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Aaron's Triumph, Moshe’s' Modesty

Written by שי טחן, 3/4/2024


Aaron's Triumph, Moshe’s' Modesty

Rabbi Shay Tahan



When Rabbi Akiva Eiger and the Lisa’s Rav, the Netivot, arrived to the rabbis' meeting in Warsaw, the entire Jewish community came out to greet them. As the rabbis sat on the chariot led by horses, the people, wanting to honor them, removed the horses and began pulling the rabbis' chariot themselves. Rabbi Akiva observed the honor given to the Netivot and felt compelled to join them. Without realizing they were honoring him as well, Rabbi Akiva descended and joined the crowd in pulling the chariot. Upon seeing this, the Netivot also descended and joined in pulling the chariot. Eventually, the entire community, together with Rabbi Akiva Eiger and the Netivot, were pulling an empty chariot in honor of the Torah (ילקוט לקח טוב שמות עמוד קיב).

Our parasha (Shmini) is named "The Eighth Day," as it was on the eighth day of preparation, which coincided with Rosh Chodesh Nissan, that the sacrifices were brought for the first time on the altar. Aaron was chosen to perform this sacred task, yet he felt scared and embarrassed by the weight of this elevated responsibility. When Moshe Rabbeinu noticed Aaron's feelings, he reassured him by saying that it was Aaron who was chosen above all others for this important role(רש״י ויקרא ט, ז) .

After Aaron followed Moshe' command, he observed that all the sacrifices had been offered and all the rituals performed, yet the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, did not descend for Israel. He was deeply troubled, thinking to himself, "I know that Hashem is angry with me, and it is because of me that the Divine Presence did not descend for Israel!" He turned to Moshe and said, "My brother Moshe, is this how you have treated me? I entered the Mishkan and was shamed." Immediately, Moshe entered with him, and together they pleaded for mercy. It was then that the Shechinah descended for Israel(רש״י ט, כג) .

When Moshe emerged to the nation, who were now rejoicing as they witnessed the Shechinah descending, he declared, "Behold how Aaron is greater than me, for it is through his sacrifices and work that the Shechinah has come down, as Hashem has chosen him."

Let's explore some enlightening points from here about our leader Moshe Rabbeinu. It is truly remarkable to see how he managed this event. Moshe observed that the Shechinah did not descend for Aaron, so he went in to assist him. After successfully fulfilling his mission, Moshe emerged and praised Aaron, giving credit where it was due, even though the success was clearly a result of Moshe' efforts. However, a question arises: How could Moshe then tell the nation that Hashem had chosen Aaron for the task over himself, when it was Moshe who effectively appeased Hashem? Doesn't this seem to contradict the principle of not speaking falsely, the teaching of "Midvar Sheker Tirchak"? Wasn't Moshe obligated to inform the people that Hashem had actually chosen him?

We must acknowledge that Moshe, of course, spoke truthfully as he understood it. In this instance, because Moshe was exceedingly humble, he didn't feel he deserved any credit for this success. Instead, even though he entered with Aaron to help, he believed it was Aaron's merit that brought down the Shechinah to the nation. This highlights Moshe' incredible outlook—he didn't perceive any of his own greatness, as he was the most humble person on earth. Yet, at the same time, he saw greatness in others even more than they saw it in themselves.

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