Parshat Tetzaveh 5780: Aaron; Kohen Gadol, Why Not Moshe?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Tetzaveh is dedicated Lilui Nishmas for the Yahrtzeit of My Father: Me’ir ben Shabtai HaKohen who was niftar on 9 Adar 5777.

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.

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Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
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Parshat Tetzaveh 5780: Aaron; Kohen Gadol, Why Not Moshe?

by Moshe Burt

Last year’s vort on Parshat Tetzaveh, was a discussion regarding the notable absence of Moshe Rabbeinu’s name in our parsha.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” on our Parshat Tetzaveh notes (page 239):

For the first and only time [in Torah] since his introduction in the Beginning of Parshat Shemos, Moshe’s name is omitted from the entire Parsha. (Rabbi Goldin referring to Sefer Shemos, Perek 27, posuk 20 – Perek 30, posuk 10)

Rabbi Goldin now brings context, questions and discussion regarding the Kehuna (ibid, pages 245-247):

The concept of the Kehuna (the priesthood) is introduced as Aaron and his sons are designated to assume this honored role.

Why is Aaron chosen to serve as Kohen Gadol? Why couldn’t Moshe, already chosen for leadership. assume this role along with his other responsibilities?

Tannaitic sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai maintains that the high priesthood was originally Moshe’s to lose and that he… loses this role during the initial moments of his leadership career. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Shemos, Perek 28, posukim 1-43) Responding to Moshe’s repeated objections [regarding speech impediment, etc] at the burning bush, Hashem is “angered” and transfers the Kehuna to his brother Aaron.

Moshe’s reluctance to accept the challenges of leadership ultimately results in the limitation of his public role. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Zevachim 102a)

Disagreeing adamantly, the majority of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai colleagues maintain that Moshe was never meant to serve permanently as the Kohen Gadol. That role was reserved from the outset for Aaron, while the Kehuna, as a whole, was likewise designated for Aaron’s descendants.

Moshe, however, does assume the position of High Priest temporarily, specifically during the days of preparation that immediately precede Aaron’s inauguration into the priesthood. During that seven-day period [heretofore referred to by this author as OJT; On-the-Job training from Shemayim], ….Moshe’s tenure as Kohen Gadol, according to this mainstream position, is limited to the role of enabler. He serves only to usher his brother and his brother’s progeny into their honored roles. (Rabbi Goldin again citing Talmud Bavli Zevachim 102a)

Finally, a third, minority position recorded in the Talmud references the phrase in Tehillim (Psalms), “Moshe and Aaron are among the His priests and Shmuel among those who call His name…” (Rabbi Goldin citing Tehillim 99:6) and suggests that Moshe serves throughout his lifetime alongside Aaron as High Priest. In contrast to Aaron’s descendants, Moshe’s progeny do not inherit the Kehuna. (Rabbi Goldin again citing Talmud Bavli Zevachim 102a)

A fundamental question emerges according to the majority position which maintains that Moshe was never meant to receive the Kehuna permanently. Why was Moshe denied this honor in favor of his brother, Aaron?

The commentaries propose a variety of suggestions.

One solution offered by the Ibn Ezra… is simple and straightforward. Moshe’s overwhelming role as leader, teacher and judge of the people denies him the time necessary to perform the complex rituals of the Kohen Gadol. The two positions are temporally [of or relating to time] incompatible. (Rabbi Goldin citing the Ibn Ezra on Sefer Shemos, Perek 28, posuk 1)

The Malbim… underscores Hashem’s ability to determine the inner qualities of every human being. Upon reviewing the attributes of all those alive at the time of the inauguration of the Kehuna, Hashem finds Aaron most fit for the task. Different roles require different attributes and talents. …The Malbim maintains that Aharon is chosen over Moshe simply because he is more suited to the task. (Rabbi Goldin citing Malbim on Sefer Shemos, Perek 28, posuk 1)

The Maggid of Dubno is more explicit in his analysis of the personal characteristics that make Aaron a more appropriate choice for the Kehuna than Moshe.

The role of the Kohen, says the Maggid, is to educate and lead the people by example — to be a role model for the nation. Moshe, however, towers over the B’nei Yisrael. So distant does he seem from their personal reality that they are unable to emulate his example. Hashem, therefore, chooses Aaron, a man of the masses, an individual who relates to all (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 6a), to serve as the first Kohen Gadol. Through this choice, Hashem underscores the educative role which is to be the Kohen’s across the ages.

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, pages 248-250):

Moshe emerges from the Torah as forthright and uncompromising, a man whose worldview, according to the rabbis, is summed up in the maxim “Let the law cut through the mountain.” Blunt and honest almost to a fault, Moshe is a leader who pursues truth and justice at all costs.

Aaron, on the other hand, exemplifies a very different leadership model. He is, above all, a man of the people who “loves peace, pursues peace and creates peace between man and his friend.” Negotiation, compromise and flexibility are the tools of his trade as he pursues interpersonal harmony within the nation.

Which of these leadership models is correct? Obviously, both — depending upon the circumstances. There are times when a leader must be uncompromising in his pursuit of right. At other times, however, flexibility for the sake of harmony and accord is the order of the day. A true leader must learn to apply the proper approach to the appropriate time and circumstance.

In the generation following Moshe and Aaron, the leadership styles are reversed, clearly indicating that both styles are at times appropriate for both roles. By clearly highlighting the delicate balance that shapes the origin of… governance, Hashem challenges us to merge the varied attributes of leadership and establish a model that will succeed at all times.

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 twice 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 — which can only occur when he is home in Israel and carrying for his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five 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.