In Parshat Shemot, Hashem speaks to Moshe, telling him to go to Pharaoh to request a three day holiday for the Jews in order to enter the desert and serve Hashem. Moshe is very nervous about approaching Pharaoh. “For I am slow of speech and slow of tongue”. Hashem therefore replies, “Aharon your brother knows how to speak! He will assist you! And behold, when he goes out to meet you, he will be happy in his heart.”
וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֨ף יְהוָ֜ה בְּמֹשֶׁ֗ה וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הֲלֹ֨א אַהֲרֹ֤ן אָחִ֙יךָ֙ הַלֵּוִ֔י יָדַ֕עְתִּיכִּֽי־דַבֵּ֥ר יְדַבֵּ֖ר ה֑וּא וְגַ֤ם הִנֵּה־הוּא֙ יֹצֵ֣א לִקְרָאתֶ֔ךָ וְרָאֲךָ֖ וְשָׂמַ֥חבְּלִבּֽוֹ׃
The Gemara in Shabbat explains that because Aharon was happy for Moshe in his heart, בלבו, he was zocheh to the kehunah and to wear the חושן משפט על לבו. In this weeks Parshat Tetzevah, it is written, וְנָתַתָּ֞ אֶל־חֹ֣שֶׁן הַמִּשְׁפָּ֗ט אֶת־הָאוּרִים֙וְאֶת־הַתֻּמִּ֔ים וְהָיוּ֙ עַל־לֵ֣ב אַהֲרֹ֔ן בְּבֹא֖וֹ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וְנָשָׂ֣א אַ֠הֲרֹןאֶת־מִשְׁפַּ֨ט בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֧ל עַל־לִבּ֛וֹ לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָ֖ה תָּמִֽיד׃
We learn from this Pasuk the greatness of Aharon Hakohen. What was so special about his וְשָׂמַ֥ח בְּלִבּֽוֹ? This happiness for his brother stemmed from his לב, his heart. He was not a selfish person; Rather, he was sensitive and genuine. He was not jealous of his brother’s greatness; Rather, he was truly happy for him in his heart. This feeling was one of real שמחה, not merely an exterior one. But why did the genuine שמחה earn him the zechut to the חושן משפט? What was the function of the חושן משפט?
When an individual had a question, he would approach the Kohen Gadol and ask what to do in his current situation. The Kohen would receive Nevuah and as the answer would appear on the חושן, different stones would light up, revealing a message. However, the Kohen would have to use his חכמה in order to interpret this message from God.
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz explains that the Kohen Gadol who wore the חושן משפטה had to possess the מידה of empathy. He had to be able to look into another’s heart in order to see what he or she was going through, what their struggle was, and why they needed help. The message from God was not crystal clear. He still had to decode the given message and relate it to the individual’s life based on a deeper understanding.
In עלי הכהן ,ספר שמואל looks at חנה and doesn’t understand what she is doing. He sees a woman screaming out loud and can’t comprehend what’s going on before him. The חושן משפט lights up and reads עלי .שכרה immediately interprets this as “she is drunk”. However, he made a major mistake. Really, the letters spelled out, כשרה; she is like שרה אימנו- a woman who was also barren and longed for children. Why couldn’t עלי interpret the message correctly? עלי was lacking in his ability to be empathetic and intuitive. He couldn’t understand where חנה was coming from. He didn’t allow himself to look at the bigger picture; He mistook a woman in pain, a woman who for so many years was longing for a child, for a drunken low life. Because he lacked this מידה, he no longer was zocheh to have the Kehuna with him, and gradually, we see the descent of the house of עלי and the rise of שמואל as the new Kohen.
Naturally, Aharon was granted the Kehuna because this מידה of sensitivity and empathy was exactly what he possessed. This was his essence! His brother’s happiness was his happiness; his brother’s pain was his pain. Aharon is known as the “אוהב ורודף שלום”. Why was he so successful at bringing others together and making peace? He knew why each individual was in pain and why he was offended. He understood people and their emotions. He knew what to say to the other in order to create peace between the two because he understood the emotional scar that was on each’s’ heart.
Hashem is emphasizing the importance of being sensitive to other’s needs and taking action when another is in pain. These מידות are what Hashem recognizes as crucial in the leaders of בני ישראל. Rav Dessler comments that the מידה of נושא עול חבירו inculcated into the nation preceded Matan Torah because נושא עול חבירו represents חםד אמיתי.
One night, the holy Chofetz Chaim was outside lying on a bench in distress. His wife asked him why he was not in bed and was lying outside in the cold. He explained that he was thinking of the soldiers fighting on the front lines during WWI. How could he possibly sleep in peace while the soldiers were probably lying in their bunkers starving and freezing cold?
The focus on this מידה of נושא עול חבירו was not only for Moshe and Aharon. This מידה is crucial for us to practice and take seriously as well. May we learn from these examples what it really means to be one with your brothers of עם ישראל. May we strive toward the level of עם אחד ולב אחד.
Student Studying in MMY