In this Torah portion, the preparations that Aaron and his sons did towards beginning to work in the tabernacle are described. This work connects Hashem to the Jewish nation.
One must contemplate the following. How did Aaron merit being the high priest who performed this service of sanctity and was the connector between the Jewish nation and Hashem? There is no doubt that Hashem chose Aaron because he was the person who was the fittest for this elevated position and not just because he was the brother of Moses. His good deeds and superior characteristics are what gave him the merits to have this position.
However, in the Torah, Aaron’s deeds are not mentioned explicitly and, only through hints in the verses, are we able to learn about this amazing personality.
In general, a spiritual leader must have good characteristics and, indeed, Aaron had these. Throughout the generations, Aaron symbolizes loving other people and the characteristic of humility. It is clear that this title was not given to him in vain and he was certainly befitting of it. If we contemplate the verses a little bit, we can evaluate the characteristics of Aaron the priest.
During the time period of the exile in Egypt, Hashem asked Moses to serve as the messenger to redeem the Jewish people. Moses refused, since he thought that he was not worthy of this position for different reasons (because he had a speech impediment or because of his humility). Moses suggested to Hashem that He should send Aaron his brother who was “a man of words” – he knew the art of speech, as the Torah itself testifies about him, “He will be for you a mouth.”
Indeed, it is not only enough to have the talent of speech in order to be a leader. Aaron the priest was also favored with good qualities and he knew not to be jealous of others. One of Moses’ worries about going to Pharaoh was his concern about what Aaron, his older brother, would say. Regarding this, Hashem told Moses that he has nothing to be concerned about, since not only would Aaron not be jealous of him, but even “He will see you and his heart will rejoice.” He will be a full partner in your happiness. It will not be an artificial and exterior happiness, rather, “and his heart will rejoice,” internally. Therefore, Aaron merited having the breastplate which was placed over his heart.
In addition to this, there are well known incidents that are brought down by the sages about how Aaron would bring peace between man and his fellow and man and his wife, etc.
May it be the will of Hashem that we should merit being the students of Aaron who “loved peace, pursued peace, loved the creations and brought them close to the Torah.”
“On its flame on the altar all of the night.” (6:2)
We find that these verses talk about three flames. The commentators explained that they correspond with the three prayers that a person prays every day, since the prayers were composed to take the place of the sacrifices, as the sages said, “They composed the prayers corresponding with the ‘tamid’ sacrifices” (Brachot 26B).
When we are exacting about the expression in the verse, we will see that the mincha prayers are written as a positive commandment, “A constant fire shall burn upon the altar,” and also as a negative commandment, “You shall not put out [the fire].” This is not so with the other prayers. It does not say a negative commandment about them and there is only a positive commandment to offer the sacrifice.
From here, the sages learned a hint and a warning about the mincha prayer that one must be careful with it more than with the other prayers. “A constant fire” is an expression of continuity and “You shall not put out” is a warning not to neglect the mincha prayer in any way. This is like what the sages said (Brachot 6B), “Rabbi Chelbo said in the name of Rav Huna, ‘A person should always be careful with the mincha prayer, since Elijah was only answered during the mincha prayer, as it says, “And it was when the mincha went up and Elijah the prophet approached and said, etc. ‘Answer me, Hashem, answer me.’”’”
In the Zohar, it is brought that only during the prayer of mincha Elijah is found next to a person and he passes his prayers over to Heaven. Therefore, we must take advantage and be very careful to pray the mincha prayer as it is fitting.
“A constant fire shall burn upon the altar. You shall not put out [the fire].” (6:6)
One of the ten miracles that were done for our forefathers in the Holy Temple was that rain did not put out the fire of the wood pyre [on the altar] (see Avot 5:5). If nothing is out of reach for Hashem, He could have made it that no rain would fall in the place of the Holy Temple and the altar.
In his book “Ruach Chaim,” Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin wrote, “Rather, this was to show us that nothing can negatively affect a person who is steady in his service of Hashem. Even with any issue that may bother him, he will still stand in his place. Similarly, there was always a constant fire burning on the altar and all of the rain that came down upon it did not put it out.”
“Most people in our times claim that they are unable to engage in Torah study as a result of the worry and burden of sustenance. This is a complete mistake and he should only trust in Hashem and he will be able to engage in Torah study.”
“When it says, ‘that the rain did not put it out,’ the rain is symbolic of sustenance (Taanit 2B). Because of this, one should not abandon or put out the Torah at all, which is called ‘fire,’ as it says (Jeremiah 23:29), ‘My word is like fire.’”
From here we learn that a person should not lose out on engaging in Torah study for reasons of sustenance, since sustenance comes from Heaven and it will be given to him without him having to minimize his Torah study, as well. Whatever is decreed upon him is what he will receive and no additional efforts will be effective that will take away from his Torah study and fulfillment of the commandments.
Rabbi Yosef Gez wrote the following. The last letters of the words in the verse “and your hair grew and you” are the letters chet, taf and chaf, which are the letters that make up a holy name that is appointed over sustenance that is also hinted to in the last letters of the words from the verse “You open up Your hand,” as it is explained in the writings of the Ar”i. This verse’s continuation, “[and your hair grew and you] were completely naked,” hints to the fact that even when a person is on a low level, G-d forbid, completely naked and lacking everything, he should not despair. Rather, he should trust in Hashem to open for him His treasury of goodness and shower him with abundance and goodness.
However, the hint to sustenance from the verse “and your hair grew” is referring specifically to hair. This can be explained by the following incident that is brought down in the Midrash.
There was an incident with a poor priest in the Land of Israel who wanted to go temporarily outside the Land of Israel in order to seek out sustenance.
He said to his wife, “If, when I am gone, people will come to ask a question about their leprosy and they will want me to see it and establish a judgment about it [whether it is healed or not], I will give you a sign about how to do it: Every hair has a source. If you see that the dent in the skin is dry, the leprosy is at its peak. If the source [dent in the skin] is moist, it is a sign that the disease has been healed.”
She asked, “What if there are two hairs protruding from one indentation?”
He said, “What you asked is impossible. Every hair that Hashem created has its own source from which it gets its nourishment to thrive.”
She said to him, “May your ears hear what your mouth is saying! For every hair, Hashem created its own source that nourishes it. How much more so, a means of sustenance was created for you and your children and you do not need to go outside the Land of Israel to search for it!”
He listened to her words and remained in his place and his sustenance came to him.
“You have shown us for us to know.” From hair, we can see in a tactile manner that Hashem supports and sustains everything with individual divine supervision. Therefore, the hint about sustenance comes specifically through them.
Rabbi Berachia ben Rabbi Natronai HaNakdan discussed this in his book “Mishlei Shualim.” There was once a fox strutting along the path and it turned this way and that. There was a wagon coming towards it that was full of fish that were just caught in the sea. The fox hurried and came up on the path and prostrated itself in the wagon’s path and closed its eyes tightly. The wagon driver saw it and stopped the horses.
He said, “Hurray! This is a dead fox which will be a warm fur coat for a cold winter!” He immediately lifted it onto the wagon and continued on his way.
The fox ate greedily from the fish. It consumed them and became satisfied. Finally, it took a few fish in its mouth for the way and escaped from the wagon. While the fish were still in its mouth, a wolf was coming towards it. The wolf was very hungry, just as the fox was a short time ago. It saw the fish in the fox’s mouth and its eyes lit up.
It asked, “Where did you find fish in the winter when the river is frozen?”
The fox answered it cleverly, “Indeed, I desired to have fish, but ice was covering the river. What did I do? I bore a hole in the ice and I wiggled by tail in it. The fish grabbed it by the tens. I ate them and I satisfied my needs!”
The wolf said, “I do not believe your story. You have and will always be making up lies. I will go to the river, but if I do not find fish there, I will be forced to choose you as my meal.”
The wolf turned to the river and, surely, it was true. The shepherds who were tending to the sheep had bored holes there in order to water the sheep. The wolf was surprised to see that the fox had spoken the truth. It laid down on its back and wiggled its tail in the frozen water. It waited until the fish would grab onto its tail and then it would have a proper meal.
The sun set and it grew colder and its tail was freezing in that terrible ice. The wolf wanted to switch positions, but its tail was stuck. It rejoiced and was happy and said, “It must be that my tail is very heavy from the multitude of fish that are grabbing on to it. There is nothing better for me than to sit here in this place longer instead of strutting about in the forest looking for something to hunt. For as long as I continue to sit here, more and more fish will grab on to my tail…”
However, the night was reaching its end and it was about to become day. The wolf was afraid that people would come, kill it and take away all of its booty. It said to itself, “‘If you try to grab a lot, you end up not grabbing anything.’ The booty that I have gathered is enough.” It tried to get up and it could not. It pulled and screamed out in pain. The shepherds heard and were stirred up by its voice and they put their dogs after it. It had no energy left and was stuck by its trapped tail until the ice broke underneath it. It fled to the shelter of the forest, beaten, wounded and hurt…
We can still speak well of the wolf, since the fox had tricked it. However, there are so many foolish people who do like it did out of their own initiative. They think that they can get around comfortably and fish will stick to their tails. Not only does this not take place, but, in the meantime, the tail freezes, golden opportunities pass by and they are left behind frozen…
The verse says, “And Hashem your G-d should bless you in all that you do.” Also, “If you did not toil and you found [yourself being successful] – don’t believe it…”
On the other hand, Rabbi Avraham HaDayan wrote that many people who engaged in business transactions were still left in poverty (Niddah 70B). Therefore, we must ask from Hashem, to whom all wealth belongs, that He should send blessings upon what we do. If it is not so, then it is possible that the person will have bad luck like Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra who poetically wrote about his bad luck and said that if he would be a merchant of candles, the sun would never set and if he would sell death shrouds, no one would ever die…
Maimonides recognized his greatness and saw his poverty and wanted to give him a gift. He did not want it and said, “‘One who hates gifts lives.’”
Once, Maimonides was sitting in the attic of his house and, from his high position, he saw that Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra was approaching. What did he do? He threw a package of zehuvim [coins of monetary value] to the ground so that he should find them and become wealthy.
When the “Ibn Ezra” approached that place, his bad luck convinced him to test out what it is like for blind people who walk without seeing. He closed his eyes and made his way and passed by the package without seeing it…
Therefore, a person needs to have a foothold in both of these means, which are to engage in earning a living and to also pray for mercy for blessings to be sent into what he does! However, this is all on the condition that it will not take away from his Torah study.
:: Shabbat Shalom, stay well, and Pesach Sameach! ::