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Posts Tagged ‘Moses’

Q & A: Harsh Punishments (Part III)

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Question: I find it very difficult to understand the punishment of death that was meted out to Rabbi Akiba’s students. If he was so great, we can assume that his students were of a superior caliber as well. If so, why did they deserve such a harsh punishment?

Zelig Aronson
Queens, NY

Answer: We began our discussion by citing the prohibition of marrying or cutting our hair for a minimum period of 34 days between Pesach and Shavuot. We observe these signs of mourning to commemorate the thousands of Rabbi Akiba’s students who died during this period.

We sought to explain the reason these students deserved such a harsh punishment. We cited a similar story concerning the Nadav and Avihu, whose hasty actions led to their fatal transgression of issuing a ruling before their master Moses, for which they were killed. Hashem is very exacting with those closest to Him. Thus, Rabbi Akiba’s students were punished even though their sin may have been minor.

* * * * *

My mashgiach ruchani, HaRav Hersh Feldman, zt”l (the Mirrer Mashgiach), delivered a “schmooze” many years ago (see “Yemei Hasefira” in his Tiferet Tzvi p. 197) on the death of Rabbi Akiba’s students.

Rabbi Feldman begins: “Other than the ctual prohibition as well as the gravity of the punishment and the tum’ah, the ritual impurity that is visited upon a person due to his haughtiness, we see that the traits of modesty and humility assist one in the acquisition of Torah knowledge.

“Our Sages (Ta’anit 7a) expound the verse (Isaiah 55:1), ‘Hoy kol tzamei lechu lamayyim… – Ho! Everyone who is thirsty, go to the water…’ The ‘water’ here is the Torah, for which we thirst. Our sages ask, ‘Why is the Torah compared to water?’ Just as water flows from an elevated place and settles in a lower place, so do the words of Torah exist only in an individual whose understanding [and very being] is humble.”

Rabbi Feldman continues by citing the Gemara in Eruvin (13b): “For three years there was a dispute between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. These said, ‘The halacha is in agreement with our views,’ and those asserted, ‘The halacha is in agreement with our views.’ A Heavenly voice went forth and proclaimed, ‘Both are the words of the living G-d, but the halacha is in agreement with Beit Hillel.’

“The Gemara asks, ‘Now, since both are the words of the living G-d, what entitled Beit Hillel to have the halacha in agreement with their rulings?’ [This is the general rule; there are exceptions. In 18 circumstances the halacha is actually in accord with Beit Shammai – see Shabbos 13b and 17b; see also Rambam, Perush HaMishnayot on Yevamot Ch. 3, stating that when Beit Hillel rule stringently and Beit Shammai are lenient, the halacha generally follows the latter.] The Gemara answers: Because Beit Hillel were easygoing and very humble, and they would study their views and the views of Beit Shammai, and more so, they would always mention the views of Beit Shammai before theirs….”

Rabbi Feldman asks: “Since Beit Hillel were more easygoing and modest than Beit Shammai, is that [sufficient] reason to set forth the halacha in accord with them?

“We must explain: For one to hear and understand his fellow’s view and follow the logic of his reasoning to its natural conclusion, one must be graced with refined traits. One must not bear enmity to one’s fellow, nor be jealous of him, nor be contemptuous of him, which would be the result of boastfulness or haughtiness. A person who is conceited and haughty will not expend any effort to come to an understanding of his fellow’s view. Why? Obviously he considers his fellow’s view to be insignificant. It is surely not worth his while to exert any effort at understanding it. With such an approach he will never be able to comprehend his fellow’s view with any clarity.”

Rabbi Feldman continues: “Beit Hillel, however, who were easygoing and modest, traits that emanate from humility, expended great effort and toiled at understanding the views of their fellows [Beit Shammai] and to give them credit. This they did without any trace of negative personal motives. They would treat the views of their fellows deferentially, with the greatest respect, so that they would understand their decisions.

“More so, they would repeatedly study their views… They would even cite those [Beit Shammai’s] views before their own. If, after all that, they reached the conclusion that Beit Shammai’s view was incorrect and the halacha should not be as Beit Shammai established, then it was clear that the halacha should indeed follow Beit Hillel.

“This was so because weighing, deciding and understanding the matters in question was arrived at after clear analysis, without any preconceived personal notions.”

Q & A: Harsh Punishments (Part II)

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Question: I find it very difficult to understand the punishment of death that was meted out to Rabbi Akiba’s students. If he was so great, we can assume that his students were of a superior caliber as well. If so, why did they deserve such a harsh punishment?

Zelig Aronson
Queens, NY

Answer: Last week we discussed the prohibition of not marrying or cutting our hair for a minimum period of 34 days between Pesach and Shavuot. We observe these signs of mourning to commemorate the thousands of Rabbi Akiba’s students who died during this period.

We also sought to explain the reason these students deserved such a harsh punishment. We cited a similar story concerning the Nadav and Avihu, whose hasty actions led to their fatal transgression of issuing a ruling before their master Moses, for which they were killed.

* * * * *

The Rambam (Hilchot Talmud Torah 5:2), based upon the Gemara in Eruvin 63a, rules that a person who issues a halachic decision before his master is punished with death (by Heaven’s hand). The Hagahot Maimoniyot (ad loc.) cites exceptions to this rule. For instance, a person may issue a ruling before his master if he sees the ruling clearly recorded in books written by great halachic authorities.

Moses, in his humility, obviously saw no slight to his person when his students, Aaron’s sons, issued their halachic ruling, but he was aware of their infraction. He sought to console his brother on his tragic loss, stating that the untimely death of those who are nearest and dearest to Hashem serves as a means of His sanctification.

Nadav and Avihu and the students of Rabbi Akiba were so great that, like other tzaddikim, they were judged in a very exacting and demanding manner – “kechut hasa’ara – like a fine strand of hair.”

We find the following incident in the Talmud (Yevamot 121b): It once happened that the daughter of Nehonia the well digger (he would dig water wells for the benefit of those traveling on the roads and byways) fell into a large cistern, and people reported this to R. Hanina b. Dosa. During the first hour R. Hanina told them, “All is well.” In the second hour he again said, “All is well.” At the third hour he told them, “She is saved.”

R. Hanina then asked her, “My daughter, who saved you?” She replied, “A ram came to my aid with an aged man leading it.” (Rashi notes that this was our Patriarch Abraham.) The people observing this incident asked R. Hanina b. Dosa, “Are you a prophet?” He replied, “I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but this I do know: Should the work in which a righteous man is engaged (for the benefit of others) be the cause of disaster for his offspring?”

The Gemara continues: R. Abba stated, “Even so, his [Nehonia’s] son died of thirst. The verse (Psalms 50:3) states, ‘u’sevivav nis’ara me’od – His surroundings are exceedingly turbulent.’ ” This teaches us that Hashem deals with those near Him even to “a hair’s breadth,” i.e., very strictly. Rashi (ad loc.) explains that the word “nis’ara – turbulent” in this verse can also be read as “sa’ara – hair.”

The Maharsha (ad loc.) notes: If this is the manner in which Hashem treats those nearest and dearest to Him, how much stricter will He deal with the wicked.

The students of Rabbi Akiba were so great and close to Hashem that they were punished for even the slightest infraction.

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.

Prominent Turkish Muslim Leader Sends Passover Blessings to the Jewish Nation

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Adnan Oktar (also known by his pen name Harun Yahya), a prominent Turkish intellectual and religious leader with a mass following, has communicated and met personally over the past decade with many Orthodox rabbis from Israel and abroad, expressing his friendship to the Jewish nation and his reverence to the Torah.

Oktar has sent via the Jewish Press his blessing to the Jewish nation on the occasion of Passover:

While we remember the Prophet Moses’, peace be upon him, exodus from the oppression of the Pharaoh, and God’s help during this amazing journey, we pray for the blessings of God upon all His servants. May God send His Mashiach soon, and bring the days that we can altogether make Korban (sacrifice) in peace and joy in the Holy Land.

[God said:] And remember, We delivered you from the people of Pharaoh: They set you hard tasks and punishments, slaughtered your sons and let your women-folk live; therein was a tremendous trial from your Lord.

And remember We divided the sea for you and saved you and drowned Pharaoh’s people within your very sight. And remember We appointed forty nights for Moses, and in his absence you took the calf (for worship), and you did grievous wrong. Even then We did forgive you; there was a chance for you to be grateful. And remember We gave Moses the Scripture and the Criterion (Between right and wrong): There was a chance for you to be guided aright. (Quran, 2:49-53)

Back in 2009, I conducted a short interview with Adnan Oktar over the email, which I will bring here. It is important to note that while our relations with official Turkey are at an unprecedented low, there are prominent, religious Muslim voices inside Turkey, which offer friendship and empathy to the Jews and to the Jewish state.

Yanover: First, may I congratulate you on your vision for peace in the Middle East and, indeed, the world, and on your staunch campaign to promote the values of Monotheism. A religious Jew, I am touched when I encounter reason and compassion among the nations, and your life’s work gives me hope for the future of humanity.

How pragmatic is your vision for a united Turkish-Islamic Near-East? Do you see it as coming to pass under the rule of a Divine redeemer, or is it a plan to be accomplished by people in this pre-Messianic reality? If it is the latter, you must be aware of the obstacles in many Muslim states to the development of democratic institutions and efficient, corruption-free state bureaucracies. How would you overcome these difficulties?

Adnan Oktar: Every day, important and positive developments regarding the formation of the Turkish-Islamic Union are taking place, although the real establishment of this union will take place under the leadership of Hazrat Mahdi, peace be upon him (the Muslim version of the Redeemer – YY). According to the information handed down from the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, Hazrat Mahdi, peace be upon him, will unite the fragmented Turkic and Islamic states and establish a great and powerful union.

Under his leadership, the Turkish-Islamic Union will be a union of love and friendship. Every state will preserve its own constitutional structure, but there will be full cooperation in defense, trade, science, art, love and brotherhood, as well as the beauty and abundance brought about by that cooperation. Hazrat Mahdi, pbuh, will be instrumental in the Turkish-Islamic world delighting in love, depth, compassion, peacefulness, art and beauty, and in scaling the peaks of modernity and nobility. And the devotion and love felt for Hazrat Mahdi, pbuh, will be instrumental in all disputes being resolved in a matter of minutes. As a requirement of the moral values of the Qur’an, the Turkish-Islamic Union will be one that attaches great importance to democracy, laicism and freedom of ideas, and these values will acquire increasing importance in all the states affiliated to the union.

Things that seem to be obstacles on the path to the establishment of the Turkish-Islamic Union are unimportant. The coming of Hazrat Mahdi (pbuh), the unification of the Turkish-Islamic world, the spread of moral virtues and the glory of Allah being praised everywhere is Allah’s promise. It will certainly be made good. Allah’s promise is true and Allah does not break His promise.

Yanover: Your love for all monotheistic people is clear and admirable. But while Jews are devoid of a directive to convert others to our faith, the very foundation of most Christian denominations is the command to bring others into theirs. Is it possible for God-loving men to live in peace with a large Christian element fomenting such aggressive intentions? Would it not spell constant tension and unrest within the community of God?

Adnan Oktar: It is natural for members of all faiths to think their beliefs are true and to defend them. Jews, Muslims and Christians have a perfect right to defend and tell others of their beliefs. However, it is of course unacceptable to try to force anyone to be a Christian or compel anyone to be a Muslim. Such a thing has no place in Islam. In verse 256 of Surat al-Baqara, Allah reveals, “There is no compulsion where the religion is concerned.”

Yoram Ettinger: Passover – An Inalienable American Value

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

http://www.theettingerreport.com/OpEd/OpEd—Israel-Hayom/Passover-%E2%80%93-An-Inalienable-American-Value.aspx

 

Passover, and especially the legacy of Moses and the Exodus, has been part of the American story since the seventeenth century, inspiring the American pursuit of liberty, justice, and morality.

The special role played by Passover – and the Bible – in shaping the American state of mind constitutes the foundation of the unique relations between the American people and the Jewish state. As important as the current mutual threats and interests between the US and Israel are, the bedrock of the unbreakable US-Israel alliance are entrenched values, principles and legacies, such as Passover.

In 1620 and 1630, William Bradford and John Winthrop delivered sermons on the Mayflower and Arbella, referring to the deliverance from “modern day Egypt and Pharaoh,” to “the crossing of the modern day Red Sea” and to New Zion/Canaan as the destination of the Pilgrims on board.

In 1776, Thomas Paine, the author of Common Sense (which cemented public support for the revolution), referred to King George as the “hardened, sullen tempered Pharaoh.” Upon declaration of independence, Benjamin Franklin (the most secular Founding Father), John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, the second third American Presidents respectively, proposed a Passover theme for the official US seal: the Pillar of Fire leading Moses and the Israelites through the Red Sea, while Pharaoh’s chariots drown in the Sea. The inscription on the seal was supposed to be: “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God,” framing the rebellion against the British monarchy as principle-driven. The lessons of the Jewish deliverance from Egyptian bondage reverberated thunderously among the Rebels, who considered the thirteen colonies to be “the modern day Twelve Tribes.”

The 19th century Abolitionists, and the Civil Rights movement from the 1940s to the 1970s, were inspired by the ethos of the Exodus and by the Bible’s opposition to slavery. In the 1830s, the Liberty Bell, an icon of American independence, was adopted by the Abolitionists, due to its Exodus-inspired inscription: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10). Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), and her husband, Calvin Ellis Stowe (“The Little Rabbi”) were scholars of the Bible and the Exodus. Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery in 1849 and freed Black slaves on the Underground Railroad, earned the name “Moses.” The 1879/80 Black slaves who ran away to Kansas were called “the Exodusters.” The most famous spiritual, “Go Down, Moses” was considered the unofficial national anthem of Black slaves.

In 1865, following the murder of President Lincoln, most eulogies compared him to Moses. Just like Moses, Lincoln liberated slaves, but was stopped short of the Promised Land.France paid tribute to the martyred Lincoln by erecting the Statue of Liberty, featuring rays of sun and a tablet, just like the glaring Moses descending from Mount Sinai with the Two Tablets of the Ten Commandments.

In 1954, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. compared the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision to desegregate public schools to the parting of the Red Sea. In 1964, upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King proclaimed: “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself. The Bible tells the thrilling story of how Moses stood in Pharaoh’s court centuries ago and cried, ‘Let my people go.’”

President Reagan mentioned (Reagan at Westminster, 2010) Exodus as the first incident in a long line of Western resistance to tyranny: “Since the exodus from Egypt, historians have written of those who sacrificed and struggled for freedom – the stand at Thermopylae, the revolt of Spartacus, the storming of the Bastille, the Warsaw uprising in World War II.”

In July, 2003, President Bush stated, in Senegal, that “in America, enslaved Africans learned the story of the exodus from Egypt, and set their own hearts on a promised land of freedom.”

In March, 2007, Senator Obama said in Selma, Alabama that the civil rights pioneers were the “Moses generation” and he was part of the “Joshua generation” that would “find our way across the river.”

And today, in 2012, a statue of Moses stares at the Speaker of the House, another towers above the seats of the Supreme Court Justices, a Ten Commandment monument sits on the ground of the Texas State Capitol, and a similar monument will be shortly erected on the ground of the Oklahoma State Capitol.

In 2012, the leader of the Free World and its sole soul ally in the Mid-East, Israel, are facing the most lethal threat to liberty since 1945 – conventional and non-conventional Islamic terrorism. Adherence to the legacy of Passover, marshaling the conviction-driven leadership of Moses, and demonstrating Joshua and Caleb’s courage and defiance of odds, will once again facilitate the victory of liberty over tyranny.

Jewish Press Radio: Biblical Joseph Becomes Real and What of Benjy?

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

The Yishai Fleisher Show is Israel’s only English-language FM talk show and it is brought to you in partnership with JewishPress.com

Radio: Yishai in Toronto.  Segment #1 – #2

Before leaving for IDF reserve duty, Yishai put together a great show that begins with a riveting speech, given during Yishai’s Winter 2012 speaking tour, to students of the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto (CHAT), a Jewish high school in Toronto, Canada.  The speech begins with Yishai discussing his background and the idea of Joseph’s need to be returned to the Land of Israel, even after death.  The concept of visionaries such as Theodor Herzl being enlightened t0 help physically bring the Jewish people back to Israel is presented along with how fasting on Yom Kippur and removing oneself from technology during Shabbat is an amazing form of meditation and reflection.  This segment wraps up with an intense question and answer session led by Yishai for the students in attendance.

Radio: It’s all in threes.  Segment #3 – #4

The final two segments of this week’s show have Yishai presenting an inspiring speech given at Canada Christian College during his Winter 2012 tour.  The speech begins by presenting three popular terms used to describe the Jewish People and how each is involved in the molding of Jewish identity in political, ethnic, and religious terms.  The renaming of Eretz Yisrael to Syria Palestine by conquerors of the Land as an attempt to delegitimize the Jewish claim to the Land is mentioned.  A series of three riveting stories about Moses and his spirit is presented to the audience.  Yishai continues by discussing how the State of Israel has three different objectives in remaining a Jewish state including protecting the Jewish people, becoming an incubator for Jewish culture, and to be a light among the nations.  The speech winds up with Yishai talking about the three principal dangers that are faced by the Jewish people including delegitimization, Jewish division, and most importantly fear.

Fearing Holiness as Pesach Approaches

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

The big 7-8 day Holiday is approaching. The one that seems to get people more uptight than happy (as they should be –Rambam, Laws of the Holidays, 6:17), to the extent that when you are actually brave enough to utter the word “PESACH,” it often feels like you’ve put people on edge.

These less than “30 days before the Holiday” offer us an opportunity to evaluate the above phenomenon, which seems to be more and more commonplace in our times.

It amazes me that Pesach comes just a month after Purim. More than anything, what makes Purim unique is that it is a day in which the edict that “one should become inebriated on Purim till one doesn’t distinguish between the curse of Haman to the blessing of Mordechai” proclaims it a day in which…everything goes, in which one has very loose – to non-existent – borders regarding what is permitted and what is forbidden. In a word, it’s a day in which the word “fear” seems to be put into a drawer for 24 hours, as we permit ourselves to do things otherwise unthinkable – in terms of what we wear, what we say, which jokes we crack, and of course, how much alcohol we allow ourselves to consume.

And then, right after the hangover passes, the costumes are put away for next year, and the last cookie from the “Mishloach Manot” is eaten, we get…fearful and nervous; just 30 days to clean the house, buy the (new and expensive) groceries, and cook for Pesach!

From too much courage to neurotic fear, and all this in two months!

Leaving aside how much one needs to clean for Pesach and how crazy one must get (based on the Torah’s dictates, without the “extra’s” of cleaning the windows as well…), I’d like to comment on just one point – the “fear” of it.

I believe that something has crept into the Religious Jewish community over the last few years that shouldn’t be there – our fear of holiness. Let’s introduce it with the following episode, usually read right after Purim in the weekly Torah reading (except in a leap-year). The Jewish people have just been forgiven for the elevated sin of the Golden Calf, and Moshe is coming down Mount Sinai…with one small change to his face:

29. And it came to pass when Moses descended from Mount Sinai, and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand when he descended from the mountain and Moses did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while He had spoken with him 30. that Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses and behold! the skin of his face had become radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.31. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the princes of the community returned to him, and Moses would speak to them…..

Reading these verses, I would have thought it wonderful – the people behold Moshe looking holier than ever, and thus maintain their distance, knowing that they are not on the level. After all, we don’t just barge into a shul, open the ark and greet the Torah Scrolls with a “Hello Mate…,” nor do we ascend the Temple Mount without proper preparations! And so, the Jewish people recognize Moshe’s new, elevated radiance/holiness and keep their distance from his holiness.

But then we get to Rashi’s read, which offers a radically different interpretation:

and they were afraid to come near him: Come and see how great the power of sin is! Because when they had not yet stretched out their hands to sin [with the golden calf], what does He say? “And the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire atop the mountain, before the eyes of the children of Israel” (Exod. 24:17), and they were neither frightened nor quaking. But since they had made the calf, even from Moses’ rays of splendor they recoiled and quaked. (from Sifrei Nasso 11, Pesikta d’Rav Kahana, p. 45)

What forces Rashi to see the above in negative terms rather then the positive? Why not just applause the people for their reverence of holiness?

Seems to me that Rashi wants to give us a message: We dare not stay away from holiness. Quite the contrary – we should embrace it and try to get a “piece of it.”

Our Torah is full of commands to “be holy” (Vayikra 11:43-44, 19:2, 20:7), or “to be for me holy” (20:26)! Moreover, when the Torah commands that we shall go to “the place” in order to sacrifice and more, it adds the edict that “you shall inquire after His dwelling and come there” (Devarim 12:5). The Ramban explains (ad-loc) that “the reason for ‘you shall inquire after his dwelling’ is that you shall come from afar, and ask: ‘where is the house of God,’ and say to each other: ‘Let us ascend and go to the mountain of God to the house of the God of Jacob.’” In other words, according to this interpretation, we should not only be holy but should actually pursue it, seek it out, and make “an issue” of asking people how we can arrive at holiness.

Rabbi Lord Sacks: The Art Of True Leadership

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Parshat Tetzaveh is, as is well known, the parshah in which for once Moses takes second place, indeed is not mentioned by name at all, while the focus is on his brother Aaron and on the role he came to occupy and personify, that of high priest (the kohen gadol).

There are many conjectures as to why this went to Aaron as opposed to Moses himself, the most obvious being that this was Moses’s punishment for refusing one time too many God’s request that he lead the Israelites.

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, he will be your spokesman, and you will be his guide” (Exodus 4:13-16).

There is though a deeper message, the principle of the separation of powers, which opposes the concentration of leadership into one person or institution. All human authority needs checks and balances if it is not to become corrupt. In particular, political and religious leadership (keter malchut and keter kehunah) should never be combined. Moses wore the crowns of political and prophetic leadership, Aaron that of priesthood. The division allowed each to be a check on the other.

That is the theory. What is especially interesting is how this works out in terms of personal relationships, in this case between the two brothers, Moses and Aaron. The Torah says relatively little about it, but the hints are fascinating.

Consider, first of all, the passage we’ve just seen from near the beginning of the book of Exodus, when God tells Moses that Aaron is “already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you.” These sound like simple words but they are anything but.

Moses was Aaron’s younger brother, three years his junior. Would it not have been natural for Aaron to be more than a little envious that his younger brother was about to become the leader he himself was not destined to be – all the more so since Moses had not spent his life among his people? He had been, first, an adopted prince of Egypt, and had then taken refuge with Yitro and the Midianites. Relative to Aaron, Moses, his younger brother, was also an outsider. Yet God says, “He will be glad to see you.”

Aaron’s ability to rejoice in his brother’s rise to greatness is particularly striking when set against the entire biblical history of the relationship between brothers thus far. It has been a set of variations on the theme of sibling rivalry: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers. The psalm says, “How good and pleasant it is for brothers to live together” (Psalms 133:1) – to which, reading Bereishit, we are likely to add, “and how rare.”

But now comes the second test, this time not of Aaron but of Moses. Moses is now being commanded to create a form of leadership he himself will never be able to exercise, that of the priesthood, and the person he must award it to is his elder brother. Can he do so with the same generosity of spirit that his brother showed toward him? Note how the Torah emphasizes God’s insistence that it be Moses who bestows this honor on Aaron.

Three times the word “v’atah – and you,” is used early on in the parshah:

And you command the Israelites [about the oil for the menorah that Aaron and his sons would keep alight]” (27:20).

And you bring Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, near to you …” (28:1).

And you speak to all the wise-hearted people [and command them to make the vestments Aaron and the other priests would wear]” (28:3).

Moses must show the people – and Aaron himself – that he has the humility, the tzimtzum, the power of self-effacement, needed to make space for someone else to share in the leadership of the people, someone whose strengths are not yours, whose role is different from yours, someone who may be more popular, closer to the people, than you are – as in fact Aaron turned out to be.

Lehavdil: In 2005 the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin published an influential book about Abraham Lincoln, entitled Team of Rivals. In it she tells the story of how Lincoln appointed to his cabinet the three men who had opposed him as candidate for the Republican Party’s leadership. William Henry Seward, who had been expected to win, eventually said of him that “his magnanimity is almost superhuman … the President is the best of us.” It takes a special kind of character to make space for those whom one is entitled to see as rivals. Early on, Aaron showed that character in relation to Moses, and now Moses is called on to show it to Aaron.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-art-of-true-leadership/2012/02/29/

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