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Rabbi's Corner

Tetzaveh –Rabbi Lerner – March 1, 2020

Brothers: A Drama in Five Acts – Rabbi Sacks

This parsha is the only one in the Torah from the beginning of Shemos when Moshe is introduced, until the end of Devarim where Moshe’s name does not appear even once. Kli Yakar highlights this and discusses this difficulty. The parsha opens in a strange way; instead of the usual Vayedaber Hashem El Moshe, it starts “And you should command Bnai Yisrael…. No other parsha begins that way. This pattern continues throughout the parsha, with instructions of what Moshe needs to do, but without mentioning his name. Rabbi Sacks: Instead of Moshe, the focus of this entire parsha is on Aharon. “Indeed, virtually the whole parsha is devoted to the role Moses did not occupy, except briefly - that of priest in general, High Priest in particular.” While it is important to have a parsha dedicated to the role of the Kohen in Judaism, was there a need to delete Moshe’s name entirely from the parsha? One reason given in the Gemorrah goes back to Moshe’s debate with Hashem at the burning bush. Hashem repeatedly charges Moshe with the task of leading the people out of Egypt. “Moses, as it were, refused one time too many. To decline a leadership challenge once or twice is a sign of humility. To continue to do so when it is God Himself issuing the challenge risks provoking divine anger, as happened here.” After Moshe tells Hashem to just appoint someone else – he had his brother in mind – he did not want to slight his older brother – Hashem gets angry and finally tells Moshe the job is his. The Gemorrah Zevachim: Rabbi Yehoshuah Ben Karcha says that whenever Hashem gets angry there will be an imprint, some consequence, except here. Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai: there were consequences here as well, as the very next pasuk says “Is there not Aharon, your brother, the Levi?” What Hashem was saying was that the original plan was for Aharon to remain a Levi Moshe would be the Kohen Gadol; but since he showed such significant unwillingness to take the job, he and his family would be punished – Aharon and his family will be elevated to the status of Kohanim and Moshe will just end up being a Levi. This is where we learn that Kohanim must be Zerizim Lamitzvah – the Kohanim always are eager to do the Avodah to Hashem, to serve Hashem and the Jewish people – because Moshe lacked that attribute, he was denied the privilege of the Kehuna for himself and his descendants. Because of this, as the Baal Haturim writes, in this parsha that details the Bigdei Kehuna and their inaugural offerings, we find Moshe’s name deleted "to spare him distress on seeing Aharon acquire the insignia of priesthood that might have been Moses' own.”

Rabbi Sacks: There is a more fundamental message here. Throughout Sefer Bereishis there is a recurring, powerful theme of sibling rivalry; the story is told four times at ever increasing length. It starts with Kayin and Hevel; Hevel brings a better offering, Hashem shows him favor; Kayin ultimately kills him in a state of jealousy. We next see Yitzchak and Yishmael, who grow up apart after Sarah insisted Yishmael be driven out, causing Avraham much pain. Yaacov and Esav have a serious falling out after Yaacov steals the bracha, and they are separated for decades. And finally there is Yosef and his brothers. The entire sefer shows siblings who cannot get along. There is some reconciliation at the end with some of these situations – Yitzchak and Yishmael have some reconciliation at Avraham’s funeral. Yaacov and Esav meet and embrace after their long estrangement, and then briefly travel together. Yosef shows a sense of responsibility for his siblings and their families, despite what they did to him. They slowly learn their lesson. There is still a sense of something that is amiss. As Rabbis Sacks says, “Genesis is telling us a story of great consequence. Fraternity - one of the key words of the French revolution - is not simple or straightforward. It is often fraught with conflict and contention. Yet slowly, brothers can learn that there is another way. On this note Genesis ends. But it is not the end of the story.”

The final drama between siblings is the relationship between Aharon and Moshe; for the first time there is no hint of an issue between siblings. From the outset of their mission they are working together to lead the Jews to freedom. They address the people together; they stand before Pharaoh together. Moshe even wants Aharon to take the job of leading the people because he would not want to slight his older brother. Hashem tells Moshe that Aharon will only feel unmitigated joy when he sees his younger brother as the chosen one to lead the people. He shouldn’t have concerns about slighting his brother; God will give each different roles because they have different personalities. They share leadership and function as a team with different personalities and talents, but without hostility. Aharon had reasons to be unhappy with Moshe’s return – they had not grown up together; Moshe had been in the palace of Pharaoh, while Aharon was among his people in bondage; Moshe was away in Midian while Aharon and the people were suffering; Moshe was the younger brother, yet he was to be given the leadership role. “In Bereishis whenever the younger sibling had taken something the elder believed belonged naturally to him, there was jealousy and animosity. Yet, Hashem reassures Moshe that Aharon will rejoice when he sees Moshe – and he did.”

Aharon was more beloved by the people; when Aharon died all the people cried for him; for Moshe it was only the men who mourned. Aharon was beloved because he sought Shalom Bayis; he was a people’s person; Moshe was more intimidating and frightening, more lofty with a need to hide his face behind a mask. Moshe taught the people Torah; Aharon was a pastoral Rabbi. The two were able to provide for all the needs of the people and were both necessary. Moshe did not have the ability to deal with the people on a personal level. Each had a strength the other lacked. But they were a team. The Torah testifies to this by saying that Aharon would be happy in his heart when he sees Moshe – he would be totally happy about this. He had a good heart about it, with no jealousy, just love for him – that is what a Kohen needs; it is the Kohen who must have unmitigated love for the people – Moshe was not like that. He was not the Ohev Shalom that his brother was; he was the man of truth while his brother was the man of peace. It was difficult to relate to Moshe because he had a foreboding character and appearance. Aharon could get close to people. Bnai Yisrael needed this team. Hashem instructed Aharon to go out and meet Moshe after the burning bush; He tells him to go greet Moshe in the Midbar; he went, he met him and kissed his brother to show how happy he was to see him. This showed love without jealousy, even though his brother will be the redeemer of the people.

The Torah deliberately switches the order of Moshe and Aharon in different communications with God. Instead of giving honor just to the eldest (Aharon) or the greater one (Moshe), the Torah alternates to show parity and lack of jealousy.

There is a final midrash that completes this picture. Hashem tells Moshe that his heart will be glad when he sees you. The Midrash says “Let the heart that rejoiced in the greatness of his brother be vested with the Urim and Tumim.” The Urim Vetumim was placed on Aharon’s heart. It indicates his tremendous love for Bnai Yisrael. The Urim Vetumim was an oracle that conveyed divine inspiration and guidance. Rabbi Sacks: “It was precisely the fact that Aaron did not envy his younger brother but instead rejoiced in his greatness that made him worthy to be High Priest. So it came to pass - measure for measure - that just as Aaron made space for his younger brother to lead, so the Torah makes space for Aaron to lead. That is why Aaron is the hero of Tetzaveh: for once, not overshadowed by Moshe.”

The midos of Hashem were transmitted through the Urim Vetumim – these midos are even more important than the Mitzvohs. Aharon would teach these principles to the people. When Moshe asks to see more of Hashem’s essence, the response was the 13 midos of Hashem – they are more important than the Mitzvohs. Showing mercy was more important. Moshe would frequently get angry, while Hashem would be patient and forgiving. Moshe did not show this MidahAharon did. Moshe did not understand the mindset of his brother when he told Hashem that Aharon would be jealous of Moshe’s taking the job of redeemer. Aharon had overwhelming love, and it was appropriate for the Urim Vetumim to rest on the heart of Aharon. These stones only function when on the heart of the Kohen Gadol, and would only work if the person wearing it had love and patience for the people. That is what Hashem gave respect to. Of all the different values we have, Shalom seems to transcend all of the others. We see this in the concept of the Sotah, where a suspicious husband first warns his wife not to be alone with a particular man, and she then violates this warning; he then brings his wife to the Bais Hamikdash for judgment about her fidelity. The Torah describes a lengthy procedure to determine the truth; she is given a bitter drink that contained God’s name written on paper and erased; God is willing to have His name erased for the concept of Shalom Bayis between husband and wife – this ritual is a miracle designed for this mitzvah – God wants to save a marriage if it deserves to be saved – if innocent she will be blessed and have children. Hashem is willing to have His name blotted out, to diminish Himself, to allow transgression of a negative Mitzvah, all to save a marriage, all for Shalom Bayis. This love of people is the character trait of the Kohanim. Aharon was able to bring people together.

Rabbi Sacks: "Who is honored?" asked Ben Zoma. "One who honors others." Aaron honored his younger brother. That is why Moshe (not mentioned by name but by implication) is told in this week's parsha, to make sacred garments for his brother Aharon, to give him honor and splendor. Hashem deliberately commands Moshe to do this, to give honor to him. The fifth act of brotherhood in the Torah is this one, where fraternity finally reaches the heights. The culmination of which is Moshe willing to leave his name out for his brother’s honor. And that surely is the meaning of Tehilim 133, with its explicit reference to Aaron and his sacred garments: "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes." The Kehuna is all about the Midos of Aharon; the children of Aharon will bless the people for all time and there will be peace. We always say Derech Eretz Kadma LaTorah – it is a guiding principle. The first Bais Hamikdash was destroyed for violation of the three cardinal sins, and the galus was 70 years. The Second because of Sinas Chinam, and we are still in Galus; we see how God won’t tolerate hatred between siblings. In this parsha, Aharon is highlighted; it is not so much a punishment for Moshe as a highlight to Aharon’s virtue that will bring about the Yeshuah. It was thanks to Aaron, and the honor he showed Moshe, that at last brothers learned to live together in unity.

Sat, August 15 2020 25 Av 5780