Parshat Achrei Mot
G-d instructs the kohanim to exercise extreme care when they enter the Mishkan. On Yom Kippur, the kohen gadol is to approach the holiest part of the Mishkan after special preparations and wearing special clothing. He brings offerings unique to Yom Kippur, including two identical goats that are designated by lottery. One is "for G-d" and is offered in the Temple, while the other is "for Azazel" in the desert. The Torah states the individual's obligations on Yom Kippur: On the 10th day of the seventh month, one must afflict oneself. We abstain from eating and drinking, anointing, wearing leather footwear, washing, and marital relations.
Consumption of blood is prohibited. The blood of slaughtered birds and undomesticated beasts must be covered. The people are warned against engaging in the wicked practices that were common in Egypt. Incest is defined and prohibited. Marital relations are forbidden during a woman's monthly cycle. Homosexuality, bestiality and child sacrifice are prohibited.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
"After the death of the two sons of Aharon" (16:1)
Sometimes in our great enthusiasm to follow our heart’s desire, we can twist logic into something resembling a pretzel.
The Midrash tells us that Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu died because they entered the Holy of Holies without dressing in the long robe-like garment of the Kohen Gadol (high priest).
This Midrash is difficult. Why should Nadav and Avihu have dressed themselves in this “meil”? They weren’t kohanim gedolim. They were regular kohanim. So why should they have worn the garments of the Kohen Gadol?
The answer is that if Nadav and Avihu gave themselves permission to enter the Holy of Holies and offer the ketoret incense which was an offering exclusive to the Kohen Gadol, perforce they must have seen themselves as kohanim gedolim. According to their own logic they should have "dressed for the part." They should have worn the clothes of the Kohen Gadol.
The fact that they didn’t was indeed a valid allegation against them.
But maybe there’s another way to understand why Nadav and Avihu didn’t dress for the part.
There can be no question that Nadav and Avihu’s actions came from an overwhelming desire to serve G-d. It was this unbridled love that led them to make serious and fatal errors. Maybe the fact that they didn’t dress in the clothes of the Kohen Gadol revealed that, in their own heart of hearts, they themselves knew the nakedness of their claim.
- Source: Based on Responsa of the Rosh, 13