In Shemos 24:1, God tells Moshe to go up to Him with Aharon, Nadav, Avihu and the 70 elders. They do, and they catch a glimpse of God from afar. It seems strange that of the 4 sons of Aharon, only Nadav and Avihu got to attend this event. Why weren't Elazar and Itamar invited?

  • There’s a Midrash that says Nadav and avihu were greater than Moshe and Aharon.
    – Menachem
    Feb 3, 2019 at 2:45
  • From memory it could be a Midrash that they said when will Moshe and Ahron die so we can then lead” so G-d replies we”ll see who is going to die” so I think the thoughts of these two sealed their fate. Will find Mekoma for it. Feb 3, 2019 at 22:13
  • @DanielRoss - it is quoted here, but without the source. it may be the yalkut shimoni - torahweb.org/torah/2006/parsha/rwil_bamidbar.html and dafyomi.co.il/yoma/insites/yo-dt-053.htm
    – Menachem
    Feb 3, 2019 at 22:14
  • @Menachem Vayikra Rabba 20:10 Feb 3, 2019 at 22:21
  • I assume for the same reasons that the two younger brothers weren't named to be priests with their father at the same time their older brothers were. Age. Readiness. Busy with other training. Etc.
    – Cyn
    Feb 4, 2019 at 7:00

1 Answer 1


Based on Tanchuma, Rashi claims that by gazing at the throne of Hashem, they sinned, but due to the solemn atmosphere of the covenant, their death sentence was suspended until they brought the alien fire (Vayikra 10:1–2). Regarding why their two other brothers didn't go, the Artscroll Chumash brings the following explanation:

Tur comments that God purposely did not send Elazar and Issamar, Aaron's younger sons, with the group so that they would not incur the death penalty, like their brothers. Had they, too, died, Aaron would have been left childless.

  • 1
    FWIW I never liked this Midrash. Clearly Hashem foresaw that had the younger two come, they would have gazed as well (otherwise there’s no need to spare them). So why only spare them, and not the older brothers? (Not a problem with your answer - you’re just quoting the Tur. My problem is with the Tur itself, and I’m sure the answer is something to the effect of כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם.)
    – DonielF
    Feb 3, 2019 at 18:32
  • @DonielF To be honest, I was puzzled, when I read this on Saturday, that's why I remembered it well. I can't really follow, which was the bigger sin, this or the alien fire. See also the cited Onkelos and Ramban there. Feb 3, 2019 at 18:56

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