Sunday, January 22, 2012

Va'Eira - Guest Post

Be All That You Can Be
By Kovi Fleischmann
(I posted this, with my response to my nephew, two years ago. here it is again. i did a bit more editing (editorializing?) this time.)

When the Torah speaks of the tasks of Moshe and Aharon the pasuk - verse states Aharon’s name before Moshe’s name, and then in the very next pasuk states Moshe’s name before Aharon’s name. Rashi explains that sometimes the Torah mentions Moshe first, while at other times it mentions Aharon first to teach us that the two of them were equal.

The Brisker Rav sharpens Rashi’s point by noting the context in which each name precedes the other. When saying that Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon, since this was more Moshe’s domain (as he was the one who spoke face to face with G-d), Aharon’s name is stated first. When saying that they spoke to Pharaoh, Aharon’s domain (as he was the one who spoke to Pharaoh as Moshe said of himself that he was not a man of words), Moshe’s name is mentioned first. The fact that each one gets precedent in the area which was not his strength emphasizes their equality.

How could it be, as suggested above, that Moshe and Aharon were equal? Granted, Aharon was a tremendous tzaddik - righteous man, and the first Kohen Gadol, but how could he be compared to the master of all Nevi’im, the man who spoke with Hashem face to face and went to shamayim to receive the Torah? It would seem that Moshe Rabeinu was on a level of his own, that not even Aharon could rival.

Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his Darash Moshe, explains that human accomplishment is not measured by comparing people’s accomplishments with one another; a person’s success in fulfilling the tasks that Hashem equipped him or her for in this world is the true measure of greatness. Every person is given a unique ability and a specific mission that he or she is set out to accomplish. Some are given seemingly tremendous abilities and expected to achieve a what looks like a great deal, while others are given what appear to be lesser abilities and have corresponding tasks, which to the untrained human eye may appear small. Every person’s responsibility, however, is identical: to use the skills one was given to their fullest ability. It is true that Aharon was not Moshe, and he was not supposed to be, as he was not given the gifts and tasks that Moshe was endowed with. He was, however, extremely successful in utilizing his G-d given abilities to accomplish the tasks set for him in the world, just as Moshe did. In this way, he was equal to Moshe.

Any person who utilizes his abilities in this world is, in this way, as great as Aharon and Moshe.

The Gemrara in Bava Basra 10b relates that Yosef the son of R’ Yehoshua was very ill and his soul left his body, and then he returned. His father asked him – What did you see in your glimpse of the next world? He replied “Olam hafuch ra’iti…” I saw an upside-down world where great ones were below and lowly ones we above!” His father responded “Olam barur ra’itah” - “You saw a world of clarity.”  The simplest level of learning this Gemara imay be that Yosef saw a world in which the kings and powerful people were at a low level. He was surprised at their lack of status in the next world.His father explained that these lofty positions have little standing in the next world.

Rav Moshe Feinstein asks, Yosef knew that the power in this world is meaningless in the next world; why then, would he describe the situation he saw as upside down? Rav Moshe explains that Yosef saw, in his glimpse of the world of truth, esteemed, learned people in positions of lesser prominence than those given to people who in our “real” world were considered to be simple Jews. It was this that he could not understand. His father explained to him that these simple Jews were given much honor, and were deserving of this honor because they were people who used their G-d given abilities to achieve the portions that Hashem set out for them; they fulfilled their mission.

The learned sages,  R’ Yehoshua explained (according to Rav Moshe), had certainly accomplished a great deal, but they could have accomplished even more. They left a greater percentage of their potential unfulfilled, and were subsequently given a lesser status in the next world. This is the way of Hashem’s judgment. Not everyone is set out to be the “Gadol Hador,” but if one figures out what his or her unique abilities are and uses them to the fullest extent possible, he or she will merit a prominent place in Olam Habah - the eternal world to come.

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