Rabbi Reuven Mann

This week’s parsha, Pinchas, begins with Hashem’s reward to Pinchas for taking revenge against Zimri, a leader of the tribe of Shimon, for his sin of cohabitation with a Midianite princess.  Hashem bestowed upon him His “covenant of peace” which meant that he and his descendants would have the status of Kohanim.  The main role of the Kohen is to instruct the people in Torah, perform the service in the Temple and facilitate peaceful relations among the people.  The Torah recounts that when Aaron died he was mourned by the entire House of Israel in contradistinction to Moshe who was “only” mourned by the “Children of Israel.”  It would appear from this that Aaron was more beloved by the people than Moshe.  This is not to say that his accomplishments were greater.  Moshe Rabbenu was the faithful teacher and shepherd of the Jews.  No one reached a higher level of prophecy or attained his level of humbleness.  It is hard to imagine that anyone ever achieved a more perfect level of dedication to the nation.  He had no desire for power and yet responded to Hashem’s charge that he lead the people out of Egypt and prepare them to receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai.  Even when they sinned he never lost his comittment to their welfare and adamantly refused when Hashem threatened to destroy them and create a new nation out of him.  As great as Aaron was it is safe to say that no Jewish leader can come close to the level of Moshe Rabbenu.  Yet apparently, Aaron, was more popular and beloved than his younger brother.  An important lesson can be learned from this ie. popularity is not a barometer of one’s true importance and accomplishments.  Aaron and Moshe each had their specific role to play and interacted with the people in different ways.  Moshe was the great thinker, teacher and spiritual leader.  His job was to elevate the people to an exalted plane and this inevitably required that he rebuke them when necessary.  There is a certain, instinctive,  resentment against great role models.  They rouse us from our laziness and cause us to feel guilty about our failures.  We often get caught up in our emotions and fail to appreciate that the genuine teacher of Torah has only our truest interests at heart.  We have a different attitude towards the personality of an Aaron.  He treats us with love and understanding and seeks to repair the damage we have caused in important relationships.  He doesn’t guide us with abstract and lofty teachings but with concrete suggestions and complimentary words of encouragement.  We form a greater attachment to Aaron because we experience his compassion and helpfulness in a manner which impacts our most powerful emotions.  The great leaders of the Jewish people are those who do not value or seek popularity.  Moshe was only concerned with fulfilling his mission to render the Jews into a “kingdom of priests” and a holy nation.  He only had their best interests at heart.

Aaron related to the people in the manner which was most suited to his task of facilitating peaceful relations and the popularity he experienced was merely a byproduct, not the goal.  Pinchas’ deed was based purely on his love of Hashem and desire to uproot a terrible evil from Klal Yisrael.  He did not care about the anger and hostility it would engender.  He was unconcerned with the opinion of man.  All that mattered to him was the approval of Hashem.  With that attitude he became worthy of Hashem’s “Covenant of Peace.”

Shabbat Shalom