The Torah’s pointed note (Bamidbar 3:4) of the fact that Nadav and Avihu had no children (according to the Midrash, because they did not marry) is understood by Chazal as having contributed to their deaths. “Contributed,” because the Torah itself states that the reason the two sons of Aharon died was because “they brought illicit fire before Hashem” [ibid]. Leaving the meaning of that phrase aside, though, what role did their having had no children play in their deaths? Not marrying, after all, isn’t a capital crime.
Addressing that question, the talmid chacham and inventor R’ Meshullam Gross, in his sefer Nachalas Tzvi, notes a comment of the Chasam Sofer on the words “And Hashem your G-d will make you abundant for good… in the fruit of your womb” (Devarim 30:9). The Chasam Sofer asserts that there can be a situation where a person’s time on earth has expired but where his death can be postponed by the fact that he is needed on earth to provide guidance to a child or another person dependent on him.
Thus, suggests Rav Gross, had Nadav and Avihu had children, dependents on their elders’ tutelage and guidance, the elders’ deaths might have been spared by that fact.
It’s an invaluable thought for every parent, grandparent or teacher, when facing a difficult charge – in fact, for every person with a difficult friend: The very fact that you are being tried by your charge or friend, that you are needed to help with the challenge presented you, may just be affording you the gift of life.
© 2023 Rabbi Avi Shafran