July 13, 2024
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Zera Shimshon on Parshas Tetzaveh

וְאַתָּה הַקְרֵב אֵלֶיךָ אֶת אַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ וְאֶת בָּנָיו אִתּוֹ מִתּוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְכַהֲנוֹ לִי אַהֲרֹן נָדָב וַאֲבִיהוּא אֶלְעָזָר וְאִיתָמָר בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן (שמות כח:א)

“Bring your brother, Aaron close to you, and his sons with him, from among Bnei Yisrael to serve Me (as kohanim): Aaron, Nadav, and Avihu, Eleazar and Itamar, Aharon’s sons. (Shemos, 28:1)

On this pasuk, the midrash (Midrash Rabbah, 35:7) comments, “This pasuk can be explained in light of the pasuk (in Tehillim, 119:92) “If Hashem’s Torah would not have been my pleasure, I would have perished in my suffering.” The midrash explains when Hakadosh Baruch Hu said to Moshe, “Bring your brother, Aharon, close to you … to serve Me … ” Moshe felt very distressed. Hashem said to Moshe, “I had the Torah and I gave it to you. If not for this, the whole world would have been destroyed.”

The simple explanation of this midrash seems to be that Moshe was bothered that Aharon was chosen to be the kohen gadol instead of him, and to appease Moshe, Hashem told Moshe that he shouldn’t feel bad—because, even though he was not appointed to be the kohen gadol—Hashem gave the Torah through him. This is much more important than being the kohen gadol; since without the Torah, Hashem would have destroyed the whole world.

Zera Shimshon asks: When Bnei Yisroel were still in Mitzrayim and Aharon heard that Moshe was appointed by Hashem to be the leader of Bnei Yisroel, Aharon was very happy for him. How could it be that Moshe—the world’s most humble person—was upset when Aharon and his children were chosen to be the kohanim instead of him?

Because of this question, the Zera Shimshon learns a much deeper peshat on this midrash.

First, we will give a little background. Initially, Moshe and his descendants were supposed to be the kohanim and Aharon and his descendants were to be the leviim. However, at the burning bush, Moshe was reluctant to be the leader of Bnei Yisroel and—as a punishment for not accepting this position eagerly—Hashem took away the priesthood from Moshe and gave it to Aharon.

We have to understand what was behind Moshe’s reluctance to accept Hashem’s order. Moshe was the greatest servant of Hashem in the history of mankind, so why did he not accept the position that Hashem wanted to give him?

Zera Shimshon explains—in light of the midrash in Yalkut Shimoni (Zechariah, remez 577)—that all of our redemptions were not complete, because they were carried out by human beings. Therefore, every redemption was followed by more exiles. However, the final redemption will be done through Hashem Himself and, therefore, it will be complete.

According to this, we can understand that Moshe argued that it would be detrimental for Klal Yisroel for him to redeem them—since, it would be followed by more exiles, persecutions and suffering! Moshe wanted Hashem to take Bnei Yisroel out of Mitzrayim in order for this to be the final redemption, and that Klal Yisroel would not have to suffer anymore.

Hashem—on the other hand—knew that Bnei Yisroel was going to sin with the golden calf. Unfortunately, Klal Yisroel would need more and more exiles to purify them. We can now explain the midrash.

When Hashem told Moshe to appoint Aharon and his family to be the kohanim, Moshe was distressed. He wasn’t upset that Aharon, his brother, was appointed to such an important and prestigious position and not him. Like we said before, he was the humblest person ever to live.

Rather, after Bnei Yisroel sinned at the golden calf, he was upset with himself that he didn’t immediately accept Hashem’s appointment of him as the leader at the burning bush. Moshe was afraid that had he not refused to be Hashem’s shaliach to Bnei Yisroel, his merit would have protected Bnei Yisroel from sinning at the golden calf. Therefore, now, at the time that he inaugurated Aharon to be the kohen gadol, he felt horrible since this inauguration was the direct result of his own refusal to be Hashem’s direct shaliach to Bnei Yisroel.

Hashem told Moshe, “I had the Torah and I gave it to you. If not for this the whole world would have been destroyed.” Hashem didn’t mean to appease Moshe that he did something more important than being the kohen gadol. Rather, Hashem’s intent was to tell Moshe he should have felt bad earlier, not only just now! How was this?

As we wrote the past few weeks, when Bnei Yisroel heard the first two commandments directly from Hashem, they were freed from the yetzer hara, but it—immediately—came back to them. The reason for this was that Bnei Yisroel were scared to hear Hashem’s voice and, therefore, pleaded to Moshe that he will convey to them the rest of the commandments. Why did Hashem agree to this? Why didn’t Hashem simply speak to them softer at a level that they would be able to hear without dying?

Zera Shimshon explains that if Hashem would have continued to speak to Bnei Yisroel—even at their level—they would have had no yetzer hara and, therefore, no inclination to do sin. However, there would still be the possibility to choose sin and if they would choose to sin, they would be held totally responsible for their actions and the punishment would be tremendously harsh. Hashem knew that Bnei Yisroel were about to worship the golden calf, therefore, Hashem gave the Torah through Moshe in order that their yetzer hara would return and when they would sin at the golden calf, they could argue that they were not totally responsible for their actions—because they were under the influence of the yetzer hara—and Hashem would not have to totally annihilate Bnei Yisroel.

According to this, Hashem told Moshe: “Why are you only distressed now? I had the Torah and I gave it to you. If not for this, the whole world would have been destroyed.” Meaning, when I gave the Torah through you instead of Me, you should have realized the reason for this was because Bnei Yisroel were going to sin, and if I would have spoken to them directly, I would have had to destroy the whole Jewish nation. At that time, you should have been distressed that Bnei Yisroel were going to sin—and that your refusal to immediately accept to be the shaliach between Me and Bnei Yisroel—and not just now.

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