Additional laws of the Olah are detailed in this week’s Parsha and were specifically addressed to Aharon and his sons. (6:2) “Command Aharon and his sons, saying: This is the law of the ascent offering…”
The word used by the Torah is “Tzav – command.” Rashi quotes the Talmud Kedushin that explains the word Tzav to be a commandment that applies to all generations.
Additional laws of the Chatas (sin offering) are detailed in this week’s Parsha and were specifically addressed 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, the 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 awareneess that one has failed to perform certain duties and that he should guard against such neglect in the future.” (R.S.R. Hirsch 1:3)
The Chatas, the 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 to Aharon and his sons? All Korbanos (offerings) were under their jurisdiction and purview and involved their direct ministration. Why specify the Olah and the Chatas?
Aharon Hakohain 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, loved people, and brought them closer to G-d. There was no other agenda! It was his love for people that attracted others and inspired them to become closer to G-d.
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 (Maimonidies) 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 would prevail.
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 his two oldest children, Nadav and Avihu. His silence, “and Aharon was silent,” is the most eloquent expression of trust in G-d and His judgment.
Upon his 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 face?
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 the world was exposed to absolute evil. At the present time we are again confronting the absolute evil of Saddam Hussein, his sons, and his cohorts. The straightforwardness of absolutes simplifies our values and clarifies our decision-making. We all want to believe that the world has tasted from the Tree of The Knowledge Of Good and Evil and that we are different. We fervently and excitedly wish to believe that the world sees the obvious evil in wanton destruction, the killing and maiming of innocent men, women, and children, the subjugation of a nation, and the terrorization of the world.
For a short moment, with 9-11, at the beginning of our President’s just war, there was a reprieve. For a short moment our clarity of purpose in battling terror exposed the inconceivable and irrational attempts at explaining evil. The attempted justifications could not stand up to our revulsion at the blatantly reprehensible arrogance of evil. But that is no longer.
Once again the world engages in the sophistication of evil. “Nothing is really evil. All are really 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? Where are the rest of the heroes? Would any member of the UN’s security consider letting Saddam’s sons date their daughters?
Compassion, acceptance, non-judgment, open mindedness, tolerance, accommodations, broadmindedness, understanding, charity, forbearance, and lenience, are all wonderful traits. They are the characteristics of G-d Himself! However, where is the “Tzav”? Where are the commandments? Where is the discipline that humbles the arrogant and protects all future generations?
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 limitations.
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 war, 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 Egypt 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 imagination.
Copyright © 2003 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley Village, CA.