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Making Other Your Center

Rabbi Wagensberg
Parshas Tzav
Making Other Your Center

When we divide the Torah in half by its verses, we will find ourselves in this week's parsha, Tzav. The subject matter found at the half-way point is about Moshe dressing Aharon in the Bigdei Kehunah. This topic is not arbitrarily found in the Torah's mid-section. One reason for this is as follows.

Originally, Moshe was supposed to be the Kohen and Aharon was supposed to be the Levi. However, at the Burning Bush, when God appointed Moshe to be the agent to bring the Jewish people out of Egypt, Moshe refused. For seven days they argued about this, until finally, Moshe had to give in and accept his role as the redeemer.

As a result of Moshe's behavior, Moshe was demoted to the position of Levi, while Aharon was promoted to the position of Kohen (Zevachim, chap. 12, "Tvul Yom", pg. 102a, Rebbi Shimon ben Yochai). This whole story can make one wonder, "How could Moshe reject a direct Divine command?"

Moshe had one motivating factor for turning God's offer down. He was concerned about his brother, Aharon. Aharon was the older brother and the established prophet. If he were to accept God's offer, Moshe was concerned that maybe Aharon would feel insulted that he was not chosen for this position. This is what motivated Moshe to be obstinate, until he had no choice but to accept Hashem's instruction (Rashi, Parshas Shemos, 4:10).

The truth is that Aharon never felt jealous of Moshe's appointment. Aharon's heart was filled with joy upon discovering that God had chosen Moshe to be the leader. This is why Aharon deserved to wear the Breastplate of Justice on his chest, over his heart (Rashi, Parshas Shemos, 4:14; Shabbos, chap. 20, "Tolin", pg. 139a, Rebbi). However, it was Moshe's job to be concerned with Aharon's feelings, just in case there was a trace of resentment.

People assume that being demoted to Levi was Moshe's punishment. However, this was his greatest reward. Yes, it is true that Moshe wanted to be the Kohen Gadol because this position comes with many mitzvos that only a Kohen Gadol can do. This would afford Moshe a greater opportunity to connect with God, because the purpose of mitzvos is to deepen that relationship. Obviously, Moshe desired to enhance his connection with God. Since becoming Kohen Gadol would facilitate this closeness with the Divine, it was only natural that Moshe craved this position.

However, there was one thing that Moshe wanted even more than that. That is, to see somebody else benefit from this closeness, even at his own personal loss, especially when somebody's feelings were at stake. This is what provided Moshe with the willingness to resign from the Kehunaship.

This trait of Moshe constantly thinking about the next fellow is evident from this week's portion. At the very center of the Torah, the verse describes how Moshe tied the apron around Aharon's body (Parshas Tzav, 8:7). Can you picture the imagery that is taking place? With Moshe's arms around Aharon's body, it depicts Moshe as giving his brother a huge hug! This is what made Moshe the happiest; seeing his brother benefit even more than himself.

The reason why this image is portrayed at the very core of the Torah is because it comes to teach us that this is the essence of the Torah; namely, thinking about what's best for other people and loving when good things come their way, even if we never obtain those gifts!

We could try to follow in Moshe's footsteps a little bit more by training ourselves to think about what other people want. Over this Shabbos, let us take out two minutes to contemplate what would make another person happy. Then, let us try to follow through by actually doing that sought-after thing for him.

In this way, we will merit the coming of Moshiach, the building of the Beis Hamikdash, and the reinstitution of the offerings mentioned in Sefer Vayikra by the hands of Aharon HaCohen , and subsequently put a stop to war, pain, suffering, illness, and strife. Then we will live in a constant state of paradise.

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