Vertluch: Parshas Va’era

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‘That is Aaron and Moshe, to whom Hashem said, “Take the bnei Yisroel out of the land of Mitzayim with their legions. They are the ones who spoke to Pharaoh, the king of Mitzrayim, to let the bnei Yisroel out of Mitzrayim; they are Moshe and Aaron.’ (6; 26, 27)

Rashi quotes a Mechilta which says, ‘In some places, [Scripture] places Aaron before Moshe, and in other places it places Moshe before Aaron, to tell us that they were equal.

The obvious question is how can the Mechilta say such a statement if the Torah says ‘lo kum navi k’Moshe; there has never been anyone that has attained the level of greatness comparable to Moshe Rabbeinu. If so, how can chazal say that they were unequivocally equal?

Furthermore, if they were considered equal why did Hashem choose Moshe Rabbeinu over Aaron to take bnei Yisroel out of Mitzrayim? We learned in last weeks parsha that Moshe begged Hashem to send his older brother Aaron instead of him. Why then did Hashem insist on choosing Moshe?

Says Ksav Sofer that at the time Moshe was chosen to be the redeemer of klal Yisroel he was really on a higher level than Aaron, and Hashem purposely chose him. Moshe did indeed ask Hashem to choose Aaron over him. However, in last week’s parsha Hashem comforts Moshe by telling him that when you lead the cause of taking bnei Yisroel out of Mitzrayim, Aaron will see you and he will be happy and rejoice that you were chosen over him. It was at that moment that Aaron put aside his own personal feelings and was able to rejoice that his younger brother was the one taking bnei Yisroel out of Mitzrayim, which elevated him to the level of Moshe. This act of selflessness was what elevated him to the lofty level of Moshe Rabbeinu, making them equal! We all have daily struggles with our middos but one can never know if this challenge can be his defining moment which can elevate him and bring him up to a totally different level. Aaron was a tremendous rodeph chesed and a recognized talmid chacham. But that wasn’t enough to push him up a level. It was the fact that he rejoiced in someone else being chosen over him that brought him to that level.

Nitziv writes (in birchas hanitzav on the mechilta in parshas Bo) that there are times when Hashem has an immense reward in store for a person. He would like to give it to them, but unfortunately the person doesn’t have enough zechusim. So Hashem will have a mitzvah presents itself to that person and through that opportunity they can enable themselves to be the worthy recipients of receiving that bracha. Similarly to the Jews in Mitzrayim who were given two mitzvohs-blood of the korban Pesach and blood of Bris Milah-in order that they be zoche to be redeemed. One will never know when that moment presents itself or when the opportunity to do something special is actually a test from Hashem to be able to be the beneficiary of something special.

The Sdei Chemed, who was zoche to have his seforim warmly accepted by all different sects of klal Yisroel, was once asked how he was zoche to such siyata d’shmaya. He answered with the following tale:

When he was a teenager there was a prestigious institute for advanced Talmudic studies for Jewish men. The dean was a very affluent individual and carried the entire financial burden of the school. Only the elite, those with extraordinary talent, were fortunate enough to attend this study hall, where they delved into esoteric texts for hours on end. Much to his delight, the Sdei Chemed made his way to the study hall where he’d been accepted. Indeed, he imbibed the holy words of the Talmud and his days were filled with joy. Unbeknownst to him, the seeds of envy had been implanted in the heart of one scholar.

Soon after, the dean left town on business for several weeks. The scholar, nursing his envy for some weeks now, jumped at the opportunity. He secretly approached the gentile cleaning lady who worked in the study hall, and bribed her with a sum of money into spreading a libelous story about the Sdei Chemed. And so the woman went around town, telling everyone about the lowly offense the young rabbi committed against her. The town was in an uproar, the desecration of Hashems name severe. Insult upon insult was heaped on the Sdei Chemed. When the finger-pointing and shaming became intolerable, he felt he could no longer endure the excruciating humiliation, and he fled the city. Saddened by the painful chain of events, the dean also fired the maid and asked her not to return.

Some time passed and the blaze of dispute began to die down, life returned to normal, a change of heart began to niggle at this gentile maid. She tracked down the Sdei Chemed and visited him in his home. She confessed her role in fabricating the terrible story, and begged for forgiveness. She pleaded with him to appeal to the head of the seminary to give her back her job. In return, she promised to announce the truth and publicly admit that she had been bribed. He turned to the maid, expressed his forgiveness and assured her that he would appeal to her boss and ask him to return her previous position. He now had a choice to make. He could expose this young ‘scholar’ and he would’ve been done forever or he can bite his lip and spare this person embarrassment. He then forbade her to disclose the true story of what had prompted her actions and never to discuss the details of the bribery.

Said the Sdei Chemed it was at that moment that he felt his heart and mind expand and he was able to grasp Torah much easier and with better concentration. He was able to have a clearer understanding towards what he was learning which allowed him to accomplish much more in the same amount of time. Everything changed from that day on. He continued and said, ‘it was clear to me that it was that moment that elevated me to this level.’

That one chance; that one decision. No one knows when it will come…..