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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


Moshe said to Aharon: of this did Hashem speak, saying, "I will be sanctified through those who are nearest to me… and Aharon was silent." (10:3)

Aharon HaKohen had just sustained a loss that was both personal and national. According to the Ramban, at first, he began to weep. Then, upon hearing Moshe's consolation, he became still and silent. He was able to find comfort in the knowledge that his sons had reached the zenith in spiritual ascendancy. Hashem rewarded him for his silence by introducing the law concerning intoxicants for Kohanim through him exclusively. The Chasam Sofer focuses on Aharon's reaction, on his silence, and he tries to understand it in the context of the natural reaction to tragedy. There are people who remain silent during a tragedy because they are in a state of shock and disbelief. From the fact that Aharon was rewarded, the Torah seems to be indicating that his silence was not a natural one. The grief was there; he just held it back. Let us try to understand exactly what it is that he refrained from expressing.

When Iyov heard the tragic news of the death of his sons, he said, "Hashem gives; Hashem takes, may the Name of Hashem be blessed." When Rabbi Meir's son died, his wife consoled him by saying, "The Owner of the pikadon, deposit, took back His deposit." She was intimating that their son was never "theirs." He was a deposit, a gift from Hashem for a short time, a gift that Hashem was retrieving. Rather than grieve over his loss, they should have been happy with the amount of time they had been privileged to have with him. It was now, after he had been taken away, that we realize that he had only been a pikadon, a short-term deposit. He had never been ours to keep.

This, explains the Chasam Sofer, was Iyov's comment. Hashem gave - it is only now, after Hashem had taken back, that he realized and could truly be thankful for His gift. It is only after the gift had been taken away that he could truly appreciate the gift.

There is a problem, however, with this form of expression, since the realization and penetrating reflection into the nature of the gift can invariably intensify one's struggle with the reality and finality of its implacable loss. In other words, it is specifically due to his deep appreciation of the gift that his loss becomes even greater and more demanding. Perhaps this is why the pasuk emphasizes Iyov's righteous acceptance of Hashem's decree. This was a time when the perception of Hashem's "giving" could wreak havoc on the emotional acceptance of Hashem's "taking away."

This is why Aharon did nothing. He did not praise Hashem, as Iyov did, because the conflict of the two opposing emotions of "Hashem nassan" at a time of "Hashem lakach," can be overwhelming. When Moshe Rabbeinu extolled the virtue of Aharon's sons, Aharon knew it was a time to be silent, because his deeper awareness of their elevated status would make the hurt even greater. The void that they left was now deeper and darker. He was silent, realizing that at this moment it was the more appropriate reaction.

Moshe and Aharon came to the Ohel Moed, and they went out and they blessed the people - and the glory of Hashem appeared to the entire people. (9:23)

Rashi cites two reasons that Moshe Rabbeinu entered with Aharon into the Mishkan. The first reason is that he went in to show Aharon the maasei haKetores, procedure for burning the Incense. In an alternative explanation, he says that Aharon was dismayed and embarrassed. He saw that all of the korbanos and rituals of the Mishkan service had been performed, and the Shechinah had yet to descend to Klal Yisrael. Aharon was distressed and said, "I know it is because of me. Hashem is angry with me [for his part in the sin of the Golden Calf], and because of me He does not want to descend to the nation." Aharon turned to Moshe and said, "Moshe, my brother! Thus have you done to me. I entered to perform the service upon your instructions, and I was embarrassed because the Shechinah did not descend." Immediately upon hearing this, Moshe went in to the Ohel Moed with Aharon and they sought Hashem's favor as they entreated Him for mercy. Hashem then descended to Klal Yisrael.

Rashi adds that a similar incident occurred concerning the people, when they saw that during the seven days of the Inauguration Moshe would raise up the Mishkan and then dismantle it because the Shechinah did not rest in it. The people were embarrassed that Hashem wanted no part of them as a result of the sin of the Golden Calf. Therefore, Moshe told them, "Aharon, my brother, is worthier and more important than I, for through his korbanos and his service the Shechinah will repose among you. You will then know that the Shechinah has chosen him."

Let us analyze what was going on. Moshe refused to enter the Mishkan. After all, there was a pall over the proceedings. Aharon was involved in the sin of the Golden Calf, albeit not intentionally. His korban was not being accepted. Aharon sensed this, and he turned to Moshe and pleaded. He understood that he was at fault. He was humiliated in public. At that moment, Moshe rescinded. When he heard that Aharon was embarrassed, Moshe decided to enter the Mishkan and spare Aharon further humiliation. What happened?

Horav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Shlita, explains that while Moshe may have felt that Aharon's involvement in the Golden Calf engendered a negative reaction from Heaven, he could not allow his brother to be publicly censured. Moshe drew the line at Aharon's humiliation because bein adam l'chaveiro, relationships between man and his fellow man, maintain a separate weight - one that outweighs the scale of justice. Yes, there is the after-effect of the sin of the Golden Calf. It cannot be ignored - unless it means infringing upon bein adam l'chaveiro. If it means embarrassing Aharon, then Moshe was obligated to overlook the sin and do his part to bring down the Shechinah.

Likewise, when the people saw that the Shechinah did not acquiesce to be among them, when Moshe saw the people's embarrassment, he relented. He could not allow the people to be humiliated. Bein adam l'chaveiro plays such a pivotal role. This was the greatest sin, the ultimate rebellion so soon after their liberation from Egypt, the rescue at the Red Sea, and their receiving the Torah: They sinned with a Golden Calf, an idol of molten gold. How do you overlook such a transgression? You do not. If it means allowing another Jew to be embarrassed, however, you put the sin aside and do whatever is necessary to circumvent any further humiliation.

Bein adam l'chaveiro is the measure of greatness in a man. The Alter, zl, m'Kelm writes: "What makes a person great? One is considered great if he includes within himself the entire Jewish nation. How does one do this? By thinking of others and feeling for them all of the time. A true person is one who does for others without desire for financial remuneration, flattery or honor. Love of oneself is nothing more than falsehood and idolatry. Since the Torah is absolute truth, only someone who himself is true can comprehend it. Compelling oneself to be concerned for the needs of others leads him to love them more and himself less, thus uprooting the falsehood within himself, making him into a true person. Only then does one have the ability to understand the profundities of Torah."

Our gedolei Yisrael, Torah leaders, used this standard for themselves as they reflected care and sensitivity for their fellow man in their everyday relationships. If one peruses the life of the Chazon Ish, zl, one of the greatest Torah luminaries of the past generation, we note a life replete with bein adam l'chaveiro at its apex. His self-sacrifice for others was legend. He was prepared to assist anyone in need at any time - day or night, despite his own feeble state of health. Allowing himself no rest, he himself became saddled with huge debts out of his sense of responsibility to help others. He strained every bit of his brilliant mental faculty to search for ways to solve problems confronting individuals and communities. Yet, this was not his greatest contribution. The zenith of his gemillas chesed, devotion to offering kindness to others, was the loss of time and the strain it placed on his mind - a mind that from birth was consecrated for Torah study. Torah was his very lifeblood. His love and insatiable thirst for Torah superceded everything - but the bein adam l'chaveiro. How did he do it and why?

A student once lamented that his own involvement with helping another Jew was depleting his time from Torah study. The Chazon Ish told him, "You are wrong. What you are doing is not bitul Torah, wasting precious time from Torah study. Our holy Torah is unlike any other wisdom. It is inextricably bound up with the neshamah, soul. When one performs a kindness for his fellow Jew, his soul becomes uplifted, thus making it a better receptacle for absorbing Torah knowledge."

Horav Mendel Kaplan, zl, was a European Torah scholar who became a legendary American Rosh Yeshivah. He constantly stressed the significance of bein adam l'chaveiro. He would say that taking on other people's problems and extending help to them is what makes a person great. He noted that Rashi did not write his commentaries because he longed to see his name in print. He did it, rather, to take the Jewish People by the hand and show them the meaning of each piece of Talmud. Indeed, every word of Rashi indicates his overwhelming kindness. The Chafetz Chaim, zl, was no different. Everything that he wrote was his form of chesed, kindness, to Klal Yisrael, enabling them to learn to build a greater understanding and awareness of the halachah.

Rav Mendel's sensitivity extended to both observant and non-observant Jews. A student once commented about a wedding which he had attended in which the chassan's, bridegroom's, parents refused to attend, because his sister's gentile husband had not been invited. The student asked Rav Mendel, "Can you imagine the pain and embarrassment the son must have felt at not having his parents attend his wedding?"

Rav Mendel responded sadly, "You are viewing this from the wrong perspective. You have no idea the pain and sadness the parents must have sustained in not being at their son's wedding. You are forgetting that they have been led to believe that religious Jews are like a cult. They honestly think that their son is marrying into some kind of religious faddism. In this case, it is not so simple to write off the parents."

Upon davening, praying, for someone who was ill, he would say, "The troubles of the Jewish People have to be a part of you. Just Davening in its own right does not necessarily help that much. In order for prayers to have power, one must feel the sick person's travail, literally place himself in his situation. As it says concerning Moshe, 'Va'yechal Moshe,' Klal Yisrael's pain began to burn within him like an illness. (Berachos 12b) (Va'yechal is derived from choleh, illness). If you cry and scream as if you are the choleh, sick person, then you can accomplish something. This is the definition of a 'great man': not to be selfish, but to open your coat and wrap everyone within."

The daah and the ayah according to its specie. (11:14)

In the Talmud Chullin 62a, Chazal say that the daah, ayah and raah are all one specie of fowl. Why is it called raah? Because it sees very far. It stands in Babylon and sees a neveilah, carcass, in Yerushalayim. Horav Meir Shapiro, zl, notes the "character" and possibly the reason for this bird's siman tumah, sign distinguishing it as a non-kosher food, is its tendency to be in the spiritual filth of eretz ha'amim, the land of the pagan nations. Yet, it notices the tumah, the carcass in Eretz Yisrael. It does not see the tumah of the environment of which it is a part of. It sees the tumah in the Holy Land. This is a character defect. An individual who can stand amidst tumah, but notice only the tumah of others, especially those who are in a holy place, is an individual of a flawed character.

Rav Meir Shapiro interprets this into the pasuk in Zecharyah 3:2, Yigaar Hashem becha ha'Satan v'yigaar Hashem becha ha'bocher b'Yerushalayim, "May Hashem, denounce you, O' Satan! May Hashem, Who chooses Yerushalayim, denounce you!" Why are two denouncements necessary? The answer is that there are two types of "satans." There is the individual who is always finding fault, always presenting a critique, but does not distinguish between the holy and mundane. He finds fault in everyone. For him, one denouncement will suffice. There is, on the other hand, a satan who only finds fault with Yerushalayim, who only maligns the holy, whether it is the people, the city, the Torah, anything that is reserved for sanctity. It is specifically in this area that his perverted and malignant mouth finds a place. For him, two denouncements are necessary.

For I am Hashem Who elevates you from the land of Egypt to be a G-d unto you. (11:45)

Hashem liberated us from Egypt for a purpose: so that we should serve Him by observing His commandments. Rashi comments that the choice of the verb maaleh, elevate, as opposed to hotzi, take out, implies that the laws of kashrus were established in order to spiritually elevate the nation. Indeed, Chazal teach us that Hashem said, "If I would not have taken out the nation from Egypt only so that they would not ritually contaminate themselves with insects, as do the other nations, it would have been sufficient (reason)." It is to our distinction that these insects are forbidden to us. In other words, there are foods that cause spiritual harm to Jews due to the Jew's elevated status, which otherwise have no effect on others.

Horav Nosson Wachtfogel, zl, derives from here that we, as Jews, have an imperative to elevate ourselves, to maintain a high level of shtoltz, self-respect and class, because that is what Hashem has instilled within us and it is what He wants us to perpetuate. Rav Nosson adds that when one elevates himself he has a ripple effect on his surroundings, on his friends and students. He relates that he heard from Horav Aharon Kotler, zl, an incredible story concerning the famous ger tzedek, righteous convert, of Vilna, Avraham ben Avraham, zl, Count Graf Pototsky, who was put to death Al Kiddush Hashem. When the Gaon, zl, m'Vilna heard about this, he told him that he could procure his release. The Count replied, "If Hashem chooses to spare me, so be it. If not, I am prepared to die Al Kiddush Hashem." Moreover, the Count's father was able to effect a pardon from the Russian Czar, but the Catholic priests refused to allow it. They wanted to set an example of him. Fools that they were, they set an example of how a committed Jew is prepared to die for his convictions. He was burned at the stake, and his ashes were buried next to the Gaon.

As he was being led to the stake, the officers who were in charge of him gazed at his peaceful and tranquil countenance. They saw an individual who was clearly of an elevated spiritual status. This inspired them to ask his forgiveness for any undue pain they were causing him, using the famous jargon that the cruel Nazis used, "We are only doing our job." The Count calmly responded with a parable.

A king whose palace was on the outskirts of the city had a problem finding young friends for his son. The only family that lived within close proximity to the palace was a successful farmer who had a son the same age as the prince. The boys became best friends. They would play together and also fight together, as little boys often will. One day, the two boys became embroiled in a fist-fight that got out of hand. The farmer's son laid a few well-placed punches on the prince's face that would not be quickly forgotten. This fight coincided with the king's decision that his son had reached the age to attend a private school catering uniquely to royalty. There he would learn the ins and outs of the life of a monarch. The two boys parted with the little spat in which the prince took a beating as his good-bye present. They did not see each other again.

Years went by. The king died, and his son became his successor. His name spread far and wide. The farmer's son had also ascended to his father's position, becoming a successful farmer himself. As he heard about his boyhood friend who was now king, he felt bad that they had parted under such negative terms. After all, their last experience together was a fist-fight in which the prince was pummeled considerably. He decided he would make an appointment to see the monarch and beg his forgiveness. It took some time and resourcefulness, but he was able to obtain an appointment. After clearing heavy security, he finally embraced his boyhood friend. They talked about the past, the good times they had, and shared with one another their current successes.

Finally, the farmer stated his reason for coming to visit, "I have come to beg forgiveness from your highness for the fist-fight we had before you moved away. I apologize for hitting you so much." The king looked at his friend incredulously, "I do not understand what you are saying. Do you realize that I am now the king of the entire country? I speak daily with ministers and generals about matters that affect millions of people. Do you think I care or even remember that childish fracas that we had? I certainly have more important issues with which to concern myself," the king replied.

The Count turned to his jailors and said, "The same applies to me. I am now about to take leave of this world and enter a world of truth, where I will bask in the Presence of the Almighty. Do you think I have nothing else to do but think about something so petty as the afflictions to which you are subjecting me? This means absolutely nothing to me. I have more important things to occupy my last moments on this world."

A person can rise above the issues and problems that gnaw at him, by elevating himself, by realizing who he is and the mission he has been sent to execute. Why concern ourselves with petty, insignificant matters? We consume our time and ourselves with matters that are foolish, trivial and meaningless, most of the time for no relevant reason, other than our obsession with "ourselves." If we could raise "ourselves" above all of this, we would be much happier, more fulfilled people.

Va'ani Tefillah

Ki rega b'apo chaim birtzono. For His anger endures but a moment; life results from His favor.

The term ratzon has two connotations. It can refer to the actual desire or wish that motivates every action. A person acts as a response to his ratzon, wish, aspiration to have something, or to carry out his ratzon. It can also refer to the satisfaction one derives when his wish is fulfilled. We find this definition with regard to the pasuk in Ashrei, Tehillim 145:16, u'masbia l'chol chai ratzon, "and satisfy the desire of every living being." Hashem sees to it that the ratzon, ultimate gratification and fulfillment that one seeks, occurs. Horav Aharon Kotler, zl, explains that life is the result of Hashem's ratzon in the sense that when Hashem is pleased and satisfied, a relationship is catalyzed in which His countenance shines forth granting life. On the other hand, we find prior to the Mabul, Great Flood, the Torah records, "And He felt heartfelt sadness" (Bereishis 6:6). Borrowing from human terminology, the Torah alludes to Hashem's dissatisfaction with man's behavior, which ultimately led to an abrogation of ratzon and an end to mankind. David Hamelech says that the chein, favor, one finds before Hashem, creates a sense of satisfaction that catalyzes life.

Alternatively, the Shaar Bas Rabim explains that, unlike a human who cannot sustain two opposing emotions concurrently, such as love and hate, Hashem can be angry with His creations while simultaneously showering them with Fatherly love. David says that, despite the anger which should countermand life, Hashem still nurtures our lives.

Last, Horav Elya Lopian, zl, comments that chaim birtzono is the definition of life. To carry out the will of Hashem is to live! That is the essence of life.

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