SALT - Sunday, 24 Adar Bet 5779 - March 24, 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
            We read in Parashat Shemini of the events that transpired on the final day of Aharon and his sons’ consecration as kohanim, when they officiated in the Mishkan for the first time.  When the time came for Aharon, the kohen gadol, to begin serving his role, Moshe turned to him and said, “Approach the altar and perform your sin-offering and your burnt-offering…” (9:7).  This refers to the two sacrifices which Aharon was required to bring on this special occasion – a calf as a sin-offering, and a ram as a burnt-offering.
            Rashi, citing Torat Kohanim, famously comments that Moshe needed to instruct Aharon, “Kerav el ha-mizbei’ach” (“Approach the altar”) because Aharon was afraid to proceed to the altar to assume his position of kohen.  Other sources point to Aharon’s role in the sin of the golden calf as the source of his fear.  He felt unworthy of this lofty position due to the grave sin in which he had participated, and thus he was hesitant to assume the role of high priest.  Moshe therefore urged Aharon to proceed, assuring him, in Rashi’s words, “For this you were chosen” – that irrespective of his past, Aharon was chosen by the Almighty to serve as the kohen gadol.
            Rav Eliezer of Tarnograd, in Noam Megadim, suggests that an additional element of Moshe’s response to Aharon is alluded to in the next phrase – in the instruction, “perform your sin-offering and your burnt-offering.”  Aharon’s burden of guilt and shame held him back from accepting his role as kohen, and so Moshe urged him to consider both “chatatekha” and “olatekha” – his mistakes, and his virtues.  (The word “ola” relates to the word for “height,” and thus connotes greatness and achievement.)  True, Aharon’s past included a “chatat” – a grave mistake, but the awareness of this failure should not diminish from his recognition of his “ola,” his outstanding qualities and achievements.  In order to achieve to our full potential, we must remain keenly aware of both our “chatat” and our “ola” – both our failures and our successes; our faults and our virtues.  If we are mindful of both our negative and positive traits, of what we do poorly and what we do well, we will be able to maintain the delicate balance between humility and ambition, between timidity and confidence, and we will set and pursue bold aspirations while humbly recognizing our limits.