Photo Credit: Jewish Press

When one contemplates the qualities of a leader, one might reach the conclusion that a leader is someone who can influence his people to follow his ideas and is able to inspire them to action. Perhaps equally, however, a leader is one who is so dedicated to his people and to his ideals that he would give up everything – even his life – for the sake of his dreams and objectives.

Such were the qualities of our greatest leader, teacher, and prophet, Moshe Rabbeinu. When the Jewish people built the Golden Calf, Moshe forfeited the greatest gift that was given to him, to the Jewish people, indeed to the entire world: the Ten Commandments. In his hour of disappointment and shame over the sin of the Jewish people, Moshe cast away the most precious legacy that Almighty G-d had bestowed upon him – all because of his greater love for the Jewish people.

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Later, when Moshe returned to G-d to ask Him to forgive the Jewish people, he was prepared to surrender his entire future by proclaiming to G-d that if He did not pardon the Jewish people, then “erase me from your Torah that you are writing.” Moshe, leader of the Jewish people par excellence, was ready to abdicate all fame and fortune for the sake of his constituency – just so that his people would survive.

Moshe, according to our Sages, was punished for his behavior. They comment that in the entire Parsha of Tetzaveh, his name is omitted – a statement by G-d that Moshe’s challenge to G-d might have been inappropriate and ill-conceived. One may, however, question G-d’s response. For after all, G-d reacted to Moshe’s plea with a promise that the Jewish people are forgiven! Why would G-d then use Moshe’s argument and turn it around to punish him when he had displayed such love and devotion for the Jewish people? Perhaps there is another reason for the deletion of Moshe’s name.

The first time that Moshe encountered G-d was when he witnessed a fascinating sight: A bush was burning upon the mountain but it was not being consumed by the fire surrounding it. When Moshe approached to witness this phenomenon, Almighty G-d appeared to him and eventually charged him with the task of going to Pharoah and demanding the freedom of the Jewish people. For an entire week, our Sages tell us, Moshe refused this charge, until finally Almighty G-d gave this responsibility to his brother Aharon. Aharon became the spokesman instead of his brother, Moshe. Our Sages say that it was because of Moshe’s unwillingness to assume this responsibility of leadership that Aharon was given the honor of the High Priesthood, something that was originally intended for Moshe.

But just as Aharon had no envy toward his brother, Moshe, so Moshe had no resentment about the job given to Aharon. Each of the brothers loved each other without jealousy and celebrated the success of the other with love and sensitivity.

Perhaps after all, when it came to the Mishkan, it was Aharon’s time to shine. The entire portion of Tetzaveh deals with the garb of the High Priest, something which identifies the role of Aharon. Moshe didn’t want his name to be included in this portion, for all the credit and honor belonged to his brother Aharon.

The love that they displayed represented a love that was not based on any stipulation – a pure love, a love of one who unselfishly cares for his brother without envy or resentment. This example of perhaps the two greatest leaders in our history should reflect upon all of us.

Enough of the downgrading and finding fault in our brothers and sisters! Enough of the hate that is perpetuated through division and finding fault! We need to focus on the good within people, to find areas that we have in common and that unite us, not that divide us. Certainly we have much more in common with our brothers and sisters than the foolishness that divides us. We need to show pride in each other and in the Jewish people.

Aharon and Moshe led the way. Let us follow in their footsteps.

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Rabbi Mordechai Weiss has been involved in Jewish education for the past forty-six years, serving as principal of various Hebrew day schools. He has received awards for his innovative programs and was chosen to receive the coveted Outstanding Principal award from the National Association of Private Schools. He now resides in Israel and is available for speaking engagements. Contact him at ravmordechai@aol.com or 914-368-5149.