Parshas Shmini

He Was Willing To Give Up His Life…!

“Moshe said to Aharon: Approach the altar and perform [the services of] your sin-offering and your burnt-offering and atone on your [own] behalf and on behalf of the people; and perform [the service of] the peoples offering and atone on their behalf, just as Hashem commanded.” (Vayikra 9:7)

The Titanic was a British ocean liner which was the largest ship afloat at that time.  On its first voyage, it carried some of the wealthiest people in the world, as well as hundreds of emigrants who were seeking a new life in the United States and Canada. It had advanced safety features, such as watertight compartments and remotely activated watertight doors, contributing to its reputation as “unsinkable”. It sank after striking an iceberg during its very first voyage. It did not have enough lifeboats for all the passengers and crew aboard. Of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard, about 1,500 died. (Wikopedia)

John Harper was on the Titanic. He placed his niece and his six-year-old daughter into a lifeboat. He gave up his seat for a woman or a child, knowing that he might not survive. As the Titanic was sinking, John Harper went into the freezing water, holding onto a piece of wreckage. He died in the freezing water. John Harper sacrificed his life for another human being.

There were seven days of festivities leading up to the permanent and lasting construction of the Mishkan. On the eighth day, the Mishkan was erected permanently. Moshe instructed Aharon and the Jewish People to offer specific korbanos. Afterwards, Hashem’s Shechina would reside in the Mishkan. Moshe told Aharon, “Approach the altar and perform [the services of] your sin-offering and your burnt-offering and atone on your [own] behalf and on behalf of the people; and perform [the service of] the peoples offering and atone on their behalf, just as Hashem commanded.” (Vayikra 9:7). Rashi, as explained by Sifsei Chachamim, as well as Gur Aryeh, and others, question the apparent extra words of the pasuk. Why didn’t the pasuk simply say that Moshe asked Aharon to perform the services? Why does it add that Moshe also told Aharon to “approach the mibayach, the altar”? Rashi and Gur Aryeh answer that Aharon was hesitant to approach the mizbayach because he felt ashamed and afraid.

Why did Aharon feel ashamed and afraid to approach the mizbayach? Ramban explains that Aharon had only been involved in one sin in his life and he constantly kept that sin in his mind to raise his teshuva to a higher level. That “sin” was his involvement in the sin of the Golden Calf. As Aharon approached the Mizbayach haZahav, the Golden Altar, the mizbayach appeared to him as a calf. He felt as if the form of a calf was there to stop him from sacrificing the korbanos which would bring forgiveness.  This aroused within him an intense fear that his offering would not be accepted.

Ramban brings another opinion (see the Rosh) that the Satan caused the actual form of a calf to appear. Da’as Zekanim explains that Aharon feared that he was no longer qualified to serve as a kohain. Aharon hesitated to bring the korbanos. He felt that he was inadequate to do so because of the reluctant role he had played in the sin of the Golden Calf. Moshe encouraged Aharon by telling him not to be afraid because Hashem had specifically chosen him to be the Kohain Gadol.

What was the background of the sin of the Golden Calf? Moshe had ascended Har Sinai to receive the first set of Luchos (the 10 Commandments). The people miscalculated when Moshe was supposed to return. So, when Moshe did not come when they expected him, some people, mostly the erev rav (the non-Jews from different nations who had joined the Jewish People after seeing all the miracles that Hashem had performed in Egypt), wanted to make an idol to take the place of Moshe. Aharon had seen Chur murdered for trying to stop them from making an idol. Aharon knew that he could not stop them. Therefore, he got involved, hoping to stall for time until Moshe returned. He told the Jewish People to gather and bring gold jewelry. Events moved much quicker than Aharon planned. Two magicians from amongst the erev rav used magic to make a living, golden calf.

Rabbi Yissocher Frand (Rabbi Frand on the Parashah) says that Moshe told Aharon, ‘You, of all people, don’t have to fear what the calf represents.” What did Moshe mean? Yalkut Yehudah explains, based on the Midrash. Why did Aharon participate in making the Golden Calf? Aharon acted in the best interests of the Jewish People. He knew that if the Jewish People would make the idol, then they would bear the guilt of that sin. Aharon felt that it would be better for him to make it and bear the sin for doing so. He placed their welfare above his own. He was willing to sacrifice his olam haba for the sake of the Jewish People. This demonstration of love for the Jewish People, made him worthy to be anointed the Kohain Gadol. This was what Moshe meant when he told Aharon, “This is precisely why you were chosen.” Don’t be afraid and approach the mizbayach to bring the korban.

Aharon exhibited a special ahavas Yisroel, love for his fellow Jew. What a beautiful lesson for us to emulate. We are all a part of the one neshama. Let us exhibit only love to one another!