Thursday, April 18, 2013

peer review

According to Midrash the pasuk uses the singular tense, “VaYikchu ish machtaso…” in describing the actions of Nadav and Avihu because “lo natlu eitzeh zeh m’zeh,” they did not consult with each other.  As a result, they erred and were punished.  This seems a bit difficult to understand.  It's clear from the Midrash that each one of the Bnei Aharon independently reached the same conclusion and acted of his own volition (though see Netziv 10:1).  Wouldn’t their consulting with each other only reinforce their mistaken belief?  Apparently not.  Though they may have each initially reached the same conclusion, the process of opening their thinking to critique, even (or perhaps especially) to a sympathetic listener, would afford the opportunity to reflect further and realize the error.  

This critique of Nadav and Avihu shows the importance of peer review.  "Aseh lecha rav u'knei lecha chaveir," we read in Avos.  One of the meforshim explains that the Mishna uses the term "knei," to acquire [even if it costs money], when speaking of a friend and not when speaking about a Rav because the input of a peer is even more valuable than that of a Rav and should be pursued at all costs.  We are social creatures.  Our avodas Hashem flourishes when undertaken in collaboration, not by dint of individual effort alone.


  1. Perhaps not because they would have realized their error, but because it would no longer have been an error and they would have been acting properly.

    a) because that would have eliminated any traces of ga'avah

    and b) it would have created a concept of ketores tzibbur similar to the nesi'im.

    Which may be what you second paragraph was ultimately implying.

  2. I was thinking the same thing -- that had they consulted with each other, maybe the ketores would have been accepted -- but when I looked at the full Midrash I got the impression that the lack of communication enabled the cheit, but was not the cheit gufa. The Midrash list 4 things they did wrong, one of which was the haktara, one of which was this. I inferred that even if you correct this one, the other 3 wrongs (including the haktara) still stand. Of course, you could possibly work out a pshat that they are all ha b'ha talya, but I'm not sure it works.