I thought it’s interesting that even though the family of Kehas was entrusted with carrying the menorah, the shulchan, the aron, the mizbeiach – the holiest objects of the Mishkan -- they still joined their neighbor Korach in rebelling against Moshe. “Oy la’rasha oy l’shecheino,” Rashi writes (3:29). Objects, no matter how holy, are no match for the lure of a personality like Korach.
It’s also interesting that coming close to the aron, which we would think is the greatest source of bracha in the world, could prove fatal. Chazal say that everyone wanted to carry the aron and people pushed and shoved to try to get the job, but anyone who touched the aron died. “Al tachrisu es sheivet ha’Kehasi,” the Torah warns (4:18), and instructs Aharon and his children to assign each individual to a task. The Mishnas R’ Aharon quotes that we see from here that without seder – a proper, organized approach – even the holiest things can prove detrimental.
One final quick point: the Torah tells us that Nadav and Avihu were killed, “u’banim lo hayu lahem,” they had no children. Why is this detail relevant? According to one view in Midrash this is why they were punished – they did not fulfill the mitzvah of having children. Perhaps the phrase could be taken as a metaphor for their approach to avodas Hashem – it was an approach that worked for them as individuals, but could not be passed on or produce peiros. The Meshech Chochmah (parshas Pinchas) writes that we see a tremendous yesod on schar v’onesh from here. When a person is found guilty in court and sentenced, the court does not take into account the effect that sentence might have on others. What about the parent, the wife, the children of the guilty party? Not sure when G-d judges a person. Rashi (Shmos 24:9, see this post) tells us that Nadav and Avihu really deserved punishment for gazing at the Shechina, “vayechezu es ha’Elokim vayochlu vayishtu,” but Hashem did not want to disturb the celebration of mattan Torah by punishing them. Since Aharon and Klal Yisrael would have suffered, even though Nadav and Avihu deserved it, their punishment was delayed. After the fact, during the chanukas hamishkan, when Aharon himself needed a kapparah for cheit ha’eigel to expunge his guilt, they got their due. What the Torah here is telling us is that had Nadav and Avihu had children, it would have mitigated the judgment against them. Had there been a family that would have needed them, Hashem might not have killed them, because their children would them end up suffering unnecessarily. It’s only because “u’banim lo hayu lahem,” they had no one that they left behind, that they were taken.