The mitzvah of lighting the menorah in the Mishkan is reiterated towards the end of this week’s Torah Portion of Emor. It was first enumerated in the beginning of the Torah portion of Tetzave. The Baal HaTurim as well as others found a discrepancy between the two portions. For in this week’s portion it writes “Outside the dividing curtain of the testimony in the Tent of Meeting, Aharon shall set it up before Hashem from evening to morning continually. [This shall be] an eternal statute for your generations” (Vayikra 24:3). But in Tetzave it writes “In the Tent of Meeting, outside the dividing curtain that is in front of the testimony, Aharon and his sons shall set it up before Hashem from evening to morning; [it shall be] an everlasting statute for their generations, from the children of Israel” (Shemos 27:21). Why are Aharon and his sons commanded to light the menorah in Tetzave, but only Aharon in Emor?
The Baal HaTurim answers that after Nadav and Avihu died when they entered the Sanctuary, Aharon did not allow his sons to enter alone; rather he would enter with them. However, when they would sacrifice the incense, he would leave.(Click Here for Hebrew text.)
It would seem that only Aharon was told in Emor what to do because he was always there, but others in his family performed the services in the Mishkan as well.
The conclusion of the the Baal HaTurim was referring to a Mishna at the end of the first perek of Mishnayos Keilim. There it says “and the people must keep away from the area between the porch and the altar when the incense is being burned” (Keilim 1:9). This means when the incense is being burned on a daily basis, the people must leave both the Sanctuary and the area between the porch and the altar.
Aharon’s children and rest of the family were righteous people who served as Kohanim in the Mishkan. We can assume whatever mistake Nadav and Avihu had done, the rest of them had learned a lesson, and clearly understood all the rules of being a Kohen, one example being not doing the service while inebriated, which was clearly enumerated after the incident. We can also assume they had an immense amount of Yiras Shamayim, fear and trepidation of Heaven, and certainly of Divine punishment, when they performed the Holy Service daily. Furthermore, we know Aharon fully accepted the Heavenly decree of his children, Nadav and Avihu’s passing, and he was even rewarded for his unquestionable allegiance to Hashem. As Rashi pointed out in the pasuk of “and Aharon was silent” (Vayikra 10:3), after their death. Why then did Aharon feel the need to accompany his children into the Mishkan on a daily basis?
What is even more astonishing is that the one service Aharon did not stay for was the incense offering, which the Torah says is when Nadav and Avihu died, trying to offer incense on the Alter. If Aharon was ready and able to not be there for the very service that “killed” his sons, then why must he feel he must be there at every other time?
There is a term in modern psychology called PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is possible on some miniscule level that Aharon Kohen Gadol, someone who was a rodef shalom, ran after peace and therefore was well liked and respected by everyone, who was also ready and did accept the decree from Hashem without any hesitations or qualms whatsoever, on such a high level of emuna and bitachon, faith and trust in Hashem, with a strict adherence to Torah and mitzvos, as proven from the fact that he would not be in the Mishkan when the incense was offered because that was against halacha, Jewish law – still in all he was concerned for the lives of his children and felt he must be there every other time they did the service in the Mishkan, just to ensure nothing went wrong. It sounds a tiny bit like paranoia but it would seem that on some level it is normal and natural, and that is why Aharon even on his level acted in this manner.
The gadlus, or greatness of Aharon Kohen Gadol, was that he controlled the stress. He didn’t allow the stress to overtake him, and therefore he did what was right according to halacha and was not present at the service of the incense even though one would think he would for sure be there since at that time Nadav and Avihu died. But his unnerving trust in Hashem kept him strong.