The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Sivan 19, 5769/June 11, 2009

"And Aharon did just so..." (Numbers 8:3)

Midrash teaches us that Aharon, the High Priest, was feeling dejected. The heads of the twelve tribes of Israel had just brought fabulous gifts and offerings in honor of the inauguration of the Tabernacle. In a profound display of unity, each tribal head brought the identical gifts. Aharon, the High Priest, however, had not been given the opportunity to represent his tribe of Levi, and likewise bring gifts to the altar. Moses tells his brother that he has been given a role far greater than that of all the tribal leaders. He is to kindle the flames of the golden menorah: "And Aharon did just so..." (ibid), "Just so" the Torah emphasizes, without embellishment, "just so." "Vaya'as ken Aharon," in the Hebrew, literally, "And Aharon did in the affirmative." Just as he was instructed. Why does Torah point this out? Isn't this to be expected?

Torah is teaching us that this characteristic of Aharon of not interpolating his own ego, his own idea, his own way of doing things, into his role as Kohen Gadol - High Priest - is precisely the reason why he is the High Priest. This is highlighted previously in Torah, when Aharon is reluctant to approach the altar, and Moses confides to him that it is his very sense of humility which renders him the man fit for the job, (Rashi on Leviticus 9:7). More evidence of Aharon's humbleness before G-d's will can be seen when, after his two righteous sons, Nadav and Avihu meet their sudden demise, Aharon remains silent, not questioning the will of G-d (Leviticus 10:3).

However, when it came to acting on behalf of his fellow Israelites, Aharon was anything but passive. Midrash tells us that he worked ceaselessly to bring peace within the encampment. If a couple had a misunderstanding, there was Aharon, smoothing hurt feelings and bringing them back together. If neighbors were feuding, there was Aharon, cooling down tempers. If fathers and sons were at loggerheads, there was Aharon, bringing harmony back to the family. We are told by our sages: "Be of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and drawing them near the Torah." (Ethics of the Fathers 1:12)

It is not so easy to do "just so" in accordance with the will of G-d. Too often those who aspire to greatness, or feel that greatness is their prerogative, do precisely the opposite of Aharon: They ignore the plight of their fellow man, and start tinkering with what they perceive should be the will of G-d.

When Aharon kindles, (the Hebrew "beha'alotcha" literally, "raises up"), the seven lamps of the menorah he is bringing into this world the supernal, limitless light of the Holy One blessed be He. Through this pure light of G-d's love the world is lifted up in holiness. Far be it from Aharon, the servant of G-d and man, to impose the shadow of his own ego upon the light of G-d's embrace. May we merit leaders of the stature of Aharon.

Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss the silver trumpets the children of Israel were commanded to fashion in the desert, the differing attributes of silver and gold, the perfect humility of Aharon the High Priest, and what happens to world leaders when arrogance puts them on a collision course with justice and truth, and yes, we are referring to Barack H. Obama, and his infamous Cairo rapprochement with Islam.

Part 1
Part 2