In parsha Shemini at the height of the inauguration of the Miskan (Tabernacle), two sons of Aharon the hight priest bring a “strange fire” into the Tent. They are immediately consumed. It kills the joy of the time. The commentaries discuss why this happened; arrogance? drunkeness? The most plausible and kind is that they were so engulfed in a spirirtual frenzy they went too far.
The Holy Ishbitzer says the following: Their intention was to break loose of boundaries. He seems to say that they wanted to break the constraints of the restrictions, prohibitions and guidelines of Torah and make the religion more about feeling, emotion or connection than structure.
The great modern Jewish thinker Shaul Magid discusses two paradigms of Judaism. The first is “Abrahamic” . Abrahamic is where your Judaism is centered on acts of kindness, mercy, meditation without the strictures and rules of the formal Torah. The second is Mosaic/Sinaitic. This is the formal structure of Torah which outlines the rules of charity, kindness, shabbos, society etc. This is all formally legislated.
THE SD thinks Nadav and Avihu seem to want the best of both worlds. They want the Mishkan and its trappings and they also want the hippy freedom of no rules. The SD thinks this is the challenge of Judaism. Finding that Spiritual high within the structure of Torah.
As Brother Shlomo Carlebach sings :”Lord get me high, get me high, get me high…Higher and Higher”