Acharei Mot(Leviticus 16-18)
Knowing Is Not Enough!
Hashem spoke to Moshe after the death of Aharon's two sons… Speak to Aaron, your brother - he shall not come at all times into the sanctuary, within the curtain. (Lev. 16:1)
Imagine, you go to the store and buy a pack of cigarettes. You read the familiar words on the pack: SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Smoking Kills. Not thinking twice, you pull out a cigarette and light up. The next day the packs in the store look a drop different. They read: SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Mr. Stein died last week from smoking!! Mr. Stein?! He's your next door neighbor!! The message begins to hit home, and you think twice before smoking again.
This week's Torah portion starts off with the deaths of Nadav and Avihu and a warning to Aharon not to enter the Kodesh Hokodoshim (the Holy of Holies) when he's not supposed to. He is told that if he goes in when it is not permissible, he may die just like his sons died. The Torah mentions the sons of Aharon in order to give him an extra push to motivate him to keep the laws.
This teaches us a powerful lesson: even though we are talking about Aharon Hakohen, who was equal in stature to Moshe Rabbeinu, the Torah still found it necessary to exhort Aharon in a way that would make a strong impact, and did not suffice with a simple warning! However great and exalted a person becomes, it is still not enough to just know that something is wrong. He has to hear it again and again, and constantly be reminded regarding actions that are forbidden, in a way that will make a strong impact and penetrate into his heart.
Emotions are the driving force behind people. What he feels in his heart is what he will do, despite any knowledge that he has in his head. Every smoker knows that smoking kills and every man with a temper knows that anger endangers his health, but that does not stop them. The Alter from Kelm explains using an analogy. If person A knows that person B has to go to a certain place today, it does nothing for person B. Person B himself needs to know! The same is true concerning the connection between the brain and the heart - they are like two different people! Our job is to make the connection between the brain - which knows all the information - to the heart, so that that knowledge becomes real and we will be able to act upon it.(1)
A case in point of how to fail in making this connection is Eisav. Eisav's head was buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs because he studied Torah under Avraham and Yitzchak and deserved some reward. However, his study was merely a mental exercise that never entered his bloodstream. He never connected the Torah to his heart, nor used it to guide his actions. Thus, only his head could enter the cave for burial, but not his limbs and organs.(2)
1. Darkei Mussar.
2. R' Aharon Kotler.