When Nadav and Avihu died bringing an unbidden fire into the holy Tabernacle, their father Aharon haCohen reacted with silence.
The commentaries suggest that Nadav and Avihu were bachelors. Aharon and his wife had no beautiful daughters-in-law to bury. They had no orphaned grandchildren to raise. They didn’t have to listen to their nine-year-old grandson recite Kaddish after seeing his parents bleed to death in front of him. They didn’t have to switch their infant granddaughter from mother’s milk to bottled formula in one feeding. They didn’t have to figure out how to up-end their lives so as to provide some continuity to their grandchildren. They didn’t have to go to shul the next Shabbes and read those verses in Kohelet that say over and over, Gd’s ways are incomprehensible to those in human form with human constraints. They didn’t have to attend the Simchat Torah celebrations and then begin a week of mourning.
Aharon haCohen reacted with silence. It was Gd meting out divine justice Who ended his children’s lives. He had no human enemies to rail against. Today we feel like the toddler whose mother jerks him back as he starts to dart into traffic, and gives him a potch in punim to impress on him the mortal danger of crossing the street without checking for cars. We feel the sting of the slap on our cheek, heedless that we were imperiled. We feel betrayed by our mother’s incomprehensible, unearned sudden roughness. And in this analogy, the cars are not just random; they are aiming at us. They are targeting us, just because we are Jews.
It has been only days since we davened at the end of Yom Kippur, “Our Father, our King, be gracious with us, answer us, for we have no merits. Act righteously and generously with us, and save us.” Apparently we have to pray harder. We have to behave meritoriously. And while we do not rail against Gd, we scream out against human injustice. We writhe in pain at not understanding. And we move forward as best we can, for in this way we honor the kedoshim, aleihem haShalom, and no doubt fulfill their wishes. HY”D.