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Parasha Insights

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil
July 2, 2019

To become a leader one needs stamina, charisma, to be persistent, powerful and pushy in his drive. One needs to walk over others that step in his path, pushing them aside, and work hard to keep his position. I am of course talking about a leader in the secular world. When one looks at the leaders the nations are producing, be it the ruthless dictators of the middle east where killing is normally involved in their assent to the top, or the popular politicians of the west, where secrets are hidden from the public eye, yet ruthlessness is rife. To succeed and go for the top one must believe in themselves be haughty and not let anyone get in your way.

Not so the Torah way of thinking!

Our greatest leader Moshe Rabenu was chosen by Hashem first and went through no such process. On the contrary Hashem chose him for his Anava – modesty, rather then for his haughtiness. The same is true about Aharon. He was chosen to be the Kohen Hagadol – not because he was the toughest man around, not because he knew how to manipulate people, and promise things he would never deliver on, but rather due to his righteousness and devotion to Hashem.

Yet one man and his cohorts decided to rebel in the wilderness.

Korach and his men, leaders of the assembly, gathered together against Moshe and Aharon. “It is too much for you! For the entire assembly — all of them — are holy and Hashem is among them; why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem (Bamidbar 16:3)?”

Although they assailed both Moshe and Aharon, their main complaint was against Aharon. Each of these men envisioned himself in the position of Kohen Gadol (high priest). It was Aharon’s post they wished to usurp. And of course, chief among them was Korach, Aharon’s cousin.

How would we expect Aharon to respond to such incriminations? Should he defend himself and his appointment? Perhaps he should fight them physically and put the rebels in their place? What should he do?

In the very next verse, the Torah tells us what Aharon did. “Moshe heard and fell on his face.”

That’s right Moshe fell on his face. What about Aharon? Why did only Moshe fall on his face? And where was Aharon?

Sometimes what is not stated rings louder than what is.

The Ramban reveals to us that: “Aharon, with his ethical perfection and sanctity, did not respond at all during this entire altercation. He remained quiet and conceded, as it were, that Korach was of a higher stature than himself. But [Aharon] acted according to the word of Moshe, fulfilling the decree of the king.”

Aharon did absolutely nothing. He remained statue-like, and did not respond in the least. What about the way he felt, his degradation in public?

On the one hand, Aharon knew that he had been appointed Kohen Gadol by the acting king of Klal Yisrael, Moshe Rabbeinu. As such, he had no recourse but to accept his assignment. Deep down, however, he genuinely considered the possibility — or even the probability — that Korach was more deserving and spiritually suitable than he. Ever the man of peace (Avot 1:12), Aharon was truly a servant of the people and an absolute master over his emotions. Aharon trained himself to remain silent by realizing that he is only human and that there could very likely exist others genuinely greater than he. Why then should he argue? Who says he is better?

Despite his low profile, Hashem came to his aid and proved without a doubt that he was chosen Kohen Gadol due to his merit and not because of ulterior motives.

Tsadik Katamar Yifrach – “The righteous blossom as the palm tree”. The Ari z’l notes that the last letter of these three words spell the name KRH (Korach). He explains that the “Tamar” (literally palm tree) is the opposite of and correction (tikkun) for Korach. The Hebrew word “karah” means “bald”. There is a midrash about the frustrations of a man who had two wives, one older and one younger, with the older removing the black hairs (so he look older) from his head and the younger removing the white hairs (so he look younger). In the end he was left completely bald

Kerach can also refer to Ice. Both words have one idea in common: neither provides fertile soil for growth and development. Hair does not grow on a bald head, and grass or flowers do not emanate from ground covered with ice.

The palm tree represents the opposite to this situation. It with proper nurture will produce lush dates. The Tsadik just like the date tree needs nourishing, he must work endlessly developing himself. Korach wished to usurp Aharon, he was impatient, and he did not go via the right path. He chose a path of ridicule and enticement, in order to get what he desired and therefore failed.

Aharon was Ohev Shalom VeRodef Shalom. He kept calm whilst all around him were panicking, he developed himself to earn being the Kohen Gadol.

As I had began writing my Dvar Torah this week, I learnt of the sad passing of our Great Teacher and leader Rav Mordechai Elyahu Z’L. I had the privilege of learning under him in his Kolel in Yerushalyim and personally together with hundreds of thousands of people worldwide feel the great loss.

The Rav was turned to for guidance in great matters of halacha and policy. Phone calls came to him from all over the world. I once attended his home after midnight and was shocked to see that the Rabbi a man in his late 70’s the time was still receiving calls. Rabbis of all sorts turned to him. Sefardim and Ashkenazim. Yet he was always available to everyone, no matter what background, not matter what question, the Rav had time for you. The Rav was a giant on the shoulders of giants, versed in the revealed Torah and secrets of the Torah. He had served and learnt with the greats of the previous generation, the Chazon Ish, the Baba Sali, R Tsadka and R Y Kaduri to name but a few. Yet one character trait always shone through – that of modesty. One could feel it in the air. His respect to all, his love and devotion to Hashem and his people were second to none.

May the memory of HaRav Eliyahu strengthen us in our time of mourning. May we strengthen ourselves in our devotion to the Land, Torah and people of Israel and take upon added intention in our observance of G-d’s mitzvot. May we too prepare our days in full faith that we merit to greet the Mashiach and see the building of the Third Temple, a binyan adai ad speedily in our days. Amen.


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