Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

It was the best of times.

It was when the mishkan was dedicated. That’s when Hashem’s glory appeared to the whole community. That’s described in the following possuk: “The glory of Hashem appeared to all the people.” [1]

It was also the worst of times.

That, too, occurred when the mishkan was dedicated. That’s when Aharon’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu died. That, too, is described in the possuk: “Aharon’s two sons …. brought… a strange fire …and a fire came from Hashem… and they died.” [2]

The mishkan’s inception, then, was struck by tragedy.

And this wasn’t the only inception that was struck by tragedy. Tragedy also struck the world’s inception. That’s when Adam and Chava sinned by eating the forbidden fruit. It’s the following Gemara: “There were twelve hours on the day that Adam was created… during the tenth hour of that day, Adam sinned.” [3]

And it also struck the inception of the new post-flood world. That’s when: “Noach…planted a vine…Noach drank … and became intoxicated…[Noach’s son] allowed Noach’s defilement…Noach awoke from his wine and saw [the defilement] that his younger son had done to him…and Noach said….let…[him] be cursed..” [4]

Here, too, the marring - drunkenness, nakedness, defilement and ever-lasting curse - of an inception. Here too, like by the forbidden fruit, the Midrash sees this marring unfolding with miraculous rapidity: “Noach planted the vine. On that day [that it was planted], it blossomed. On that day, it ripened and was squeezed into wine.” [5]

And, poignantly enough, those tragedies weren’t unexpected.

There was a realization - even an expectation - that such tragedies would surface..

That’s all spelled out in our parsha, right after Nadav’s and Avihu’s deaths, when Moshe tells Aharon that he had expected something tragic to mar the mishkan’s inception: “this is what Hashem said [well before the mishkan’s inception] through the deaths of those near to me…I will be sanctified.”[6]

This isn’t, of course, just about the fact that all this tragedies occurred.

This is about realizing why tragedies the tragedies occurred. It’s about realizing that beginnings - when courses are unclear and when are still unlearned - lend themselves to mistakes and tragedies.

The US’s awful divorce statistics abet this claim. Those statistics document that 40% of all divorces occur during a marriage’s relatively unstable first five years. And 20% of all divorces occur during a marriage’s even less stable first year.

And statistics on business failures further abet this claim.

20% of businesses fail during a business' fragile first year. Businesses also fail later - but at much lower rates.

Yes, inceptions are dangerous. Which makes us ask: How should we approach those inceptions? The new marriage? The career start? Other such inceptions? How do we avoid the mistakes and avert the tragedies that cloud so many beginnings?

Perhaps by abiding by the following story’s moral.

A teacher sent a student to fetch a drink of water from the river. Just when the student reached the river, a cart drove through it and dirtied it’s waters by churning mud from it’s bottom. The student returned to the teacher and said, “The water is too muddy to drink.”

A bit later, the teacher told the student to return to the lake to draw water. The student - who had seen that the waters were muddy – was surprised by the suggestion. He, nevertheless, returned to the river. Surprisingly, the waters were now clear.


Because the mud had settled.

Yes, we must let life’s mud settle. The confusion that clouds new beginnings must dissipate before we make important decisions.

It can be a recent marriage. New parenthood. A newly empty nest. A changed economic reality. Or anything else. Whatever the new situation, let’s not make big decisions while the waters still churn.

Waiting will clear both the waters and the minds.

Wait, then, to avoid a mistake.

[1] Vayikra 9:23

[2] Vayikra 10:1-2

[3] Sanhedrin 38b

[4] Bereishis 9:20-25

[5] Targum Yonason, Bereishis 9:2

[6]  Vayikra 10:3. See Rashi ad. loc. citing Shemos 29:43




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