This Dvar Torah is dedicated in memory of my Rosh HaYeshiva, Moreinu viRabbeinu HaRav Alter Chanoch Henoch ben Chaim Dovid Leibowitz ztzk”l, Rosh Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim, upon his yahretzeit which was Yud Nissan.
Only because of Moshe Rabbeinu’s prayer was Hashem willing to send a message to Aharon in the beginning of this week’s Torah portion of Tzav. If not for this prayer, Hashem would not want anything to do with Aharon Kohen Gadol after his involvement with the sin of the Golden Calf.
In fact, the Rosh summarizing a Medrish Rabba (Vayikra 7:1) in the beginning of this week’s parsha of Tzav which asks, “’Why wasn’t the name of Aharon mentioned in the Torah portion of Vayikra? It was because he was reprimanded for the action of the golden calf, only his sons [were mentioned, ‘Bnei Aharon’ or ‘hakohen.’ And the two times (2:3&10) in last week’s parsha that it says Aharon and his sons was only because the Torah had to differentiate between the kohen gadol and the other kohanim so Hashem felt it was not worth using extra ink just to punish Aharon.] Moshe said before Hashem, ‘Master Of The World is a pit ever hated and it’s water pleasant? Didn’t you have mercy on the olive and warned not to cut olive wood for the sake of the oil which is needed for light and meal offerings? So to, the children of Aharon are beloved before you and you don’t have mercy on the honor of their father?’ Only then did The Master acquiesce to the student and said, ‘Command Aharon’ (Vayikra 6:2).’ One can ask, what does hatred towards the father have to do with loving the sons? This can be answered with a parable to a king who had servants and two lads were guardsmen who were handsome and very strong who always walked with him. Their father was a villager. The king said it is better to make the father a knight in order to call the children sons of knights, even though the father was appalling in the king’s eyes. So too, the children of Aharon were beloved by Hashem and in their honor He called to their father and commanded him what He commanded.” (Click here and here for Hebrew text.)
We must put into perspective Aharon’s involvement in the sin of the golden calf. He by no means had any intent of creating an idol or in fact doubted that his brother Moshe would come back. Indeed, he only advised the ringleaders of the rebellion to make the golden calf in order to buy time for Moshe to come back, because they had miscalculated Moshe’s return. Aharon told them to collect gold jewelry from their wives, who he knew would refuse, but he did not realize the men would force it off them. This was after his uncle, Chur, was already killed by the mob trying to calm them down. So, whatever got Hashem upset and therefore decided to not address Aharon in the Torah portion of Vayikra, and only do so after Moshe beseeched Him to do so for his children’s sake, it must have been because of some very slight misjudgment that lead to the whole debacle. Aharon is known to have been one who ran after peace, a rodef shalom; but Hashem judges his righteous strictly, according to their level. This is analogous to a concept the Ramban mentions in the beginning of his sefer about reward and punishment, Sha’ar HaGemul, where he talks about the famous Chaza”l of when Hashem judges the world on Rosh Hashana, those who are righteous go straight to life, those who are wicked go straight to death and those in the middle are held in limbo until Yom Kippur. The Ramban mentions that included in ‘the wicked’ are “those of good deeds who transgress only one sin but are sentenced on Rosh Hashana to death, meaning they will die this coming year or live through some challenging illnesses, a life of suffering and tribulation, which just means he was sentenced to a judgement of a totally wicked person even though he is in fact righteous and deserving of life in the World to Come.” We see that a person can be viewed in “the eyes of Hashem” as being wicked at this moment, even though he is in fact very righteous. For this reason Aharon fell out of favor with Hashem after his involvement with the sin of the golden calf.
But what did it help to ask Hashem to elevate Aharon’s status for the sake of his children, out of respect for them, which really is for Hashem’s honor as well? Isn’t it a game, doesn’t it sound like a lack of truth to promote someone who doesn’t deserve a promotion on his own merits?
However, of course that can’t be true. Hashem is absolutely honest and by definition He is perfectly truthful. Rather it must be that granted on his own personal merits Aharon did not deserve to be addressed at that time, which when thinking about it is a great travesty for him because the Book of Vayikra, the service of the Kohanim in the Mishkan is Aharon’s whole essence. It’s his most important role in life and now Hashem refuses to talk to him about it, only to his children?! However, the very fact that he has children so beloved to Hashem is a merit for his promotion and that is duly justified.
Coincidentally (or not so coincidentally…) this week’s haftorah for Shabbos Hagadol concludes, “that he may turn the heart of the fathers back through the children, and the heart of the children back through their fathers” (Malachi 3:24).