Aharon Became Kohen Gadol Because he was from Among the People
In this week’s parsha, Aharon and his descendants are chosen to be the Kohanim: “Now you bring near to yourself Aharon, your brother, and his sons with him, from among the Children of Israel – Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, Elazar and Isamar, the sons of Aharon – to minister to Me.” (Shemos 28:1) Forevermore, Aharon’s descendants became the Kohanim, who did the Avodah in the Beis HaMikdash. They duchen (administer the Priestly Blessings). In the future, im yirtzeh Hashem, they will again do the Avodah in the future Beis HaMikdash. They will receive the matnos kehunah (priestly gifts). They are a privileged class.
The Medrash Rabbah connects the above-cited pasuk with the pasuk in Tehillim, “Had your Torah not been my preoccupation, then I would have perished in my affliction.” (119:92) and makes the following comment: When the Ribono shel Olam told Moshe to make Aharon and his descendants the Kohanim, it bothered Moshe (that he and his descendants were not given this privilege). Hashem told Moshe, “The Torah had been Mine and I gave it to you. If not for the Torah, the world would be destroyed.” In other words, He told Moshe: “What is your problem that Aharon and his sons have the Kehuna? I had the Torah and I gave it to you!”
This Medrash is difficult on two points. First, it seems strange that Moshe was upset by hearing that Aharon and his sons would be the Kohanim. Why was he upset? Was he jealous of his brother? That is impossible to accept. If Aharon was not jealous of Moshe Rabbeinu, his younger brother, because of his own sterling middos (Shemos 4:14), certainly Moshe would not be jealous of his older brother. Moshe, too, had sterling middos! So what was Moshe upset about?
Second, how did the Ribono shel Olam try to mollify Moshe Rabbeinu? If Moshe Rabbeinu was, for some reason, bothered about the Kehuna, how does it help that Hashem had given him the Torah? What does one thing have to do with the other? Furthermore, the Torah was not given just to Moshe, it was given to the entire nation!
Rav Avraham Buxbaum, who is a rabbi in Miami, Florida, sent to me a Torah thought from the Yismach Moshe, Rav Moshe Teitelbaum (1759-1841; grandfather of Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, the ‘Satmer Rebbe’ zt”l (1887-1979)). He says a beautiful pshat in this Medrash, explaining what was bothering Moshe Rabbeinu, and what Hasehm’s response was that “I gave you the Torah.”
The Yismach Moshe writes that Moshe Rabbeinu was not jealous of Aharon. He was perfectly happy for Aharon and his children to be the Kohanim. Rather, Moshe Rabbeinu was bothered that “If You did not make me the Kohen Gadol, it must be because there is something wrong with me.” Moshe was perturbed: “What is my problem?” Truth be told, Moshe Rabbeinu had a closer relationship with the Ribono shel Olam than Aharon did. No human being in the history of the world had a closer relationship with Hashem than Moshe Rabbeinu (perhaps excluding Adam). Logic would have dictated that the role of “Ambassador of Hashem ” (which is the role played by the Kohanim, and by the Kohen Gadol in particular) should be given to the person on Earth with whom Hashem is closest. “I am not jealous of my brother, but still, I wish to know, what did I do wrong?”
The Yismach Moshe says that Hashem answered Moshe: There is in fact nothing wrong with you – and that itself is the reason why you cannot be the Kohen Gadol! It is because you are too perfect!
We need to understand the role the Kohanim played in the time of the Beis HaMikdash. Who did the average Jew relate to? He brought his terumos and matnos kehunah to the Kohen, but more importantly, if he did something wrong, if he failed to fulfill a mitzvas asei (positive commandment), to whom did he go to bring a Korbon Olah? If he unintentionally desecrated the Shabbos, he needed to bring a Korbon Chatas. Who did the Jews go to when they needed someone to handle their ritual requirements? They went to the Kohen. Therefore, the Kohen must be the type of person who understands that people make mistakes. Sometimes people stumble. Sometimes people succumb to their passions. Sometimes people sin. The Kohen must appreciate that. Moshe Rabbeinu did not have that quality in his resume. Aharon HaKohen did have that quality in his resume because he himself stumbled in connection with the Egel Hazahav (Golden Calf).
Aharon knew what it meant to sin and he knew what it meant to have to bring an atonement. He knew what it meant to have to do teshuva (repenting). Therefore, Aharon was more fit for the job of Kohen Gadol because he could say, “I have been there and done that.”
Therefore, says the Yismach Moshe, this is what the Ribono shel Olam answered to Moshe: “I gave you the Torah.” Moshe, you can understand that a person may relate to some things and not to others. The Gemara (Shabbos 86b) records that when Moshe ascended Heavenward (to receive the Torah) the Malachei Hashares (Ministering Angels) asked Hashem, “What is someone born to a woman doing among us?” In other words, they asked, “Why are You giving the Torah to people?” The malachim claimed that the Holy Torah should stay in Heaven “here with us, with the Holy Angels.” Hashem told Moshe to respond to this challenge.
Moshe answered: What does it say in the Torah? It says “I am the L-rd your G-d who took you out of Egypt.” He turned to the malachim and asked, “Were you ever in Mitzraim?” What else is written in the Torah? “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Moshe turned to the malachim and asked, “Do you malachim have a Yetzer Harah for Avodah Zarah? Do you dwell among the nations who still worship Avodah Zarah?” “Do you ever do work that you need to rest on Shabbos?” Etc., etc.
The point of the Gemara is that Moshe told the Malachei Hashares – You malachim do not need a Torah. We need a Torah because we are human beings. We have passions and evil inclinations. We have all the things that make us human. We are the people who need Torah. You angels cannot relate to a Torah.
The Yismach Moshe writes that this is what the Ribono shel Olam said to Moshe Rabbeinu. I gave you the Torah because you are a human being and you can relate to it. You can say about the Torah’s mitzvos, “Yes. We have been there and done that. They all relate to us.” Therefore, you, Moshe Rabbeinu, should comprehend my rationale for giving the Kehuna to Aharon. Aharon needs to deal with people who did aveiros. He knows how to handle that, because he himself sinned. Just as you convinced the malachim that you deserve the Torah because it relates to you, so too, you should understand that Aharon has the job of being mechaper for those who did aveiros because kapara is something to which he relates.
Using his approach here, the Yismach Moshe also explains a Rashi in Parshas Shemini (Vayikra 9:7). Rashi asks, why does Moshe Rabbeinu need to tell Aharon “Approach the Mizbayach?” Rashi answers that Aharon was embarrassed and afraid to approach the Mizbayach. He feared – I have shamed myself with the aveira of the Egel Hazahav and now you want me to be the Kohen Gadol? Moshe responded to him: “Why are you embarrassed? That is why you were chosen! (l’Kach nivcharta).”
This fits in beautifully with what the Yismach Moshe wrote. This is EXACTLY why Aharon was chosen to be the Kohen Gadol – BECAUSE HE HAD SINNED! He was experienced and knowledgeable about stumbling and doing teshuva. He was chosen for that reason. It is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Finally, the Yismach Moshe says, with this insight, we can better understand the pasuk at the beginning of Parshas Tetzaveh, quoted above: “Now you, bring near to yourself Aharon, your brother, and his sons with him, from among the Children of Israel…”. Aharon and his sons were chosen precisely because they were AMONG THE PEOPLE. They are very human. They know how to do teshuva, so they are appropriate for the job of accepting korbonos in the Beis HaMikdash. Moshe, you are on a different level. You have your own job – but the Kehuna is not it. The Kehuna requires an understanding of failing and possessing a Yetzer Hara, of being human. That is why Aharon was chosen to be Kohen Gadol.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Edited 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?
- #1415 The Shul That Wanted to Ban Making Noise When Haman’s Name Is Mentioned
- #1459 Can a Woman Do Melacha After She Lights the Shabbos Candles?
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.