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By Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky | Series: | Level:

Hillel and Shamai received (the tradition) from them (Shmaya and Avtalyon). Hillel says: Be from among the students of Aharon; one who loves peace, one who pursues peace, one who loves others and brings them closer to Torah.

(The continuation of this Mishna will contain two more lessons of Hillel, all of which the Maharal ties together. To simplify the presentation, I have not included these sections in the Mishna at this time. Ultimately, the entire Mishna should be studied as a unit.)

This fifth pair come to teach us a principle related to the nature of “olam hazeh,” this world, which by nature is one of separations and divisions. (This is the nature of physical creation and reality, as opposed to spiritual reality, which has an inherent unity.) It is for this reason that “machloket,” disputes and disagreements are so prevelant. This is observable from the early creation of the world, where dispute already existed between Kayin and Hevel (Cain and Able). It is in the nature of the physical world to move towards division. (This is true on both an observable scientific level — entropy and the ongoing deterioration of physical matter are but two examples — and well as on a social level, where arguments and disputes are the course human beings seem to naturally take.)

We are therefore taught that it is fitting that man should try to hold the world together (prevent its disintegration), as will be explained.

[While we can be confident that Aharon had these characteristics of loving peace etc…] Where do find any explicit reference to the fact that Aharon was particularly noted for being one who loved peace and pursued it, any more than other people. (Hillel makes it sound like this was a well know characteristic of Aharon’s, and we are simply being exhorted to follow it.) The most we find is an allusion to this (Malachi 2:5-7; see Ibn Ezra) where it says “My covenant was with him (Kohanim) … With peace/harmony and straightness he walked with Me, and many he returned from sin.” And where do we see that he was uniquely identified as one who loves others? (This “line of questioning” is very much in line with the Maharal’s approach to analyzing the teachings of Chazal. Certainly, Aharon was a wonderful person, and did many wonderful things. And certainly it is an important lesson that we should be lovers and pursuers of peace. But what is the justification for uniquely identifing Aharon with love and pursuit of peace, more than our other forefathers and teachers!?)

Also difficult is the implication that if we are lovers and pursuers of peace this makes us disciples of Aharon. Aharon was a High Priest, appointed as such by G-d. How does our love and pursuit of peace make us his disciples?! (This would be in contrast to a system of behavior that someone had developed — whether it would be an approach in mussar, or habits of effective people — where one might qualify as the teacher’s disciple if one was able to internalize and implement that system.)

In general, why was the lesson tied to Aharon (or anyone) at all. Hillel should have simply taught us: Love and pursue peace!? (What has Aharon got to do with this wonderfully important lesson?)

(The rest of the questions relate to the connection between this lesson and the rest of the Mishna. We will raise them next time, after seeing the relevant following sections. But it is clear that the Maharal is demanding explanation for the every element of a complex Mishna that could have been made very simple.)

Aharon, as the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) was unique in his task of connnecting the entire nation, forging them in to a united whole. Part of the uniqueness of the Jewish nation was its having one Tabernacle and one altar, in contrast to the other nations. This, in fact, was Moshe’s response to Korach, when he came to challenge Aharon’s position as Kohen Gadol (Bamidbar Rabba 18:7). “The ways of the nations is to have many priests coming to their house of worship. But we have only one G-d, one Torah, one (set of) law, and one High Priest.” (See Rashi on Bamidbar 17:6) It is through the one Kohen Gadol that the unity of the Jewish nation is perceived. So as a fulfillment of this force of unity, Aharon was a lover and pursuer of peace, working to diminish division and create the national unity. He also brought the nation closer to G-d through their sacrifices, their service of their Creator. This function naturally led to his efforts at bringing sinners closer to Torah.

The underlying motivation of everything Aharon did was to bring benefit to others, to work selflessly for their welfare. One can only do this if one has a deep love of those he is serving, which would lead to constantly seeking to bring them benefit and good. This service for others indicates a deep love of them. It is also impossible to truly unite people without your own personal connection and a deep love of them. (If your motivations are utilitarian or self-serving, it will affect your ability to inspire others to transcend their personal agendas, and prevent true unity.)

It is for these reasons that Aharon serves as a role model for lessons of our Mishna. Aharon was particularly responsible for bringing peace, harmony and unity to the world, uniting people with each other, as well as uniting them with their Father in Heaven. A person who succeeds in loving and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to Torah has successfully embodied what is the fundamental characteristic of Aharon. He has successfuly learned from Aharon the characteristic of loving people and working selflessly to serve them. He truly deserves to call himself a disciple of Aharon, who is the role model for these behaviors.

The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky, Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat Darche Noam/Shapell’s and Midreshet Rachel for Women.