Additional laws of the Olah (Ascent offering) are detailed in this week’s
Parsha and were addressed specifically to Aharon and his sons.
(6:2) “Command Aharon and his sons, saying: This is the law of the ascent
The word used by the Torah is "Tzav" - command.
Additional laws of the Chatas are detailed in this week’s Parsha and were
addressed specifically to Aharon and his sons. (6:17) “Speak to Aharon and
his sons, saying: This is the law of the sin offering…”
The Korban Olah (Ascent offering),
“arises from the individual’s awareness that he is in need of making
greater strides toward goodness and g-dliness? It is offered in the
awareness that one has
The Chatas (unintentional Sin offering), is the manner
“through which a soul, having strayed from the sphere of G-d’s will, now
seeks to regain the nearness of G-d on which the purity of its active life
depends and which it should never have left...” (Ibid 4:2)
Why were these two categories of offerings directed specifically to Aharon
and his sons? All Korbanos were under their jurisdiction and purview and
involved their direct ministration. Why specify the Olah and the Chatas?
Aharon Hakohain (the Priest) was unique. The Mishnah in Avos (1:12) quotes
Hillel. “Be among the disciples of Aharon, loving and pursuing peace,
loving people, and bringing them closer to the Torah.”
Rav Yoseph Yitzchak Kook ZT’L explained that the Mishnah does not
say, “loving and pursuing peace, loving people, in order to bring them
closer to the Torah.” The Mishnah states that Aharon loved peace, pursued
peace, and loved people which resulted in them being brought closer to G-
d. There was no other agenda! Others were attracted to him because of who
he was and how he behaved and were therefore inspired to become closer to
What kind of person was Aharon Hakohain? In contemporary terms we might
say he was, accepting, non-judgmental, open minded, tolerant,
accommodating, broadminded, understanding, charitable, forbearing,
lenient, and compassionate. I believe that every one of those descriptions
applied to the character of Aharon Hakohain; however, therein lay the
contradiction and the lesson.
In order for Aharon to be the Kohain Gadol he had to be extraordinarily
disciplined and obedient to G-d’s commandments. What happened when G-d’s
law was in conflict with Aharon’s exceptional sensitivity and compassion?
What happened when Aharon found himself caught between the inflexible
absolutes of G-d’s judgment and his own penchant for being non-judgmental,
accepting, forgiving, and loving?
Among the first Mitzvos addressed by the Rambam is “To emulate the ways of
G-d.” We believe that G-d is perfect and that all questions and conflicts
about His actions are the product of our mortal limitations. That means
that G-d is the quintessential example of mercy. “Just as He is merciful
so too we must be merciful.” Therefore, it was incumbent upon Aharon
Hakohain to try and understand the ways of G-d; yet, if and when there was
a conflict between his own approach and G-d’s judgment, G-d’s judgment
This disciplined acceptance of the true meaning of compassion, mercy, love
and forgiveness, will be emphasized in next week’s Parsha when Aharon
accepts the deaths of Nadav and Avihu. His silence, “and Aharon was
silent,” is the most eloquent expression of trust in G-d and His judgment.
Upon Aharon’s death the Torah proclaimed, (Bamidbar 20:29) “they wept for
Aharon thirty days all the House of Israel.” When Moshe died the Torah
stated, (Divarim 34:8) “and the Bnai Yisroel cried for Moshe in the Plains
of Moav.” The verse does not add the word, “all”. The Talmud points out
that everyone mourned Aharon while most everyone mourned Moshe. Is it
possible that Aharon was more compassionate than Moshe? Moshe, the most
trusted in G-d’s entire home, the only human to have spoken to G-d face to
The truth is that Moshe was greater than Aharon in every way; however, the
nation could not relate to Moshe the way they could relate to Aharon. Both
Moshe and Aharon listened to the word of G-d with absolute adherence and
trust. Both were role models of servitude and subjugation. However,
Moshe’s being radiated an inner sanctity that set him above and apart from
the rest of the nation. It made it very difficult for the masses to get
near to him. Aharon, on the other hand, was from within the people. He had
suffered with them in Egypt. He had been with them at the time of the
Golden Calf. He too waited for Moshe to descend with the verdict of their
future, not knowing whether G-d would continue to dwell in their midst or
watch over them from afar. Aharon did the same as Moshe but was perceived
as more available and understanding.
If the Torah had directed the laws of the Olah and the Chatas - the ascent
offering and the sin offering - to Moshe, the nation would have associated
the process of growth represented by the Olah and the process of
correction represented by the Chatas with the distant perfection of the
veiled Moshe. However, by directing the laws of the Chatas and the Olah to
Aharon and his sons, the Torah showed the nation that the Torah was for
everyone, especially the imperfect and fallible.
With the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11, the world was
exposed to absolute evil. The straightforwardness of absolutes simplifies
our values and clarifies our decision-making. We all wanted to believe
that the world had tasted from the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil
and that the future would be different. We fervently and excitedly wished
to believe that the world would see the obvious evil of wanton
destruction, the killing and maiming of innocent men, women, and children.
For a short moment there was a reprieve. For a short moment our clarity of
purpose in battling terror exposed the inconceivable rational of contrast
and balance, against a backdrop of reprehension, revulsion, and blatantly
arrogant evil. But that is no longer. The death and destruction in Madrid
and the UN’s continued condemnation of Israel proves that the short
reprieve and clarity following 9-11 when evil was seen as evil and victims
as innocent and good has been buried under an avalanche of irrationality
and self hatred.
Once again the world engages in the sophistication of evil. Nothing is
evil, all are good, understanding must reign, wear your brother’s shoes or
kaffia and feel his pain, but never ever judge or conclude. Where have all
the absolutes gone? In their stead we have pain, death, tears, and more
Compassion, acceptance, non-judgment, open mindedness, tolerance,
accommodations, broadmindedness, understanding, charity, forbearance, and
lenience, are all wonderful traits. They are the Midos of G-d Himself!
However, where is the “Tzav (command)”? Where are the commandments? Where
is the discipline that humbles the arrogant and protects all future
Without the “Tzav” there cannot be compassion, understanding, or love.
Without the command of the Divine that is inclusive of all possibilities
and circumstances, we are left with the confusion and hatred of a lost
world arrogantly mired in their own human biases, failings, and
Aharon Hakohain did not trust his own loving compassion. Aharon listened
to the word of G-d and loved all people. His love was unqualified because
whomever G-d loves he also loved; and no one can be more loving that G-d.
We stand on the threshold of redemption. We pray and hope for the
cessation of all pain and tears. Yet, so many of us do not yet understand
that we must be among the students of Aharon. He loved because G-d loved.
He forgave because G-d forgave. He disciplined himself to be the most
loving and compassionate while being the most devoted and trusting. As G-d
said to Moshe at the Burning Bush, “and he will see you and be happy in
his heart.” In spite of Aharon being your older brother he will not be
jealous. Just the opposite! He will rejoice and he will whole-heartedly
serve you and Me. He will rejoice and he will listen! Aharon’s joy was the
beginning of the redemption from Mitzrayim and it will be the reason why
we will be redeemed as well.
“Each of us is obligated to imagine as if he or she were released from
Mitzrayim.” May it be G-d’s will that this year redemption not be left up
to our imaginations.
This week is also known as Shabbos Hagadol - the great Shabbos.
Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
The author is the Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley Village, CA and Assistant Principal of YULA.