April 15, 2024
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צַו אֶת אַהֲרֹן וְאֶת בָּנָיו לֵאמֹר זֹאת תּוֹרַת הָעֹלָה הִוא הָעֹלָה עַל מוֹקְדָה עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ כָּל הַלַּיְלָה עַד הַבֹּקֶר וְאֵשׁ הַמִּזְבֵּחַ תּוּקַד בּוֹ

It is written in the midrash in the beginning of our parsha, “This is the meaning of the pasuk (Mishlei 10:12) ‘Sinah torrair medanim—Hatred brings on quarrel.’” The hatred that Aharon aroused between Bnei Yisroel and their Father-in-Heaven at the time of the golden calf brought harsh punishments on them. This teaches us that Aharon took the idol and smashed it in front of them, and said to them, “Look, your idol is worthless!” (i.e., it can’t even protect itself and all the more so the people who serve it.) This is the meaning of what Moshe said to Aharon, “What did the people do to you that you brought upon them a great sin?” It would have been better if they would have been judged as shogag (a mistake) and not as a mayzid (deliberate). This is also the meaning of the pasuk (Devarim 9:20): “And Hashem was so angry at Aharon, to such a degree, even to destroy him … ”

In other words, the midrash teaches us that Aharon was punished because he caused a degree of hatred between Hashem and Bnei Yisroel by showing them the uselessness of the golden calf. There would not have been such a harsh judgment if they would have thought that they were getting some benefit from the golden calf.

Zera Shimshon asks: Why is Aharon described as “putting hatred between Bnei Yisroel and Hashem” and not simply as causing Bnei Yisroel to do a great sin, like the way that Moshe described what he did when Moshe told Aharon, “What did the people do to you that you brought upon them a great sin?”

He answers in light of the midrash (Shemos Rabbah 43:6) that after the incident of the golden calf Moshe said to Hashem, “There was nothing to the golden calf—it is powerless—so why are You angry at your nation?”

Meaning, hatred and jealousy only exists between two competitors, two people on the same level. For instance, a king or queen of a country is not jealous of a boy or girl who is the “king” or “queen” of their first grade class. They are only jealous and bitter towards a king or queen of another country. Therefore, since the golden calf was completely powerless, Moshe argued that Hashem should not be angry at them and forgive them.

In short, even though the aveira of serving an idol that has no power is worse than if it would’ve had some power to do something, the punishment should be less.

According to this, Aharon focused on Bnei Yisroel’s aveira and, therefore, it was that fact that Aharon showed them the powerlessness of the golden calf that brought on their severe punishment. That is why Moshe wondered and asked him what it was that the people did to him that caused him to want them to be so severely punished. Moshe Rabbeinu told Aharon that—according to his perspective—he should never have told them (about the golden calf’s powerlessness), so they would be judged as a “shogag” and not as a “mayzid.”

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