Sons of Aaron - Do it "My Way"
Why are there so many rules in Judaism? Can’t I just “do it my way?”
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Let’s examine a piece from the Bible, Leviticus 9:1-10:2:
When the Tabernacle is finished, there are seven days of celebration. On the eighth day the Children of Israel put a sacrifice on the altar. A great ball of fire descends from the heavens and consumes the offering. The people are overwhelmed with excitement and emotion. They know God is in their midst. Then two of Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu, filled with ecstatic desire for even greater closeness to God, take incense and rush into the Tabernacle – and God strikes them dead. The Children of Israel are stunned.
Why does God do this?
The Bible's only clue to Nadav and Avihu's crime is the Bible's words that "they brought an offering God had not commanded." But what's wrong with volunteerism?
Did you ever notice that kids are models of helpfulness at a friend's house but won't pick up their socks at home? It's easy to be good when you don't have to, because there's no obligation to make you feel trapped and resentful. But when you're expected to clear the table, it gets your back up, and then being good is an altogether different and greater challenge. Goodness that comes and goes on a whim is neither meaningful nor reliable. Real goodness is accepted as an obligation.
Autonomy from constraint is a core American value. Pilgrims seeking religious freedom settled the 13 original colonies, and flight from political and religious coercion continues to fuel immigration to the United States.
But exaggerated emphasis on autonomy has a dark side – the breakdown of community and of moral obligation. A father needs to come home and feed his kids every night, even though he doesn't always feel personally rewarded. If each person's priority is his own fulfillment, you can't count on anyone.
Nadav and Avihu did not just value autonomy. They applied their own individuality even where God had not instructed it. (The word nadav means "voluntary.") They felt like making an offering, and they wanted to do it their way. But if you want to get close to God, you have to do it His way.