Saturday, March 26, 2011

unintended consequences

The Yalkut (524 towards the end) quotes a view that Nadav and Avihu were punished because they did not marry. Rav Levi said: Many girls remained agunos because they sat waiting to marry them! And what did Nadav and Avihu say [i.e. what was their excuse]? They said, "Our father's brother is king; our mother's brother is a prince; our father is kohen gadol; we are assistant high priests -- what girl is good enough for us?!"

There is an obvious musar haskel here for those in the shidduch world, but you don't need me to spell that out.

A less obvious lesson: R' Henoch Leibowitz z"l in his Ch. Lev asks: why were Nadav and Avihu punished because these girls chose to remain agunos, hoping they would marry them? Let them go marry someone else!

R' Henoch says an unbelievable answer. Even though Nadav and Avihu surely did not intend for these girls to remain unmarried, and even though the girls had a hand in deciding their own fate, since their plight was a result of Nadav and Avihu's actions, Nadav and Avihu share in the burden of culpability.

I was taken aback by this. You mean if someone else makes a bad decision, so long as I had a hand in putting them in the situation that caused that decision to be made -- I was lifnei iveir and enabled them to exercise their own stupidity -- I am culpable? Apparently there is a price to be paid even for the most unintended of consequences. Pretty harsh din v'cheshbon even for a musarist to suggest. I've been trying to think of a way to read this that would temper the message a bit, but haven't come up with a good approach yet.


  1. Anonymous8:06 AM

    the "aish zarah" Nadav & Avihu
    offered suggests that they'd long
    been "self-styled" characters
    (a coupl'a "hot shots" those two--
    Hashem hit them with hot shots
    indeed, midah keneged midah!); for
    many impressionable, aspiring
    young women, this self-styling
    added allure beyond the already
    "most eligible" bachelors status:
    the brothers were guilty, not just
    of dismissive pride regarding
    marriage, but also of actively &
    vainly leading these Chavalike
    (overreaching) daughters of Israel
    on; when the swaggering bros, those
    flashes-in-the pans, went stylish
    even in the mishkan --their
    "groupies" the more enthralled--
    Hashem decided: maspik!

  2. >>>a coupl'a "hot shots"

    You paint a very negative picture of people about whom Hashem said, "B'krovai ekadesh," people who Moshe thought were potentially greater than himself or Aharon.

  3. Anonymous9:30 AM

    agreed; but considered the rather
    cavalier negativity acceptable to
    the extent that one doesn't mix
    midrashim (isolate one strain for
    maximal effect, to make a point, etc...)

  4. Maximum accolades for finding the Yalkut.

    As for Reb Henoch, you know there's a teshuva in the NB about a man that endlessly pestered a businessman to give him merchandise on consignment. Finally, just to get some peace, the gvir gave up and gave him merchandise. The peddler was killed as he traveled to sell the stuff. The question asked to the Noda Biyehuda was what sort of teshuva does he need to do for being involved (??!!) in that man's death. The NB says that he's not really responsible at all, but even so, he should do A B and C.

    My point is: it's not an issue of fault, it's a matter of having been involved.

  5. Under the hallowed Internet Rules of Conduct, I wrote before thinking carefully. The NB is in Kamma OC 34. He says the man who gave the merchandise is completely without guilt, because it was only for the benefit and at the behest of the poor victim. Even so, he says, if it'll make you feel better, fast baha'b.

  6. Reb Chaim Schmeuelvitz talks about the case of an amora who used to come home every erev yom kippur. Once he was delayed becuase he was learning and his wife became upset, so he died.

    Asks Reb Chaim Schmuelevitz, how could this be a fitting punishment for the amora? Who would suffer more than his wife from his death? He explains that in bein adam le'chaveroh there is simply a law of consequence where a negative consequence from any action a person does has a equal and opposite reaction on that person, regardless of the laws of din ve'cheshbon

  7. Coming home late is entirely your own fault.
    Girls remaining agunos is subject to their own choice.

  8. >>>regardless of the laws of din ve'cheshbon

    Don't know how you can say such a thing -- K-l emunah v'ain avel tzadik v'yashar hu.

  9. >>You paint a very negative picture of people about whom Hashem said, "B'krovai ekadesh,"

    There is a very fine line between avodas hashem and avodah zarah. The passuk says 'behakrivom esh zarah' - this is avodah zarah.

    Nadav and Avihu said mosai yamusu shnei zekenim halalu veani veatah nanhig es hador. Once you are at a very high level, things can go wrong with a very small imbalance. Usevivav nisharoh me'od.

    At that level they were held culpable of creating an impression of agrandised holiness

  10. >>>At that level they were held culpable of creating an impression of agrandised holiness

    That's how most of Slabodka mussar tends to read things like this, but there is a very good reason why R' Henoch (certainly a master of Slabodka's derech) digs deeper here. The Midrash opens with and places its focus on the fact that Nadav and Avihu left girls as agunos. That's the crime. Period, full stop. The Midrash then goes on to give Nadav and Avihu's rationalization for their actions, but don't confuse the rationalization for the crime (i.e. what you are calling haughtiness) with the crime itself.

  11. this is the most obvious and destructive ruchniyasdiker yetzer hara - attacking the familial basis of klal yisroel. It is quite prevalent nowadays.

  12. I feel like I'm stepping into territory I really don't belong in, but I'm going to try and formulate some thoughts anyway.

    Maybe what Rav Henoch Leibowitz z"l is pointing to is something else, the insidious and contagious attitude of "I'm too good and shouldn't have to 'settle' for anyone below my station." Even if the girls should have been able to go marry someone else (that itself an if), attitudes are contagious. Sure, some have the yichus to declare that they are too good for anyone. But, there are just as many who decide that they are equally as special. And, hence, you end up with a "shidduch crisis" as opposed to a making of one's own doing.

    I think we can see how such a scenario plays out today with shidduchim. Some personal decisions have societal ramifications.

    Let me know how off base I am.

  13. I don't think you're offbase, but I'm not sure your point fits the language of the Midrash as well as R' Henoch's. Were the point that Nadav and Avihu had a bad attitude (one that could be contagious as well), then shouldn't the Midrash make the point directly and say "Nadav and Avihu were guilty of haughtiness?" -- why approach the topic indirectly by focussing on the girls who remained agunos, the effect, rather than the bad attitude, the cause?

  14. Unfortunately I'm out of my league here.