Ramban suggests that the focus of the parsha may not be eating, but rather tumah and taharah, a topic of special importance to kohanim. Alternatively, kohanim served as the teachers of Torah and poskim. What shaylos does a Rav deal with most of the time? Yoreh de’ah – kashrus.
Chasam Sofer cites a tradition that the chazir will transform into a kosher animal in the Messianic era. Had the Mishkan dedication gone smoothly, the ultimate redemption would have been accomplished and the laws of kashrus would have been completely different – we would have been able to have bacon and eggs for breakfast. The parsha of kashrus had to wait until the events of that inauguration day played out to determine what would be included.
Rashi (11:2) writes that along with Moshe, Aharon and his children were privileged to teach this parsha of kashrus as a reward for Aharon’s silence in the face of the death of Nadav and Avihu. Based on Rashi, I would suggest that the parsha of kashrus comes here as a response to the death of Nadav and Avihu. The Sefas Emes explains that the offering of Nadav and Avihu was not inherently a bad thing; what made it wrong was that they acted based only on their own intuition without any command from G-d. When it comes to kashrus, Chazal tell us that a person should not say, “I don’t like pig,” but rather should say, “I would love to have a bite of bacon, but Hashem told me I can’t.” What you like or don’t like makes no difference – it’s all about following the rules, about accepting commands.
2) The parsha tells us that Moshe reacted with anger when he saw that the korban musaf of Rosh Chodesh had been burnt and not eaten. He had forgotten that only kodshei sha’ah could be eaten, but not kodshei doros. Ralbag makes two interesting points. First, he transforms Moshe’s mistake from a shortcoming into a positive, explaining that Moshe’s error was due to his living a life of hisbodedus, connected more to other-worldly matters than day to day life. Dealing with the halacha l’ma’aseh of what was going on was not his forte. Today people talk about gadol X or Y not being connected with reality as some kind of major defect; the Ralbag saw it as something laudable, even if it sometimes leads to error. Second point: Even though Aharon’s children, Nadav and Avihu, had just passed away, Moshe still expected that the korbanos of the day would be treated appropriately and no error in avodah would occur. Moshe reacted immediately when he thought something was out of place; he did not hold back his anger, saying to himself, “Give them a break – look at what they’ve been through today.” I don’t think this means that Moshe did not respect the feelings and pain of Aharon. What I think the Ralbag means is those feelings can be acknowledged outside the Mishkan, outside Aharon’s role as Kohen, but within the walls of the sanctuary, there are rules that have to be followed -- without compromise and under any and all circumstances.
3) Finally, I want to leave you with a Rashi question. Commenting on “Va’yeitzu vayivarchu es ha’am,” Rashi (9:23) writes that the bracha given was:
אמרו ויהי נועם ה' אלוהינו עלינו (תהילים צ יז), יהי רצון שתשרה שכינה במעשה ידיכם.
In Parshas Pekudei, when the Mishkan was finished, Moshe gave a bracha as well (39:43), and there Rashi writes:
אמר להם יהי רצון שתשרה שכינה במעשה ידיכם.
(תהילים צ יז) ויהי נועם ה' ...והוא אחד מאחד עשר מזמורים שבתפילה למשה
Same bracha, but in our parsha does Rashi puts the "vihi noam" before the "y'hi ratzon," while in Pekudei he puts the "y'hi ratzon" first and afterwards the "vihi noam." Why the switch?
Extra credit: Why in Pekudei does Rashi add this this is one of 11 mizmorim of "tefillah l'Moshe?"