Thursday, March 27, 2008

Shmini - Don't Fear The Shor

Toward the start of Parshat Shmini (9:7) we're told that Moshe instructed Aharon to approach the mizbeach. As Aharon is about to offer sacrifices, these words of Moshe seem unneeded, he was obviously going to the mizbeach.

Chazal provide the following broader context: It is time for the inauguration of the mizbeach. Moshe tells Aharon what to do, and then Aharon doesn't move, therefore Moshe says "go close to the altar." Torat Kohanim explains further, telling us what held Aharon back. Aharon saw the image of an ox in place of the mizbeach. He remembered his mistake, his skeleton in his closet, and therefore he feared approaching the mizbeach. Moshe understood Aharon's ambivelance and said, "Don’t fear the Shor, approach the mizbeach."

Yalkut Yosef cites Vayikra Raba which states that Aharon wanted to bear the burden of the cheit ha'eigel rather than the Jewish People having to sin and bear it. Hashem's response was, "You will be Kohein Gadol, because of your love and selflessness in putting the people first." Similarly, Moshe told Aharon here, "The eigel represents specifically (davka) why you were chosen, because you put the people first. That’s why you should approach the mizbeach."

These ideas, and how they were presented by Rabbi Yissocher Frand, sparked an association for me regarding Moshe Rabeinu. The Kli Yakar suggests that Moshe broke the luchot due to his great love for the Jewish People. He did what he did not out of anger but the opposite.He wanted to be "in trouble" together with Am Yisrael, rather than being a "goody goody" set apart from them. I heard this Kli Yakar presented by Rav Aharon Lichtenstein and his powerful follow up comment was: "Imagine the Ahavat Yisrael that the Kli Yakar must have had, to think of this p'shat."

It's clear that Moshe and Aharon had a great deal of love for the Jewish People. They put others first, rather than covering for themselves. May we be blessed to follow in the examples of sacrifice and love set by our greatest leaders.

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