לסדר אחרי מות
וידבר ה' אל משה אחרי מות שני בני אהרן בקרבתם לפני ה' וימותו
And the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they came near the Lord, and died (Leviticus 16:1)
In the Midrash (Leviticus Rabbah 20:1) it is written: R. Simeon opened his discourse with the text (Ecclesiastes 9:2) "All things come alike to all; there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked" (הכל כאשר לכל מקרה אחד לצדיק ולרשע וכו'). . . . "There is one event to the righteous," applies to the sons of Aaron, of whom it is written (Malachi 2:6) "He walked with Me in peace and uprightness" (בשלום ובמישור) and "To the wicked" applies to the company of Korah, in regard to whom it is written (Numbers 16:26), "Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men" (סורו נא מעל אהלי האנשים הרשעים האלה). The latter entered the Tabernacle to offer in a spirit of contentiousness and ended by being burnt, while the former entered to offer without contentiousness, and ended by being burnt.
And our master explained that R. Simeon wished to explain the words of Ecclesiastes, for G-d forbid that he would have meant that the identical punishment comes equally to all, and the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Rather, he meant to say that at times a righteous person is judged, in order to teach a lesson to the onlookers, by an exacting standard for a small transgression just as a wicked person would be judged for a severe transgression. And R. Simeon inferred that this is so from our verse which says "when they drew near to the Eternal, and they died" (בקרבתם לפני ה' וימותו). But is this correct? For was it not, in fact, because they brought forward a strange fire, not because they drew near, that they died?
In the Sifra it is written: R. Jose the Galilean said that they died because they came near and not because they brought forward a strange fire, and R. Akiva said that they died because they brought forward a strange fire and not because they came near.
Now R. Simeon also follows the opinion of his teacher, R. Akiva, that they died because they brought forward a strange fire. But in that case, why does the Scripture say "when they drew near" (בקרבתם)? R. Simeon therefore explains that their transgression of bringing forward a strange fire was not a capital offense for which they deserved to be killed.. It was only because of the stature of these two princes of Israel that their overstepping the bounds was considered a sin, because the Eternal will be made holy among those who are close to Him. Thus, the words "when they drew near to the Eternal" (בקרבתם לפני ה') mean that it was because they were (already) close to the Eternal and very precious in His sight that they died. And this is why Ecclesiastes took up his discourse and said, "one fate comes to the righteous and the wicked," because a righteous person is punished with fury for a small, trifling offense as is a wicked person for his great evil.
איש איש מבית ישראל אשר ישחט וכו' ונכרת האיש ההוא וכו' ולא יזבחו עוד את זבחיהם לשעירים אשר הם זונים אחריהם
Which ever man there is of the house of Israel, who ritually slaughters an ox, or lamb, or goat, in the camp, or who ritually slaughters it out of the camp And brings it not to the door of the Tent of Meeting, to offer an offering to the Lord . . . and that man shall be cut off from among his people . . . And they shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons, after whom they play the harlot. (Leviticus 17:3-7)
One may ask the following questions about this verse:
1. Why is it written "from the house of Israel" (מבית ישראל) after the Scripture has already written "you shall speak to all the children of Israel" (בני ישראל)?
2. Why should a person be "cut off" because he slaughtered outside the Tabernacle and did not bring the animal to the door of the tent of meeting (פתח אוהל מועד)? For he did not, in fact, offer the animal as an idolatrous sacrifice
3. How does the Ramban (Nahmanides) explain the verse that explicitly says "so they shall no more slay their sacrifices for satyrs (ולא יזבחו עוד את זבחיהם לשעירים) which shows clearly that, as the Rambam (Maimonides) wrote, the Eternal only commanded our ancestors to bring sacrifices so that they should no longer offer sacrifices to the satyrs in the abominable fashion manner of the other nations? For the Rambam explained that the Eternal wished to lead the nation away from the despised service of sacrifices to false deities and substituted in its place the sacrificial service to the Eternal. And the Ramban, protesting loudly, poured scorn on these words of the Rambam.
However, our master says that it would appear that the chapter that prohibits slaughtering an animal outside the Tabernacle follows the chapter prescribing the service of the Day of Atonement just because the service of the Day of Atonement contained something new and strange, namely sending the scapegoat to עזאזל to be put to death in the desert, without its having come inside the Sanctuary, by the hand of a man in readiness (איש עתי). And we have no priest in his service, nor a Levite on his platform. What is this service unto us (מה העבודה הזאת לנו)?
The commentators have already discussed this service, and have expounded at length in seeking to clarify it. The upshot of their discussions is that we offer the scapegoat as a propitiation of the עזאזל) סיטרא דמסאבא), so that he will take his portion and not seek to rip us asunder. And although we certainly have nothing to do with mysteries (אין לנו חלק בנסתרות), we may deduce from that portion which is in our hands [i.e., the revealed Torah] that the Torah has warned us that we may not infer, G-d forbid, from the service of the scapegoat that it would be permissible to offer a sacrifice to the satyrs on the altar. One might have reached this conclusion by arguing that the commandment to bring sacrifices only in the Tent of Assembly was restricted to the priests who are dedicated to the Eternal for they offer up His bread on the altar. It is, one might have supposed, only the priests who may not perform any service outside the Tabernacle. However, any ordinary Israelite (איש איש מבני ישראל) might, according to this reasoning, be permitted to bring a sacrifice to whomever his heart desired, just as the "man in readiness" (איש עת) does with the scapegoat. It was against such an argument that the Scripture is giving a warning, because the guilt of one who offers such a sacrifice is too great to bear and he would be cut off from Israel. The Scripture then continues "so they shall no more slay their sacrifices for satyrs," which means that they should not perform any other practice like the service of the scapegoat, because G-d prescribed that this service be performed only on the Day of Atonement, and it is a secret hidden from us. And secrets are only for the Eternal (והנסתרות לה'). The subsequent words: "after whom they play the harlot" (אשר הם זונים אחריהם) is a reference to the satyrs, the demons, and the spirits that, as the Ramban wrote, desire these sacrifices.