Friday, April 20, 2012

Moshe HaKohen? A Shmini Thought

Moshe haKohein? - A Shmini Thought ----------------------- By Rabbi Neil Fleischmann

What was Moshe's title? The Midrash Rabbah on Shemini wonders if Moshe, besides being "Rabeinu" may have also been a Kohein Gadol. Rav Berachia said, "Throughout the forty years spent by Israel in the wilderness Moshe did not refrain from ministering as a Kohein Gadol. This is the meaning of what's written, 'Moshe and Aharon among his priests' (Tehillim 99:6)."

Rav Berachia further deduces this in the name of Rabi Shimon from the pasuk in Divrei HaYamim I, Chapter 13 where it states that Aharon and his sons were separated to be holy to offer and minister before G-d and to bless in His name forever. Regarding Moshe it states, "But as for Moshe the man of G-d, his sons are named among the tribe of Levi." This is understood contextually to mean that while his sons would only be Levi'im, Moshe himself, like his brother Aharon, was a Kohein Gadol,.

Rav Elazar Ben Yossi says unequivocally that Moshe served in a white robe (ie. as Kohein Gadol) for the seven days of miluim (dedication of the Temple). However, Rav Tanchum taught in the name of Rav Yudan that Moshe and Aharon both served during those seven days but only when Aharon served did the Shechina rest with the Temple.

Rav Shmuel Bar Nachman goes back to Shemot to tell an amazing tale. "All the seven days of the burning bush, the Holy one Blessed Be He was trying to persuade Moshe to go on His mission to Egypt. This is as it's written (Shemot 4:10) ‘Also from yesterday, also from the day before, also since You have spoken to Your servant’ , which makes six days(yesterday and the day before yesterday implies 3 days, and the appearance of the word gam/also 3 times brings the total to 6). On the seventh day Moshe said to Hashem: "…send by the hand of whom You will send." "Hashem at this point asserts that one day Moshe must repay for these days.

When did he pay it back? Rav Berachia answered in the name of R. Levi and in the name of R. Chelbo. R. Levi said that for the first seven days of Adar Moshe prayed to enter Eretz Yisrael and on the seventh G-d said, 'You will not cross over this Yarden.' R. Chelbo said: All seven days of consecration Moshe ministered in the office of Kohen Gadol, and he imagined it was his. On the seventh day He said to him: ' It doesn't belong to you, but to your brother Aharon.' This is as it's written: 'And it was on the eighth day that Moshe called Aharon and his sons and the Zekainim of Israel, and He said to Aharon…'"

What’s the meaning of this Midrash? What can be learned from this idea of Moshe being a Kohein Gadol?

We often know people for certain things while overlooking some of their other aspects. Perhaps this Midrash serves to remind us to look beyond a person's most known talent. A friend of mine, years ago, told me that he hated being pigeon holed as "the funny guy." Sure, they may be funny or stand out in some other specific way, but what is there about the people we know, that we may not know, that they deserve recognition for - besides the number one answer? There's a lot to be gained from finding out who the person behind the title is.

Several examples of the phenomenon of people being known for just one thing come to mind: Bill Buckner, and the guy they used to show on Wide World of Sports when they said “the agony of defeat" are two examples of people that will be remembered as one thing (falling short big time) despite their long lists of outstanding accomplishments over many years. On a plane more similar to this midrash, perhaps all of us have had the experience of knowing someone for a long time in one context only to discover another piece of who they are. This is particularly true of our parents, who we tend to see exclusively as our parents.

A father of a friend of mine is a gym teacher. My old friend was shocked one day when he saw what his father was like while he worked - the way he blew a whistle and a gym packed with kids froze in place. Similarly, another friend of mine was always somewhat embarrassed of his father the community rabbi, until one day he learned that his father was "the go to man" who quietly helped everyone with their problems. This idea is well illustrated in the movie “Mother” in which a son has an epiphany when he finally discovers his mother as a writer, a talent he never knew she possessed.

I find the midrash of great interest in a practical way: No-one is just one thing. What would the world be like if we saw each other broadly and didn't suss someone up at hello? Learning about the histories and facets of those around us can be a small step for personal perspective and a giant step toward the redemption of mankind.

No comments: