Classics and Beyond Tetzaveh – Just Perfect

Home Forums Decaffeinated Coffee Classics and Beyond Tetzaveh – Just Perfect

Viewing 2 posts - 1 through 2 (of 2 total)
  • Author
  • #2059133

    Classics and Beyond Tetzaveh – Just Perfect: Inredibly Meaningful Vort From Yismach Moshe and Satmer Rav
    ואתה הקרב אליך את אהרן אחיך ואת בניו אתו מתוך בני ישראל לכהנו לי אהרן נדב ואביהוא אלעזר ואיתמר בני אהרן
    And bring close unto you your brother, Aharon, and his sons with him, from among the Children of Israel, so that he shall be a Kohen to Me: Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, Elazar and Isamar, the sons of Aharon (Shemos 28:1).

    According to the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 37:4), when Hashem instructed Moshe to bring Aharon and his sons so they could serve as Kohanim, Moshe was bothered. Hashem said to him, “The Torah was Mine and I gave it to you.”
    What did Hashem mean by this? How did these words mollify Moshe?
    The Yismach Moshe (Shemini), quoting Chein Tov (Tetzaveh), explains that Moshe felt that the greatest glory of G-d would be realized were he to be the Kohen. Who, besides him, had spoken to Hashem “Face to face”? Who else had survived 40 days and nights without food upon ascending Har Sinai? Could there be a more fitting representative of Hashem serving in the Mishkan? Therefore, “heira lo – it bothered him.”
    Hashem’s cryptic answer echoes with a fundamental understanding of the role of a Kohen. The Kohen serves as both a role model to others and as an intermediary between Yisrael and Hashem. He serves as an exemplar of proper conduct. With his mere presence, along with his encouraging words, he facilitates our growth in our service of Hashem.
    In addition, the Kohanim help bridge any gap we have created in our relationship with Him. When we bring korbanos to draw closer to Hashem (the root of korban is קרב, to come close), the Kohanim serve as the conduit for this action. The Kohanim are the ones who offer the sacrifice and perform the requisite service. In fact, the atonement obtained with the bringing of various korbanos is only rendered fully when the Kohanim eat thereof: “Hakohanim ochlim u’vaalim mis’chaprin – The Kohanim eat and the owners are forgiven” (Pesachim 59b). Two types of eating are required: the physical eating of the Kohen and the Mizbe’ach’s consumption of the korban.
    As is well-known, the best role model for self-improvement is someone who has been there and done that – someone who was less than perfect but has changed. A person who never had a failing or even a temptation in a certain area will hardly be able to have the same impact as one who himself has recovered from that failing. One recovering alcoholic can better help his struggling brother than a battery of the finest mental health professionals or spiritual advisers. “If he can do it, so can I!”
    This is what Hashem was telling Moshe: “The Torah was Mine and I gave it to you,” as Moshe himself responded to the angels’ demand that Torah remain in heaven: “…What is written therein? You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. Is there jealousy among you? Is the yetzer hara among you?” (Shabbos 88b-89a). When Hashem said, “The Torah was Mine and I gave it to you,” He meant that the Torah was given to Moshe, because of his winning arguments against the angels. Moshe said to them, the Torah is meant for fallible people, who need the growth, guidance, and direction the Torah offers. It is for people who will err and need a korban’s atonement, not for angelic and Divine beings with no yetzer hara.
    Moshe was an ish ha’Elokim, a man of G-d (Devarim 33:1). He lived apart from his wife; he did not require food – he lived without physical sustenance when he went up to Shamayim after Matan Torah. It was precisely this greatness that made him a less than perfect role model. People would not be able to learn from him; instead they would say, “How can I possibly emulate him? He is such a tzaddik.”
    On the other hand, Aharon would make the perfect role model, because people could identify with him. Hashem intended to kill him for his role in constructing the Golden Calf (Midrash Rabbah Tzav 7: 1). It was only through Moshe’s intervention that he was spared. Aharon had sinned; he had done wrong. Yet he found his way back. He had done teshuvah, and was back in the good graces of Hashem. Such a person is the perfect Kohen, the person with whom one could identify. “Look! If Aharon can be forgiven, there is hope for me!”
    Moshe thought that he, in all his greatness, would make the best Kohen. Hashem was intimating to Moshe that the Torah was given to imperfect people who require similar role models – like Aharon.
    With this in mind, the Yismach Moshe brings a new way of understanding a Rashi in Parashas Shemini. “Vayomer Moshe el Aharon kerav el haMizbe’ach va’aseih es chatas’cha ve’es olasecha ve’chaper ba’adcha u’ve’ad ha’am – And Moshe said to Aharon, ‘Approach the Altar and perform your sin offering and your burnt offering, atoning for yourself and for the people’” (Vayikra 9:7).
    Rashi tells us that Moshe had ordered Aharon to approach the Mizbe’ach, but he was embarrassed and afraid to come close. Moshe said to him, “Why are you embarrassed? For this you were chosen.” Aharon felt less than worthy to be offering sacrifices. After all, the Mishkan was built to atone for the sin of the Eigel, which Aharon himself had made. That is why Moshe had to be insistent and tell him, “Why are you ashamed? For this you have been chosen.” In other words, “Notwithstanding your hesitancy, this is your chosen job; just do it.”
    But the Yismach Moshe explains it differently. Based on the newfound understanding of the role of a Kohen, Moshe’s words take on a whole new meaning. Just as up until that point, Moshe, the ish ha’Elokim, felt that he was the perfect person for the kehunah, Aharon felt himself unworthy and unfit to serve. “I made the Eigel. How can I be Kohen?”
    To this, Moshe responded, “Lamah atah vosh, le’chach nivcharta – That which you are embarrassed about is precisely the reason you were selected!
    “You have reason to feel unworthy, as you are not perfect. But it is this imperfection that makes you, not me, the only choice for Kohen; you are the perfect role model for Bnei Yisrael. By looking at you, they will find the spiritual reserve with which to claw back from the abyss. You will be the one to reconnect their souls to Hashem.”
    Perhaps this explains why the Torah wrote in our parashah, “And bring close unto you your brother, Aharon, and his sons with him, from among the Bnei Yisrael.” The emphasis here is that the Kohen had to come from among the people. Like them, he had to have human shortcomings to be able to inspire them.
    Based on the Yismach Moshe, his grandson, the Satmar Rav, in his Divrei Yoel (Behaaloscha 335-337), brings the Yalkut Reuveini (Devarim Rabbah 6:11) to explain the matter further. At the end of Parashas Behaaloscha, Miriam spoke against Moshe to Aharon. Miriam and Aharon did not feel that Moshe should have separated from his wife. They reasoned that they, too, had spoken to Hashem, yet were able to remain with their spouses. In truth, however, Moshe was on a different level.
    According to the Midrash, when Moshe heard that not only Miriam was at fault, he was upset: “Keivan she’yada Moshe she’af Aharon diber his’chil tzove’ach – When Moshe realized that Aharon had also spoken, he began to scream.” He lamented the fact that Aharon, the man of peace, whom Moshe had trusted, and who ate his bread, had lifted his heel to trample him and had spoken against him (Tehillim 41:10). Part of Moshe’s indictment against Aharon was: “How can my own brother, who eats the 24 gifts of the Kohen, speak against me?”
    There seems to be something in the fact that Aharon ate the matnos kehunah – something that Moshe did not do – that put Aharon’s words about Moshe in a negative light. In other words, because Aharon received and ate the gifts of the Kohen, he should have known better than to make such a claim against Moshe. Why is this?
    As we said before, a Kohen serves as a role model for Yidden. Also, through his eating, he elevates the korbanos and gifts they bring. And without his achilah, the atonement would be incomplete. Just as Aharon, and not Moshe, was the perfect role model for teshuvah, he could also be the one through whom the kodshim were eaten. Aharon, with his great achievements, was still human and needed to eat, and benefitted from the matnos kehunah.
    On the other hand, Moshe no longer needed to eat. He survived without food when in heaven. Even when back on terra firma, the need was absent. He merely ate to conform with the local custom, much as the angels ate when they visited Avraham (see Bava Metzia 86b and Chasam Sofer quoted in Divrei Yoel).
    The very fact that Aharon was given the role of Kohen clues us into the unique reality in which Moshe lived. He didn’t need food; he was more Divine than human. When he did eat, it was merely to conform. He spoke to G-d Face to face; he was a true ish ha’Elokim. It was because of his greatness that he could not be our Kohen; he lived in another realm.
    Thus, is it much of a stretch to understand that his direct and ongoing communion with the Al-mighty called for him to live in a unique way?
    Aharon, who was imperfect, should have been able to realize this difference. Moshe presumed that by this time, Aharon understood why he was chosen as the Kohen and not Moshe – because of his human frailties. Consequently, when Moshe saw that Aharon still did not recognize that Moshe was poles apart in kedushah, he indeed had reason to cry out: “Keivan she’yada Moshe she’af Aharon diber his’chil tzove’ach.”

    This vort is excerpted from the first volume of Classics and Beyond: Parsha Pearls From Classic Commentators To Modern Times. The second volume with over 650 pages of mostly unique divrei Torah on the parsha is available at your local Judaic store or at

    Reb Eliezer

    What is interesting that Moshe Rabbenu was the Kohen Gadol through the whole Shivas Yemei Miluim, dedication of the mishkan. We find that he was afraid to get close, so Hashem called him, vayikro el Moshe with a small aleph showing his humility. Maybe this is what made him worthy as we find by Mitzraim resisting to go to Pharaoh. He was told that the Jews will accept the Torah on Har Sinai. What is the connection? The Olelos Ephraim explains, Hashem said, I am picking Har Sinai to give the Torah because of its humility, similarly I am picking you because of your humility.

Viewing 2 posts - 1 through 2 (of 2 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.