Rashi tells us at the end of the Parsha how Nadav and Avihu at Har Sinai saw an image of Hashem. The pasuk describes this image but it is really beyond our full understanding. The pasuk goes on to say that Nadav and Avihu had a meal before this image and were chayav misa for not behaving with the proper respect before this revelation.
This behavior fits with Nadav and Avihus personalities, who felt a love and closeness to Hashem and ultimately corssed one too many boundaries until they were eventually taken closer to Hashem. They were having a festive meal, celebrating their closeness to Hashem and the revelation he gave them. While their intentions were good, Chazal tell us that this approach to avodas Hashem was incorrect. Rashi adds here that the only reason Nadav and Avihu did not die here already was because Hashem did not want to ruin the simcha of Kabbals HaTorah at Har Sinai.
As parents and Mechanchim, we must be careful what we expose our kids to. Often we discuss the negative influences and the importance of safeguarding them from harm. It is just as important not to expose them to positive things before they are ready to understand and internalize it. The idea to take teens to Aish HaTorah Discovery classes comes up often, or utilizing certain therapeutic practices and theories like 12 steps (applying them to all teenage behavior), or even a trip to Poland. Unfortunately I have seen some boys exposed to good important things, but they weren’t ready for them. What ultimately happened is that it didn’t have the desired effect, and so the boy disregarded it because he didn’t have the tools (emotional, spiritual, biological, educational, etc.) to appreciate what he was seeing. Later on in life, when this boy did mature and now has the tools to understand and apply these lessons, they continue to write them off and don’t give it a chance because “I know that already, I tried that once, it didn’t work for me”. When we give brochos to people we often say “B’zmano U’B’Ito”, at the right time and period. Its possible to get exactly what we need at the wrong time, and this too can be damaging. We all have many things that inspire us and that we want to share with our kids, and are then disappointed when they don’t react the same way we did. We have to remember, how old were we when we learned those things? Did we have the tools to understand and appreciate it, and the support to implement it, both from peers and authority figures? Who were our role models at that time? We really have to know our kids well in order to mechanech them properly.
On the other hand, it has also often been my experience that we don’t give kids enough credit, that they can understand a lot more than we think, and we really don’t always know what keilim they have. The first step then is to really get to know our kids.
Rabbi Ari Deutscher MSW