Who was greater: Moshe or Aharon?
In Parshat Va’era the Torah provides us with the genealogy of the tribe of Levi. We arrive in this list at the household of Amram and Yocheved and there we are introduced to their two sons, Moshe and Aharon. And then the Torah says (Shemot 6:26),
“Hu Aharon uMoshe,” – “This was the Aharon and Moshe, the people who stood before Pharaoh and delivered us from Egypt,”
and then that statement concludes,
“Hu Moshe v’Aharon,” – “That, of course was Moshe and Aharon.”
So here we have in one and the same statement, first Aharon and Moshe, and then Moshe and Aharon. The order is reversed.
Now, we know from other instances in the Torah that whenever this happens the message is one of equality. For example, in the Ten Commandments we are told (Shemot 20:12),
“Kabed et avicha v’et imecha,” – “Honour your father and your mother,”
and then in Parshat Kedoshim we are told (Vayikra 19:3),
“Ish imo v’aviv tira’u,” – “everybody should revere their mother and their father.”
The order is reversed in order to let us know that in our home, fathers and mothers are of equal standing.
So therefore the Torah here wants us to know that Aharon and Moshe were equals.
But then we must ask, does the Torah itself not say,
“Velo kam kemoshe od navi,” – “Moshe was the greatest prophet of them all,”
“Moshe anav mikol adam,” – “Moshe was more humble than any person.”
It is clear throughout the Torah that Moshe was the more famous and his impact on the nation and on generations to come was far more significant than Aharon so therefore why are we told that they are equals?
Rav Moshe Feinstein gives a wonderful answer. He says that Moshe was great because Moshe achieved his ultimate maximum personal potential, and Aharon did the same. He achieved his personal maximum potential, and that’s why they were equally great.
From here the message is that when it comes to achievement we shouldn’t, in a state of weakness, compare ourselves to others. We shouldn’t think about who is better than whom. Rather, the way Hashem views it is in terms of us ourselves: to what degree are we maximising our opportunities, using our talent, using our ability in order to guarantee that the potential that Hashem has given us will not be squandered.
So who was greater, Moshe or Aharon? They were equally great. And what’s wonderful to know is that each and every one of us can also be just as great as them.