Over the Top
How long would it take for a single person to lift twenty-two thousand
full-grown men off the ground one at a time? It is exhausting even to think
about such a daunting endeavor. You lift a few. You take a rest. And then
you lift some more. One would imagine that it would take weeks or even
months to complete the task.
But what if it had to be done in one day? What if a single person was
required to begin lifting twenty-two thousand full-grown men off the ground,
one by one, at sunrise and to complete the task by sunset? This would entail
lifting one man every four seconds, without a moment's respite from morning
until night. It seems like an impossible undertaking.
And yet, this is exactly what Aaron the High Priest was required to do at
the dedication ceremony of the Levite tribe in a process called tenufah. And
he did it! It was an incredible feat, and it earned him the honorary title
High Priest. According to the Midrash, he was called High Priest, because he
was greatest of all the priests in physical strength. No one else among the
priests could have managed this astonishing feat, but he did.
But was Aaron's extraordinary feat really proof of his extraordinary
physical strength? Is it humanly possible for one person lift twenty-two
thousand full-grown men in a single day? Surely, there must have been
miraculous intervention. And if so, how do we know that Aaron had great
The commentators explain that the key to human strength is focus and
concentration. We all have the ability to muster far more strength than we
think we possess. The difficult challenge is to harness that strength.
From time to time, we hear news reports about young mothers, slender women
without bulging biceps, who lift automobiles to save their trapped husbands
or children. Apparently, the normal human body has the innate ability to
generate enough energy to lift an automobile, but it takes a crisis such as
an automobile accident to bring that energy into focus.
The normal reaction when face with a task requiring extraordinary strength
is to say, "I can't. It's too hard." It takes an extreme crisis to spark the
will and determination that can bring out all that hidden strength.
For Aaron, God's command was more galvanizing than the greatest personal
crisis. When God told him to lift the Levites, He did not say it would be
accomplished by a miracle. He told Aaron to lift, and Aaron ran to do it.
And as he was lifting the Levites, achieving physical feats that staggered
the imagination, God decided to perform a miracle to help him complete the
task in one day. A lesser man would have declared, "This is an impossible
task" and thrown up his hands in defeat. God would not perform a miracle for
such a man.
A famous sage traveled to the premier center of learning to find an
outstanding scholar as a husband for his gracious and talented daughter.
Many young men, eager for this exceptional match, came forward to meet the sage.
In order to text the suitors, the sage posed an extremely difficult and
perplexing question to them. The one who offered a solution would clearly be
the outstanding scholar he sought. A day went by. The young men pondered
long and hard, but no one could discover the solution.
Disappointed, the sage declared that he was leaving. Apparently, he had
would have to continue his search further afield. The young men hung their
heads dejectedly and walked away.
As the sage was walking out the door to resume his journey, a young man came
running up to him.
"Sir, I need to know the solution," he said breathlessly. "I've been
wracking my brains, and I cannot figure out. It would have been nice to
marry your daughter, but even if not, I must have the answer to the
question. I will not sleep otherwise."
"Ah!" exclaimed the sage. "You are the one I was seeking. You are the
perfect husband for my daughter."
"I am?" said the young man. "But I thought you . . ."
"You have the desire, my son," said the sage. "I can help you with the
In our own lives, we sometimes tend to be overwhelmed by daunting tasks. But
in actuality, we probably have the strength and ability to complete them
successfully. All we are lacking are the will and the determination. If we
are focused and try hard enough there is practically no limit to what we can
accomplish. And if we come up a little short, God is always there to give us
that last little boost to get us over the top.
Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Naftali Reich and Torah.org.
Rabbi Reich is on the faculty of the Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum Education Center.