Thursday, March 31, 2016

why Moshe could not serve as kohen gadol

Not a lot to say yet this week : (

1) The Ba’al haTurim at the opening of our parsha writes that because Moshe spent seven days by the burning bush arguing against accepting the mission of leading Klal Yisrael out of galus therefore he served as kohen gadol for only seven days.

The Midrash (also quoted in Rashi Shmos 4:10 and Ramban there explains similarly) writes that Moshe did not want to accept the job as go'el because he wanted his brother Aharon to have the kavod of being the leader. For this Moshe is punished?

The purpose of the Mishkan (at least according to some Rishonim) was to show that Hashem forgave the cheit ha’eigel. Aharon himself was directly involved in the cheit ha’eigel, and nonetheless, davka Aharon was chosen to be the kohen gadol and run the show. Moshe was denied the privilege perhaps not as a punishment, but simply because based on his reaction to Hashem’s charge at the burning bush, he disqualified himself. If Moshe couldn’t look beyond his perceived unworthiness and take the job then, how would he now be able to look beyond the past sin of cheit ha’eigel and accept the job of running the Mishkan?

The Ohr haChaim comments on “V’atah hakreiv eilecha es Aharon achicha” (why the extra “eilecha?”) that Moshe’s appointment of Aharon was itself a korban (“hakreiv”) of sorts to atone for his refusal to assume the mantle of leadership when Hashem offered it to him at the sneh.

2) Chazal ask why Klal Yisrael had to bring a sa’ir korban along with a par while Aharon did not.  The Toras Kohanim answers that Klal Yisrael was guilty of selling Yosef, for which they shechted a sa’ir and put the blood on the ksones pasim, and they were guilty of the cheit ha’eigel -- 2 sins, 2 korbanos.  Aharon, however, was guilty only of the cheit ha’eigel. Kli Yakar explains that even though Levi had also participated in the sale of Yosef, Aharon, the great oheiv shalom and rodef shalom, had already eradicated the animosity and jealously that was at the root of that sin.  Therefore, he was exempt from the need for kaparah for it.  

Why is the cheit of mechiras Yosef being brought up now?  Meshech Chochma explains that the brothers had a potential “out” for the sale of Yosef.  They could have argued that he should have given them tochacha directly rather than go to Ya’akov.  When Chur gave them tochacha directly to try to forestall the cheit ha’eigel and was killed as a result, it stripped the excuse for mechiras Yosef of whatever credibility it might have had.  

Why should the rejection of tochacha by Klal Yisrael at the cheit ha’eigel have any bearing on the culpability of their great… great grandparents for selling Yosef?  How does the rejection of tochacha by the eigel worshippers prove that the brothers would have also rejected direct tochacha from Yosef?   

I don’t think this is a question. We enjoy zechus Avos because we assume the traits of chessed, of mesirus nefesh, etc. that the Avos exhibited became part of our spiritual DNA. It is part of who we are, even if we don't always live up to our abilities.  If the assumption works in one direction, it has to work in the other direction as well. The rejection of tochacha in such a blatant and flagrant way, by killing Chur, didn’t come form nowhere – it must have become ingrained at some point in the past.  The seeds were planted already when the brothers rejected Yosef.


  1. #2 - Bechira Chufshis? Can we really assume people would have acted a certain way if the opportunity was never provided to them? Do we not have the power to choose (right or wrong) in any situation - ? (Like you said at first - it's hard to retroactively pin theoretical actions on people).

    1. If your father has brown hair and your mother has brown hair, you probably will have brown hair even if your bechira is otherwise. There are midos that are so ingrained (e.g. yisrael bayshanim, rachmanim, gomlei chassadim) that they are part of who a person is irrespective of bechira. See Derashos haRan on why Avraham wanted a wife from Yitchak who had good midos even if she might have been a oveid avodah zarah (or come from such a society).
      (from Chaim)

  2. I hear and yet LFA"D, the vort is more compelling as drush. Perhaps we agree on this point :).

    (To me, there's still a difference between general traits vs. day-to-day moral decisions that could go either way. Connecting (the only? no.) the two times in the Torah's history when Tochacha was somewhat involved is a little far-fetched).

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.