No One Runs for the Office of Gadol HaDor
In speaking of the service to inaugurate the Mishkan, its vessels, and the bigdei kehunah (the priestly garments), the Torah says that Hashem commands Moshe, “You shall dress Aharon, your brother, and his sons with him…” [Shemos 28:41] This means that although as a matter of routine in carrying out their priestly duties, the Kohanim dressed themselves, the first time they put on the newly created bigdei kehunah, Hashem commanded Moshe Rabbeinu to personally put these garments upon them.
The truth of the matter is that we find this same type of practice in the end of Sefer Bamidbar. When (in Parshas Chukas) Aharon HaKohen dies, and Elazar, his son, takes over in the role of Kohen Gadol (High Priest), the Torah says the same thing: “And Moshe removed from Aharon his clothes and he put them upon Elazar, his son…” [Bamidbar 20:28] Thus, we see that when Aharon and his sons became Kohanim for the first time, Moshe had to put the bigdei kehunah upon them, and when Aharon died and Elazar became the Kohen Gadol for the first time, Moshe had to put Aharon’s bigdei kehunah upon Elazar.
I saw in the sefer Milchamos Yehudah that this teaches us a lesson about Jewish leadership which differs from the way the nations of the world do things. When anybody runs for elected office, he calls a press conference or he stands in front of his old high school building and proclaims for everyone to hear, “I am the best and most qualified person in the country to become let’s say mayor, governor, or president.” This is the way it always works.
Has anyone ever run for the position of “Gadol haDor” (the greatest sage of the generation)? Did Rav Moshe Feinstein go to FDR drive and stand in front of his little apartment and say, “I am the Gadol haDor” or “Please, elect me for Gadol haDor because I am the biggest talmid chochom in the country”? It just does not happen like that. Who elects the “Gadol haDor? Nobody! The people coalesce around the person by acclamation. People see him fit to be the Gadol haDor.
This process started over here, in this week’s parsha—Parshas Tezaveh. The fact that Moshe Rabbeinu dressed Aharon with these garments and made him the Kohen Gadol is setting the stage and setting the tone that this is how we inaugurate our leaders. Somebody else must appoint you.
Before his passing, Rav Elazar Schach let it be known that Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman should be the posek for the Yeshivos after he passed on. Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman did not get up and run for the office. He was appointed. Who appointed him? Someone bigger than him—Rav Schach. That is the way it has always been. Do you know where that started? It started over here in Parshas Tezaveh, and continued in Parshas Chukas (when Moshe dressed Elazar in the bigdei kehunah). Moshe Rabbeinu had to put the garments on them. Taking the mantle of leadership for oneself is not the Jewish way.
War is Not the Norm
The pasuk says, “For a seven-day period he shall don them—he who serves in his stead from among his sons, who shall enter the Tent of Meeting to serve in the Sanctuary.” [Shemos 29:30] Rashi explains this pasuk to mean that the son of the previous Kohen Gadol has the right to become Kohen Gadol after his father (provided he is worthy of serving in the position). The pasuk concludes with the words “Asher yavo el Ohel Moed, l’shares b’Kodesh” (who shall enter the Tent of Meeting to serve in the Sanctuary).
The Talmud [Yoma 72b] says, “I might think that the son of the Kohen Anointed for War (Mashuach Milchama) shall succeed his father in the same way that the son of a Kohen Gadol succeeds his father…” The Gemara teaches however that this is not the case. The Gemara learns this exclusion from the very pasuk we just quoted: Only one who is “fit to enter the Tent of Meeting to serve in the Sanctuary” succeeds his father, but one who does not enter into the Tent of Meeting (because he is out on the battlefield) is not fit to serve in place of his father.
Why is this so? If the High Priesthood passes from father to son, why shouldn’t the office of Mashuach Milchama also pass from father to son? It is true that the Gemara learns it out from a pasuk, but what is the rationale?
I heard an explanation in the name of Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, zt”l, regarding why we do not pass down the office of the Kohen Anointed for War through inheritance. Rav Kook explains that inheritance is all about continuity. It passes from father to son, from son to grandson, from grandson to great-grandson. It is about “hemshech” (continuity). This is appropriate for Kehuna Gedola. The Gemara says it is also appropriate for rabbinic leadership. Ideally, Rabanus should go from father to son. Ideally, the position of being head of a Talmudic Academy (Rosh Yeshiva) should go from father to son, if the son is worthy of the position. Continuity.
However, there is one area of Jewish life where continuity is not appropriate. On the contrary, we do not want to emphasize continuity. That area is the area of war. War is not supposed to be a permanent function of Jewish life. War is an exception to the rule. It is an anomaly. We do not want it to happen. There should not be a need for a Kohen Anointed for War. Linking inheritance with the role of Kohen Mashuach Milchama is saying that we view war as part of the eternal continuity of Jewish existence. We do not want that.
The Mishna states, “A man should not go out on Shabbos (into the public domain) with his sword. Rav Eliezer says that it is considered an ornament (and he may go out into the public domain wearing it). The Rabbis (disagree with Rav Eliezer and say it is not an ornament) but rather it is something that is unseemly (a g’nai) as it is written: ‘They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift sword against nation and they will no longer study warfare’ [Yeshaya 2:4].” [Shabbos 63a]
The Rabbis reject the idea that a sword should be considered an ornament. A weapon should be an ornament? This is not what we live for! This is not supposed to be a function of our lives! It is true that when war occurs, we need to fight the war and be successful in our battles. However, to make it a permanent institution—to say the position of Masuach Milchama should pass down to son and grandson—that would send the wrong message. That would send the message that war needs to be a part of our lives. That is not the case. Our goal is that nation should not lift sword against nation and that they should no longer study warfare.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Titzaveh is provided below:
- # 045 The Gartel: To Wear or Not to Wear
- # 088 Parshas Zachor and Other Purim Issues
- # 136 Purim Costumes: Anything Goes?
- # 183 Candle Lighting on Friday Night
- # 229 Purim Issues II
- # 273 Taanis Esther and The Personal Purim
- # 319 Conditional Licht Benching
- # 363 The “Mazik” On Purim
- # 407 Hesach Ha’daas and Tefilin
- # 451 How Many Shabbos Candles
- # 495 Reneging on a Tzedaka Pledge
- # 539 Matanos Le’evyonim
- # 583 The Bracha of Blossoming Trees
- # 627 Having Your Own Megilah
- # 670 A Woman’s First Candle Lighting
- # 715 Parsha Zachor More Fascinating Insights
- # 759 Printed Mezuzos?
- # 803 Late for Megillah and Other Purim Issues
- # 847 Teaching Torah to a Potential Ger
- # 891 Women and Sh’lach Manous and Matanos L’evyonim
- # 935 Purim Seudah – Is Bread Necessary?
- # 978 Shedding Light on Ba’meh Madlikin
- #1022 Can the Rabbi/Chazan/Rosh Hayeshiva Give His Position To His Son?
- #1066 Sending Sh’lach Manos, With A Questionable Hechsher
- #1109 Should Women Wear A Yamulka?
- #1152 Hashkama Minyan That Heard Parshas Zachor From A Pasul Sefer Torah
- #1195 Matonos Le’ev’yonim: How Much? To Whom? When? Women?
- #1239 The Case of the Woman Who Slept Through Licht Bentching Friday Night
- #1284 Parshas Zachor: Should You Read Along with the Baal Koreh & Other Zachor Issues
- #1326 Wearing A Gartel? Are the Chasidim Right?
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