"Oh look, everyone," Blumie called out one Saturday night, as she brought in the mail which had arrived on Shabbos. "Cousin Yankie's Bar Mitzvah
invitation. It's in Baltimore. Are we going?"
"We're planning to," replied her mother. "Please, Blumie, would you jot down the date on the kitchen calendar?"
Later, Blumie asked her father: "Tatti, I noticed that on Yankie's invitation it said he would be called to the Torah on Parshas Acharei Mos. But on our calendar the name of the parshah that week is Acharei. Why is it different?"
"Not everyone calls this parshah by the same name," replied her father, "and there's a lesson in that. Acharei means 'After,' while Acharei Mos means 'After the death of.' Do you know who died?"
"Yes," Blumie answered. "We learned about it two weeks ago. On the day the Mishkan was dedicated, Aharon's two sons, Nadav and Avihu, brought an offering to HaShem that they were not commanded to bring, and they died."
"Blumie," her father replied with a smile, "I'm happy to see that you keep up with the parshah. Why did Nadav and Avihu die? They felt a very deep love for HaShem and wanted to come very close to Him. Their neshamos had such a strong longing to be with HaShem that they did not want to continue living in their bodies. The Torah calls this eish zorah - 'a strange fire,' because it was different and new; no one had ever expressed such a fiery love for HaShem before. And about this, the Torah tells us asher lo tziva osam - 'HaShem had not commanded it.' For HaShem does not command us to give up our lives for love of Him.
"Nadav and Avihu's fiery love for HaShem was more than HaShem commanded. Yet even though they died, the love for HaShem which they showed had positive effects afterwards. It gave the Jewish people the power to have mesirus nefesh and give up their lives al kiddush HaShem - in order to sanctify HaShem's name.
"That was one thing that came Acharei, after the deaths of Nadav and Avihu. The other thing was that afterwards, as our parshah tells us, Aharon was commanded to carry out the Yom Kippur service in the Mishkan. The mesirus nefesh of Nadav and Avihu as they came close to HaShem gave Aharon the power to enter the holiest place on earth, the Holy of Holies. There he came very close to HaShem, and served Him on behalf of the entire Jewish people.
"By showing such powerful love for HaShem, Aharon's sons made it possible for there to be Jews who would come very close to HaShem, but whose neshamos would still be able to remain within their bodies.
"Now, if we would call the parshah Acharei Mos, we would be emphasizing the death of Nadav and Avihu. By saying only Acharei, we are stressing that this episode did not end with their passing away, but that its effects are felt afterwards."
(Adapted from Sichos Acharei-Kedoshim, 5750)