Parshat Shemini 5778: Aaron’s Humility, Shame Over the Egel Zahav, and His Consistency of Service

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Shemini is dedicated Lilui Nishmas for My Mother: Chaya bat Zalman on her 3rd Yahrtzeit. She was niferet on 22 Nissan 5775.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Shemini 5778: Aaron’s Humility, Shame Over the Egel Zahav, and His Consistency of Service

by Moshe Burt

After learning in Parsha Tzav that for seven days, Moshe taught Aaron HaKohen and his sons the laws of their Avodah (the Kohanic Service, i.e. in the Tabernacle and later in the Beit HaMikdash — ” The Temple”) in the Mishkan, our Parsha Shemini begins by relating that on the eighth day, Aaron and his sons commenced their Avodah HaKodosh (Holy Service).

Torah tells us:

“Moshe said to Aaron: Come near to the Mizbeiyach and perform the service of your sin-offering and your elevation-offering and provide atonement for yourself and for the people; then perform the service of the people’s offering and provide atonement for them, as Hashem has commanded.” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 9, posuk 7 as rendered to English in the Artscroll, Stone Edition Chumash)

Both s’forim “Growth Through Torah”, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin and “Torah Gems”, Volume 2, by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg provide slightly differing citings which indicate that Aaron HaKohen Godol was initially hesitant about his service:

Rabbi Yitzchok of Volozhin explained: Aaron in his humility felt that he was unworthy to be the High Priest of the Jews. This is exactly what makes you worthy of being the High Priest, replied Moshe. The attribute of humility is so precious that because you have this trait you were chosen to be the High Priest. (“Growth Through Torah,” page 246, cited from footnote to Ruach Chayim 4:1, “Torah Gems”, Volume 2, by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, page 266 citing Rashi)

When you try to accomplish in spiritual matters as a leader or teacher, you might say to yourself. “I realize how little I know. I am aware of my faults. How can I possibly serve in this position?” But as long as you are sincere in your efforts and are aware of your deficiencies, your humility is exactly the trait that makes you fit for the job. (ibid, “Growth Through Torah,” page 246)

The Midrash says that the korbon looked to him [Aaron] like a calf, and that is why he hesitated…. Aaron just could not forget the episode of the egel zahav [and presumably his role], and the sin kept haunting him. That is why what he saw on the [Mizbeiyach] altar looked to him to be a calf. Moshe therefore said to him: “It is for this that you were chosen” — it is just you always remember your sin and are ashamed of it, that you were chosen to be the High Priest. (“Torah Gems”, Volume 2, by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, page 266)

But the alignment of these two Parshiyot — Tzav and Shemini, one-after-the-other, seems to this author, to have deeper meaning, above and beyond mobilization and deployment in time of war. This deeper meaning seems to relate to Aaron’s constancy and consistency of service over the succeeding forty years, of his humility, modesty and selflessness, his seriousness and relentlessness as on his very first day of service, as well his pursuit and performance of Mitzvot and guard over Am Yisrael and their connection to Hashem, to Torah and to their sanctity (consecration, purity, holiness).

And with this constancy of vigilance of Am Yisrael’s sanctity, our Parsha also teaches us about Kashrut, and “abstain[ing] from impure, non-Kosher item[s].” (L’ilmode U’Lamed, by Rabbi Mordechai Katz, Parsha Shemini, page 108)

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.