Passionate performance in Parashat Shemot

When we want to validate another, let’s give him our full encouragement. After all, our words can have a great impact on another.

Rabbanit Shira Smiles

Judaism Learning Torah
Learning Torah
Flash 90

Adapted by Channie Koplowitz Stein

It was a wonderful kiddush Hashem. The last Siyum Hashas was celebrated in multiple venues throughout the world. Reports carried in newspapers and other media told of the unprecedented decorum in the crowds before, during and after the siyum itself. One gentile staff worker in the UK arena was so impressed, she lamented that this celebration occurs only once in seven and a half years. The eyes of the world were upon us, and Bnei Yisroel rose to the occasion. How would we act if we realized that everything we did would be recorded for posterity?

Rashi cites a medrash from this week’s parshah that is relevant to this discussion. Hashem has told Moshe that He had chosen him to take on the mantle of leadership, to go to Pharaoh, to speak to Pharaoh in Hashem’s name to let Bnei Yisroel go. Moshe kept trying to recuse himself from this mission, until Hashem finally tells him, “Is there not Aharon your brother… He is going out to meet you and when he sees you he will rejoice in his heart.” On this dialogue, as one of three examples, the medrash says, “If Aharon had known that the Torah would record that he would be happy when he met Moshe Rabbenu after Moshe was chosen o be the Redeemer, he would have come with drums and cymbals.”

Is this medrash a critique of Aharon or not? While a simple reading implies that Aharon might be interested in his public image, a more nuanced reading suggests many alternate interpretations. When the verse in Tehillim says, “How good and how pleasant is the dwelling of brothers in unity,” our commentators attribute this to the love between Moshe and Aharon, writes the Sifsei Chaim, for each one rejoiced without jealousy at the role Hashem assigned to his brother.

Aharon was not jealous of his younger brother’s now assuming the role of leadership, a role that had been Aharon’s for so many years. In recognition of this love deep in Aharon’s heart, continues the Sifsei Chaim, Aharon was found worthy of wearing the breastplate of the high priest on his heart. His heart was pure, with no trace of ego tainting it.

Aharon’s inner character was so elevated that he thought this joy at a brother’s elevation was natural. He could not imagine that his brother might be insulted if he didn’t greet him with a great deal of pomp at being appointed leader of the nation. Aharon could not imagine Moshe thinking Aharon was jealous of him, adds Otzrot Hatorah. Had he been aware of this possibility for conflict, he would certainly have greeted Moshe with tremendous pomp and music.

He felt deeply, as should we, that family should revel in the success of other members of the family. Aharon’s faith was so complete that he could see no reason for jealousy, for he knew that Hashem gives each person both his mission in life and the resources he needs to accomplish it.

In a contrasting perspective, Rabbi Dunner suggests that if Aharon sensed that Moshe felt himself unworthy of this mission Aharon would have gone out to greet him with full pomp as a show of support and encouragement. Our reaction to the success of others can act as inspiration for further success, adds Rav Druck. In this vein, Rabbi Friefeld suggests that speech that encourages others is a form of our service to Hashem, for we are emulating Him, giving others life and reviving their spirits.

We are generally not even aware of the importance of what we are doing, continues Rabbi Druck in Dorash Mordechai. When we feel joy for another, we should fully express our joy. Aharon was afraid that perhaps there was a tinge of unrecognized jealousy within him, and to go out with a full display of joy would be hypocritical. Had he known that the Torah would validate his complete joy, he would have greeted his brother with as full a band as he could gather.

When we want to validate another, let’s give him our full encouragement. After all, our words can have a great impact on another. One may not realize his inner ability and inner strength. Perhaps Aharon could have tapped into that joy in his heart to reach an even higher lever of joy for his brother, proposes Rav Shach. As Rabbi Grosbard suggests in Daas Schrage, because we usually don’t realize the importance of something, we don’t muster all our resources to overcome challenges. When we realize everything may depend on us, we will go well beyond what we believe we can do to ensure success.

Aharon’s joyful greeting of his brother was much more significant than a greeting within his molecular family. This meeting represented a rectification of all the sibling rivalries that had been the hallmark of every generation since the beginning of time, from the jealousy of Cain and Hevel until the present, writes Rabbi Wachtfogel. Had Aharon realized that, he would have gone much further in displaying his joy at his brother’s elevation.

What matters in Judaism, writes Rabbi Leff in Outlook and Insight, is not quantity but quality. If Moshe questioned his suitability to be the redeemer, certainly Aharon might have some doubt as well. With that tiny seed of doubt, Aharon may have held back on his complete expression of joy. We cannot control the outcome, but we can control the intensity of our desire in fulfilling Hashem’s commands.

Hashem wants from each of us according to our personal level, and Aharon was capable of more. This problem goes back to Adam’s sin writes the Sifsei Chaim. When Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, the line between good and evil became blurred. Then nothing remained purely good or purely evil. There was always a bit of good in everything evil and a smidgen of evil in everything good. Even when our goal is purely altruistic, there is a tiny touch of self gratification and ego in our action. While a perfected state is demanded, it is difficult if not impossible. Therefore it is important to think through all of our actions from every perspective.

If we understand that all our actions are eternal and recorded, that each action and each word can either hasten the redemption or delay it, we will ponder everything we do. The medrash continues that in the past, the prophet would write and record every mitzvah that a man would do. Now, without prophets, who records the actions of man? [In heaven] the Prophet Eliyahu and Moshiach, and Hashem puts His stamp on it. What is recorded in the Torah, writes Rabbi Bloch in Vayichtov Sefer Zikaron, are only those things that will have an impact on Bnei Yisroel and on building the world. Therefore, when we view seemingly minor details with our “Torah lens” to see the hidden truths within.

With this understanding, we may never know the significance of any of our actions, big or small. How often does someone tell us how something we did a long time ago but have completely forgotten has changed his life. The “Holy Scripture” of the world continues to be written in every generation, and we should hope our actions are significant enough to earn a positive mention or two, for every action we do impacts others.

The world is hanging on a thread, and every action we do has the power to fortify that rope or to weaken it. Even the smallest act is important. Do every mitzvah with joy, greet everyone with joy, and bring light into the world. As Netivei Shalom writes, do every mitzvah with sheleimus/wholehearted sincerity, for we do not know what impact it has on the world and for future generations.