One of my favorite insights on the Torah is found in this Parshas VaEra. At the urging and prodding of Hashem, Moshe and Aharon begin their quest to see the Jewish people freed from slavery in Egypt. As they are present figures throughout the Parsha, there is a small yet poignant inconsistency, one that at first glace may seem trivial.
At the beginning of the Parsha, the psukim state: “That is Aaron and Moses, to whom the Lord said, ‘Take the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt with their legions.’ They are the ones who spoke to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, to let the children of Israel out of Egypt; they are Moses and Aaron. (Shemot 6:26-27). The order of their names are switched around. It’s understandable as to why Moshe would be mentioned first since Hashem called to him and spoke to him directly. Conversely, as the elder brother and mouthpiece of Moshe, it was Aharon who could’ve been portrayed as the leader of the two to Paro and Bnai Yisrael. We could also imagine a scenario where the order of their names has no significance at all. When parents refer to their children, or teachers to their students, there may be no rhyme or reason as to the order in which they are mentioned. Nevertheless, Rashi explains to us that there is indeed a reason for this seemingly minute detail. He comments that there are times when Aharon is listed ahead of Moshe, and there are times when Moshe is listed before Aharon and it’s because the two are considered equals.
Does this make any sense at all? How were the two considered to be on par with each other? Moshe Rabbeinu was summoned by God to lead the Jewish people. Ultimately, he became the greatest leader the Jewish people have ever seen. Aharon, no slouch himself, was the Kohen Gadol who performed the work in the Mishkan. Despite the best of intentions, Aharon is also known for his instrumental role in bringing about the sin of the Golden Calf, arguably the worst of the calamitous deeds done by the Jewish people. The distinguished two brothers shared lineage and lived at the same time. This alone puts them on the same plane?
Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that Rashi’s point is profound. How is it possible that they were equals? They both were able to maximize their potential greatness. Indeed Aharon did not serve in a role like Moshe Rabbeinu, but the expectations of him were the same as what was expected of his younger brother. Aharon was not supposed to be as great as Moshe. His role was to use his kochos to be the greatest Aharon he can be.
This is a timeless message for all of us. Much of our self-worth is based upon the success of those around us. Whether their success is something we see or highlighted to us by those close to us, it can be unbearable when we try and measure ourselves to the standards they have, many times, unknowingly set. It may not be our role to occupy the same place as those vaunted ones around us. Still, it’s imperative to remember that Aharon HaKohen was a tremendous individual, not an underachiever by any means. We cannot sit back and rationalize our inertia by claiming that living up to high standards is not what we are destined to do. We have been endowed with strengths and abilities for specific purposes. It’s up to us to make sure we utilize them correctly.
One thought on “VaEra 5778 – On Par”
Very profound statement, Rabbi! We can be “equals” yet also different at the same time!