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What we Need

By: Ms. Zippy Lerner

In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Massai, the Torah records the death of Aharon:

 “They journeyed from Kadesh and encamped in Mount Hor, at the edge of the land of Edom. Then Aharon the Kohen went up Mount Hor at G-d’s word and died there, in the fortieth year after the Children of Israel went forth from the land of Egypt in the fifth month on the first of the month. Aharon was one hundred and twenty three years old at his death upon Mount Hor.”

His death is also recorded previously in Parshat Chukat, in which it says “They journeyed from Kadesh and the children of Israel arrived – the entire assembly at Mount Hor G-d spoke…saying ‘Aharon shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land that I have given to the Children of Israel because you defied my word at Mei Merivah”…When the entire assembly saw that Aharon had dies, the whole house of Israel wept for Aharon for thirty days.” 

What is the difference in how Aharon’s death is depicted in contrast to Moshe’s and what this illuminates?

Moshe was mourned by a select group of men ‘the sons’ of Israel, where as when the Bnei Yisrael ‘encamped in Mount Hor…then Aharon …went up’ (Masei) and was mourned by the ‘entire assembly’ (Chukat). Why is this case?

The answer lies in two models of leadership. Moshe was the ultimate judge and decision maker, whose responsibility lay in rebuking the people. In contrast Aharon as Pirkei Avot asserts was a pursuer of peace, who aspired to always instill love between people.

Rabbi Avishai C. David, paraphrasing Rav Soloveitchik argues that with regards to Moshe – many of Bnei Yisrael failed to grasp Moshe’s innate greatness and indeed his limitless love for the Jewish people. It is often hard to appreciate that someone’s criticism when done correctly, comes from a place of love and expectation of someone’s potential to better themselves. As a result Bnei Yisrael were not always able to appreciate just how dedicated Moshe was to their cause.  ‘They forgot how Moshe had prayed to G-d on their behalf for forty days and nights.” In contrast Rav Avishai asserts, because of Aharon’s ability to be a real ‘people person’ Bnei Yisrael would often see Aharon both as a leader as well as the Kohen Gadol.

Why was there such a difference in the way they saw both these great leaders? “It was because Moshe reprimanded the people, while Aharon never did.”

There are numerous ways one can apply this insight to ones’ daily life. In this case, it is necessary to appreciate the need to have a respect for numerous types of leaders and leadership.  Rather than to feel that one is better than the other, it is our duty to see the essential role each leader and indeed each individual plays in ones’ own life, as well as that of the community. Indeed if one were to do a survey on what makes the perfect leader, there is a high likelihood that there will be those who say – a stern and sympathetic leader, or in contrast, a laissez-faire leader, who does not chastise the people but merely guides them from a distance.  Either way, there is a point in which one needs an Aharon and a Moshe, importantly these brothers approaches were never in conflict but functioned in harmony. Bnei Yisrael were perhaps not always able to appreciate this, yet this does not change the reality; that both leaders helped transform our ancestors, and in our lives both types of influences do the same. It is up to us to realize and to equally value what both approaches have to offer. Perhaps when it comes to our own form of leadership, as a parent, at work, or in the community, know that there will be moments when stern judgment is needed and when love is needed. Ultimately however, neither attitude requires the absence of the other.

Shabbat Shalom




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