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Parashat B’ha-a lot’cha (Numbers 8:1-12:16)

“And the Lord’s cloud kept above them by day, as they moved on from camp.” (Numbers 10:34)

In Parashat B’haalot’cha God commands Moses to assign the lighting of the menorah to his brother Aaron, the first High Priest.  This is a signal honor, and foreshadows the role Aaron’s descendants, the Hasmoneans, will play in saving the Jewish people by driving out the Greeks, purifying the Temple, and relighting the Menorah (the story of Chanukkah).

The Torah continues,” Aaron did so…as God had commanded Moses.”  (Numbers 8:3) Rashi (an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the pre-eminent 11th century Jewish commentator) states the verse is meant to praise Aaron for not deviating from his duties.  The Vilna Gaon (1720 – 1797; Rabbi Eliyahu ben Sh’lomo, one of the most influential Rabbinic authorities since the Middle Ages) builds on this by reading the statement as a commentary on Aaron’s dedication and enthusiasm: he performs this routine task each day with joy and reverence, without deviation.  But Rabbi Meir of Premishlan (1703–1773; disciple of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism) disagrees.  He claims Rashi’s comment references Aaron’s unchanging character: despite his elevation to perform such an important ritual, Aaron did not deviate from his habit of circulating among the Israelites, resolving disputes, helping them learn, and maintaining all his previous relationships.

This may one of the reasons Aaron is sometimes considered an even greater leader than Moses; as High Priest, he was the only person permitted to enter the Holy of Holies.  Still, Aaron never got “above himself,” and continued to enter the tent of the average Israelite to listen, offer help, and provide guidance.

Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom,


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