, O all-wise man, good and virtue mean life, and evil and wickedness mean death. And in another passage we read, “This is thy life, and thy length of days, to love the Lord thy God.” This is the most admirable definition of immortal life, to be occupied by a love and affection for God unembarrassed by any connection with the flesh or with the body. Thus, the priests, Nadab and Abihu, die in order that they may live; taking an immortal existence in exchange for this mortal life, and departing from the creature to the uncreated God. And it is with reference to this fact that the symbols of incorruptibility are thus celebrated: “Then they died before the Lord;” that is to say, they lived; for it is not lawful for any dead person to come into the sight of the Lord.
And again, this is what the Lord himself has said, “I will be sanctified in those who come nigh unto me.” “But the dead,” as it is also said in the Psalms, “shall not praise the Lord,”
Philo of Alexandria – on the migration of Abraham 169
“Nadab,” meaning voluntary, is he that under no constraint does honor to the Deity, while “Abihu” means “my father” and represents the man who stands in need of God, not as a master owing to his folly, but much rather father owing to his good sense. These are the powers that the bodyguard of the mind that is worthy of sovereignty, it is meet that they should accompany the King as his.
John Chrysostom onPs 118:3
here he invites the priests separately to sing the praises of God so that we can see the excellency of the priesthood. For, the more they are raise above the others, the more they have received glory from God, not only because of the priesthood itself, but because of all the other privileges that have been accorded to them. Therefore, when the fire came out of the tabernacle, it was in their favor. It is also for them that the earth opened up, that the rod of Aaron flourished… What shall I say? a multitude of other events and so many miracles happened for them and for their sakes. “may all those who fear the Lord say: He is good and His mercy endures forever”…
(lev 10:9) Origen – Hom. Lev. 7.1.8–2.1
Now, in the meantime, let us see about the priests whom the Law commands to abstain from wine when they approach the altar. Indeed insofar as the historical precept is concerned, what was said is sufficient. But insofar as the mystical interpretation is concerned, our profession in the preceding is maintained—that, according to the authority of the Apostle Paul, our Lord and Savior is called “the high priest of the good things to come.” (Heb 9:11) Thus, this one is “Aaron,” but “his sons” are his apostles to whom he himself was saying, “My little children, yet a little while I am with you.” (John 13:33) Let us see how we can apply the fact that the Law commanded “Aaron and his sons not to drink wine or strong drink when they approach the altar” (Lev 10:9) to the true high priest, Jesus Christ our Lord, and to his priests and sons, our apostles.
(9) First, we must examine how prior to “approaching the altar” this true high priest drinks wine with his priests, but, when he begins “to approach the altar and go into the Tent of Witness,” he abstains from wine. Do you think we can find some kind of meaning from this act? Do you think we can adapt the forms of the old records to the acts and words of the New Testament? We can, if the Word of God sees fit to assist and to inspire us. Therefore, we seek how our Lord and Savior, who is the true high priest, drinks wine with his disciples, who are true priests, before “he approaches the altar” of God, but does not drink when he begins “to approach” it.
(10) The Savior had come into this world “to offer” his flesh “as an offering to God for our sins.” (Cf. Eph 5:2; Gal 1:4) Before he offered this, during the period of time between the dispensations, he was drinking wine. Thence he was called “a voracious man, a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” (Matt 11:19) But when the time of his cross came and “he was about to approach the altar,” where he would sacrifice the offering of his flesh, it says, “Taking the cup he blessed it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take, drink some of this.’ ” (Matt. 26:27) You, who presently are not about to approach the altar, he says, “drink.” Yet that one, as it were, “about to approach the altar,” says about himself, “Truly I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of this vine until I drink it anew with you in the kingdom of my father.” (Matt. 26:29)
(11) If anyone of you untertakes to hear with purified ears, let him observe the hiddenness of the unspeakable mystery. What is the meaning of the saying? “I will not drink from the fruit of this vine until I drink it anew with you in the kingdom of my Father.” In the preceding, we said the promise of this good drinking was given to the saints when they say, “How splendid your inebriating cup.” (Ps 22:5) In many other passages of Scripture, we read similar things, for instance, “They will get drunk from the abundance of your house and you will give them a drink from the streams of your delights.” (Ps 35:9) In Jeremiah the Lord also says, “And I will make my people drunk.” (Cf. Jer 38:14) And Isaiah says, “Behold, those who serve me will drink but you will be thirsty.” (Isa 65:13) About this kind of drunkenness, you will find many reminders in the divine Scripture. This drunkenness is taken, without doubt, for the joy of the soul and the delight of the mind as in another place I remember that we distinguished that it is one thing to be drunk in the night (Cf. 1 Thess 5:7) and another to be drunk in the day.
Therefore, if we have understood what the drunkenness of the saints is, and how this is given in the promises for the delight of the saints, let us now see how our Savior drinks no wine “until he drinks it” with the saints “anew in the kingdom” of God.