After the death of the two sons of Aharon, Hashem taught Aharon the laws of sacrifices. Rashi quotes Rav Elazar ben Azarya who tells a parable. A doctor once warned an ill person not to sleep in damp places or eat sharp vegetables, but he didn’t take the admonition seriously. When a second doctor told him he would die, he woke up sharply. Hashem taught Aharon the laws of sacrifices so that he would know Hashem’s will and not take matters in his own hands. Although Aharon was exceedingly righteous, the visual image of his sons’ death aroused him to understand the consequences if one doesn’t listen to Hashem.
The Chovot Halevovot mentions the significance of doing mitzvot with joy. This comes from feeling indebted to Hashem for all the gifts he showers upon us. What stimulates a person to have gratitude? When we recognize all the kindness Hashem does for us and when we study His Torah we come to realize how much we depend on Him. Logic is not enough to arouse feelings of gratitude. We have to thank Hashem by living the way he commanded us to. Just saying, ‘I love you Hashem,’ but not keeping the mitzvot leads to ingratitude. When good things happen, such a person won’t thank Hashem because the Creator doesn’t exist in his life. He has given Him nothing with his daily actions. Although we can logically understand that we need to thank Hashem, we need Torah to direct us. Aharon’s sons yearned to serve Hashem. They offered a sacrifice but it was on their own terms. It wasn’t Hashem‘s command. Therefore, they were punished.
There is a constant battle between the body and soul. The body has an advantage in that it precedes the development of the soul. It takes years for the soul to mature while the body begins functioning immediately after birth. Because a person is accustomed to materialism, it becomes difficult to part with it. Desires override the mind and makes it almost impossible to see the loftiness of Hashem. The only way to overcome this is through Torah. “Barati yetzer hara barati Torah tavlin.” (I created the evil inclination and I created the Torah as a spice.) Through Torah we can come to an understanding of the Creator.
The second advantage of the body over the soul is that the intellect is in essence spiritual. The body is at home in the physical world, but the soul is a stranger. With constant use, the body grows stronger, but coming to a recognition of Hashem doesn’t happen naturally. The only way to get there is through Torah. A small flame can pierce the thick darkness. With the brilliance of Torah, life becomes transformed. It enables us to win over the yetzer hara and purify our souls.
Becoming a true servant of Hashem hinges on one critical factor, submitting our will to His. This can be accomplished through yirat (fear) and ahavat (love and admiration) Hashem. Studying works of Mussar can help us attain these levels so that we can ultimately reach true sheleimut (perfection).