Nadav and Avihu entered the Kodesh HaKodashim with a strange fire and HaShem killed them. The Medrash offers many reasons for their untimely death but one of the reasons poses a difficulty. The Medrash states that Nadav and Avihu said, “even though a fire descends from heaven, there is still a mitzvah to offer a fire from a commoner.” It was for this reason that they chose to bring their own fire. The apparent difficulty with this opinion is that when the Gemara (Yoma 21b) uses the statement of “even though a fire descends from heaven, there is still a mitzvah to offer a fire from a commoner,” the Gemara is referring to bringing fire from the outer mizbeiach to the inner mizbeiach. Nadav and Avihu, however, took fire and brought it inside the Kodesh HaKodashim. Why would they apply this dictum to a different circumstance?
To answer this question it is worthwhile to examine the words of the Meshech Chochma in his introduction to Vayikra. The Rambam is of the opinion that the reason why we offer Korbanos is to negate the practices of idol-worshippers. The Ramban vehemently disagrees with this thesis and the Ramban posits that the rationale for Korbanos is so that we come close to HaShem. The Meshech Chochma suggests that both opinions can be reconciled by maintaining that Korbanos that were offered on a Bamah, a private altar, served to negate idolatry, whereas Korbanos that were offered in the Bais HaMikdash functioned as a means of coming close to HaShem. We can suggest, then, that Nadav and Avihu were attempting to negate the desire of idolatry, as we see that later on in history the Sages abolished this temptation, and a fiery lion, representative of this sin, escaped from the Kodesh HaKodashim (Yoma 69b). Thus, the “fire from heaven” was to eradicate the desire for idolatry. Nadav and Avihu, however, felt that they must offer “their own fire,” i.e. the fire that would bring them close to HaShem. While normally the commoner’s fire remained outside, Nadav and Avihu felt that the time had come for them to bring their own passion to HaShem, and for this reason they went even further by attempting to enter the Kodesh HaKodashim (See Toras Kohanim Shemini 1:32 and Raavad Ibid). Sadly, they were mistaken in their unadulterated passion and they died before HaShem.
HaShem should give us the desire to come close to Him by following His Torah and the laws contained within, and we should merit the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, with the building of the Third Bais HaMikdash, speedily, in our days.
Have a Passionately Inspirational Shabbos and an Amazing Chodesh!