Rabbi Frand on Parshas Shemini
These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi
Yissocher Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah
portion: Tape# 93, Melacha Before Havdala. Good Shabbos!
Guarding Against Feeling Too Good About Oneself
In this week's Parsha we have the culmination of the Seven Days of
Consecration, used to dedicate the Mishkan. On the eighth day,
Moshe called Aharon and told him which offerings to bring to finish
off the process of consecration. After they did everything, Moshe
said "This is the matter you shall do so that the Glory of G-d will
appear upon you." [Vayikra 9:6]
The Yalkut on this pasuk [verse] interprets these words to mean
"That Evil Inclination you should remove from your hearts." What
specific Evil Inclination (Yetzer Hara) is Moshe referring to over
(Several years ago we offered an interpretation from the Netziv on
this question. This year we will be giving different insight,
found in the Drash V'Iyun, by the Reisher Rav.)
The pasuk in Koheles says, "There is no righteous person in the
world who does (only) good, and does no evil" [Koheles 7:20]. The
Reisher Rav says that perhaps the pasuk means that even when a
person does a mitzvah, there is always the chance that in the
mitzvah itself, he will come to do some kind of a sin.
A person can give Tzedakah and feel good about himself, but the
Evil Inclination can creep in and he'll feel too good about himself
and become haughty. So, the pasuk means that even when a person
does a great act, it can be tainted by the wrong emotions or by
feelings of gayvah or the like.
It was at this time, says the Drash V'Iyun, that Klal Yisroel were
susceptible to such an Evil Inclination. Imagine the feeling.
Here they were, a people who just came out of slavery, and now they
built this beautiful edifice, with beautiful vessels. There was a
very real worry that they would feel too good about themselves.
There was the chance that they would succumb to the emotions of "my
strength and the power of my hand made all this might" [Devorim
8:17] -- it was our power, it was our money, it was our dedication,
It was at this juncture that Moshe tells them "That famous Yetzer
Hara" -- the Evil Inclination of feeling too good about doing a
Mitzvah, too smug and too satisfied about oneself -- is what you
have to watch out for at this moment of erecting the Mishkan.
The Requirement of Jewish Leadership: A Feeling of Unworthiness
The pasuk continues "And Moshe said to Aharon, Draw near to the
Altar and offer your Sin Offering and your Burnt Offering and Atone
for yourself and for the nation..." [9:7]
Rash"i cites an interesting Toras Kohanim. Aharon was embarrassed
at this point about going over and doing the Temple Service. Moshe
asked, "Why are you hesitant? This is what you were chosen for!"
Another Toras Kohanim says that Aharon saw the Altar appear to him
in the form of an Ox and was afraid to approach. Moshe told him to
get up the courage and approach the Altar.
What do Chaza"l mean when they say that the Altar appeared like an
Ox? One does not have to be a great Darshan, to suggest that the
purpose was to remind Aharon of the Sin of the (Golden) Calf. If
that was the case, however, shouldn't the Medrash have said that
the Altar appeared to him like a Calf, rather than like an Ox?
I saw a beautiful pshat from Rav Shlomo Breuer. The pasuk in
Tehillim [106:19-20] says, "They made a calf in Chorev... and they
switched their Allegiance to the form of an Ox." We see that the
sin started out as a calf, and somehow developed into an Ox. Rav
Shlomo Breuer says in the name of his father-in-law, Rav Samson
Raphael Hirsch, that Klal Yisroel never wanted a real Avodah Zarah.
They did not want to switch G-ds. What they wanted was an
intermediary. They were afraid that Moshe had died and they wanted
someone in his stead.
Aharon went ahead and made something that, in retrospect, we have
to say was a mistake. Aharon made a concession and said, "They want
an intermediary? I will pick something for them that there is no
way they will ever be able to transform it and give it any power.
I will pick a weak little calf. How can anybody think that a
little calf can become a G-d?"
What happened? The concession snow-balled and grew from being
merely a calf and turned into the form of an ox -- something having
its own power. This was Aharon's role in the Sin of the Calf --
making the concession of the calf that grew into an ox. That is
why the Altar appeared to him now in the form of an ox.
Now we can understand what Chaza"l mean. Aharon was afraid to
assume the High Priesthood. He said, "I once had my try at
leadership. I once tried to be a leader and I failed. I gave into
the people. I made a concession when I should have said a firm
'No.'" As a result of that concession, the calf became an ox. That
is why Aharon was hesitant. He felt he wasn't cut out for the job.
Moshe told him, "Why are you hesitant? This is the very reason you
were chosen!" One of the requirements of a Jewish Leader is to have
this sense of hesitancy, to feel unworthy. A leader who campaigns
for the position and says "I am the best man for the job" is not a
There was once a Jew who had such feelings. He thought that he was
the right man for the job. That man's name was Korach. We all know
what happened to Korach. Such a person is not worthy to be the
Hesitancy, embarrassment, intimidation, and humility are the very
essence of what is needed to be worthy of assuming Jewish leadership.
Mishkan -- Tabernacle
p'shat -- interpretation
tzedakah -- charity
Personalities & Sources:
Yalkut (Shimoni) --Midrashic anthology of Tanach attributed to Rav
Shimon HaDarshan of Frankfurt (13th century).
Rash"i -- Rav Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105); Torah commentator par
Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch --(1808-1888) Frankfurt-am-main; leader of
modern German-Jewish Orthodoxy.
Rav Shlomo Breuer --(1850-1936); Papa, Hungary; Frankfurt-am-main.
This week's write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi
Yissochar Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah
portion (#93). The corresponding halachic portion for this tape is: Melacha Before Havdala The other halachic portions for Shemini from
the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:
Also Available: Mesorah / Artscroll has published a collection
of Rabbi Frand's essays. The book is entitled:
and is available through Project Genesis On-Line Bookstore: