Judaism: Aharon and The Clouds of Glory
Moshe KempinskiMoshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem.
“And it came to pass ( VaYehi) on the eighth day (9:1).
The word Vayehi reveals much. Traditionally the word "VaYehi” relates to concern and woe .In fact our sages teach that this word is an eternal code word that becomes a sign of impending danger and difficulty. We see the use of this code word as an introduction to a time of danger and threats in the Book of Esther:
"Now it came to pass ( VaYehi) in the days of Ahashverush.." (Esther1;1)
One must ask , why would the inauguration of the Tabernacle and the filling of that Tabernacle with the Clouds of Glory be connected with concern and woe?
On the simple level, this may be due to the fact that in the ecstatic fervor of this inauguration, the two sons of Aaron overstepped their spiritual bounds and subsequently lost their lives.
“And Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before Hashem foreign fire, which He had not commanded them. And fire went forth from before Hashem and consumed them, and they died before Hashem( Leviticus 10:1-2)
The Netivot HaShalom offers another unique and interesting insight.
Here , were a people waiting for the inauguration of the Tabernacle under a cloud of worry and concern. This concern was focused on the question of whether or not Hashem truly forgave them for the sin of the calf. That burden of concern weighed heavily on Aaron as well. The sharing of this burden on the part of Aaron provides the subtext underpinning the verses describing the Tabernacle’s inauguration.
Moshe turns to Aaron and says "Approach the altar and perform your sin offering and your burnt offering, atoning for yourself and for the people, and perform the people's sacrifice, atoning for them, as Hashem has commanded.( Leviticus 9:7).
Why did Moshe have to tell Aaron to “approach the altar”? This is what he has been practicing for seven days . He knew what he had to do. Rashi teaches that Moshe had to order Aaron to do so, because Aaron was afraid to approach the altar. Moshe had to say to him “Why are you ashamed? It is for this role you have been chosen!” (Torath Kohanim 9:7)
Yet the events become even more dramatic.
We read the following "And Aaron lifted up his hands towards the people and blessed them. “.He then descended: from the altar.
And then we read that Moshe and Aaron went into the Tent of Meeting. Rashi asks ‘why did they have to enter the Tent of Meeting together?
After suggesting some options, Rashi says the following "When Aaron saw that all the sacrifices had been offered and all the
procedures had been performed, and yet the Shechinah had not descended for Israel, he was distressed. He said, “I know that the Holy One, blessed is He, is angry with me, and on my account the Shechinah has not descended for Israel.” … At once, Moshe entered [the Tent of Meeting] with him, and they prayed for mercy. (Torath Kohanim 9:16) “Then they came out and blessed the people, and the glory of Hashem appeared to all the people.( ibid 9:23)
After all the ritual and procedure , Aaron brought to Hashem the ultimate sacrifice. “For You do not wish a sacrifice, or I should give it; You do not desire a burnt offering. The sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit; O G-d, You will not despise a broken and crushed heart.( psalm 51:18-19) .
Aaron, thereupon, became eternally linked with those Clouds of Glory. The Talmud (Massechet Taanit) teaches that there were three miraculous gifts bestowed upon the Israelites in the wilderness:
The first was the well of water which accompanied the people on their voyage, which came on account of Miriam.The second gift was the Clouds of Glory which came on account of Aaron, and the third was the Manna which came on account of Moshe. When Aaron passed away the Clouds of Glory went away, only to come back on Moshe’s merit. When Moshe passed away, all three of these miraculous phenomena disappeared.
Aaron was beloved of his people because he exemplified a man of humility and loving kindness. He represented the loving and embracing Clouds of Glory. Our Sages teach “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and seeking after peace, loving all creatures and bringing them near unto the Torah."
Yet even that loving-kindness that so marked his personality was rooted in his ability to connect to and be nourished by his “contrite heart.". It was that con trite heart that opened the way for the Clouds to descend.
That remains the eternal lesson. Arrogance and haughtiness dispel the Presence of G-d from our midst. Yet the courage to acknowledge mistakes and the ability to open one's heart becomes the vehicle for the opposite.
The Gory of G-d will only rest within the heart of a humble and contrite individual.
So the first word of our parsha (Torah portion) is impactful and instructive.
( le-refuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved)