11 Feb Appreciating our brother’s style
Posted at 14:27h in Divrey Torah
One of my favorite pictures from our wedding (besides the great picture of a slow dance) is of myself with my brother. We are standing in a grassy field, looking in opposite directions, separated by a few inches. I am wearing the traditional kittel (plain white robe) and a knitted white kippah; he is wearing a modern suit with a thin black tie, and shades. We are a study in contrasts.
Moses and Aaron, together with Miriam, were a team: approaching Pharoah, Aaron was the mouthpiece, and Moses played God. They led the people together through the desert until Aaron passed away.
One episode, however, highlights one of their differences: when the people insist that Aaron build a golden calf, he appears to cave in, while trying to redirect and delay them: “sounds great—let’s have a festival to god tomorrow!”
When Moses sees what happened, he questions Aaron for his willingness to participate: “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”
“Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf
The Torah says that “Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control,” but nowhere is Aaron blamed any further. This is because neither God nor the Torah blame Aaron –only Moses blames Aaron.
Moses has a starkly different leadership style than Aaron. He does not accommodate the people who worshipped the Golden calf—he has them killed by the thousands. He is a man of pure principles, who lives most of his life isolated in a tent, communing with god. He is a man of truth rather than peace, the lawgiver who writes his words in stone. From Moses’ perspective, Aaron’s leadership was a disaster—he should have stood his ground, called on the Levites to wage war against their brothers. He should have been tough.
Aaron, on the other hand, is a man of peace, a man of the people: when he dies, even the women come to mourn him. According to the midrash, this is because he spent all his time helping couples stay together. From his perspective, Moses’ leadership approach could be seen as tyrannical; the purpose of a leader is to bring peace to a people and to the world, to help people reconcile with family members, and with God. This is what the priest does in the Temple—facilitate repentance and forgiveness, and help people become close to God.
If Moses is the quintessential prophet, a man of god, Aaron is more similar to a king, publicly presiding over the Temple, and
Tomorrow, in Tetzaveh, we read that God says to Moses, “draw near your brother Aaron.” Why was it important for them to work together—why couldn’t God have spoken directly to Aaron?
God needs them to utilize both the Moses and the Aaron, peace and truth, to draw the two approaches near to each other, to harmonize the two.
We all have both introvert and extrovert sides, both the truthful side and the peaceful side. We all have Moses and Aaron within ourselves. The parsha is teaching us to check ourselves—do we become too strident? Do we ever become a doormat? How can we integrate both a Moses style and an Aaron style in our life?