Rabbi Frand on Parshas Sh'mini
This dvar Torah was adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi
Frand's Weekly Portion Torah Tapes: Tape # 456, Gelatin: Is It Kosher?
It Is Certainly Not MY Fault!
This week's parsha begins with the "Eighth Day." During the previous
week the Jewish people had occupied themselves with what is known as the
"Seven Days of Consecration" leading up to the inauguration of the
Mishkan. All that was left to happen on the eighth day was for the
Divine Presence of G-d to descend and become noticeable in the Mishkan.
Rashi, at the beginning of the Parsha, cites the following Medrash:
"When Aharon saw that all the sacrifices were offered and all the
rituals were performed, yet the Shechinah [Divine Presence] did not
descend upon Israel, he was distressed. He said, 'I know that G-d is
angry with me and because of me, the Shechinah did not descend upon
Israel.'" Moshe tried to tell Aharon this was not the case, but Aharon
Let us imagine how Aharon must have felt. Here he was, serving as the
Kohen Gadol [High Priest]. He was representing the entire Jewish nation.
Only recently, the entire nation had sullied themselves through the sin
of the Golden Calf. The active participants were killed shortly after
the incident. However, it was not only the active participants who
perpetrated that sin. Virtually the entire nation was sullied by the
Golden Calf. When Moshe, having descended from the mountain, discovered
what had transpired, he raised the banner and called "Who is for G-d,
let him join with me." Only the tribe of Levi gathered around Moshe to
defend G-d's honor. The rest of the people were tolerant enough of what
had transpired that they did not rally around that banner.
If we were Aharon, we could have very easily shifted the blame, for the
failure of the Shechinah to descend, to the nation. "We acted for the
Sake of Heaven. We, the tribe of Levi and the Kohanim are not to blame.
It is the people's fault that the Divine Presence failed to descend! It
is certainly not our fault!"
Rav Yeruchem Levovitz says that this Medrash demonstrates the tremendous
strength of character of Aharon. When something goes wrong, most of
humanity says, "it is HIS fault!" When there are gatherings for
repentance and introspection as a result of tragedies in a community,
Heaven forbid, our reaction is invariably "I wonder what OTHER people
are doing wrong!"
Aharon demonstrated the exact opposite reaction. His a priori assumption
was "it must be MY fault!" If more of us had this attitude, rather than
looking around and saying "who could it be?" or "what are THEY doing
wrong?" then we would be a better people and the community would be a
I once heard a very powerful insight from the Brisker Rov, zt"l. When
Yonah was on the boat and the boat was about to break up, all the
sailors prayed to their gods. Again, if we were in a similar situation,
what would our reaction be? What if we were on an airplane and things
became very turbulent, or Heaven forbid there was engine trouble?
Everyone would become panicky and would start praying to the 'gods' of
their religion. Wouldn't our reaction be "You guys keep quiet -- I'll
daven!"? Would we not think "How will we ever survive if these guys are
worshiping foreign gods - they are making matters worse, not better"?
Yonah was in a similar situation. He was on the boat and everyone was
carrying on. This sailor invoked this Avodah Zarah and that sailor
invoked that Avodah Zarah. The boat was on the verge of shattering. Yet,
Yonah - in the presence of all the idolaters - was convinced that it was
his own fault. The boat was not on the verge of destruction because of
the idolaters. Yonah was convinced that the boat was on the verge of
destruction because of him, the righteous prophet.
Yonah was in fact correct. It was the very fact of his righteousness and
lineage and stature that convinced him - correctly - that it was HIS
fault! He should know better. More is expected of him. The greater the
person is, the greater the responsibility for success or failure.
This too was the reaction of Aharon. The blame was not placed on the
people who just worshiped the Golden Calf. He accepted the blame on his
own shoulders, because responsibility comes with greatness.
This must be our attitude as well. Our "holy community" ought not look
elsewhere to find blame when "bad things happen." Yes, there is
intermarriage and yes, there is abandonment of Torah and the basics of
Judaism elsewhere. Yet despite many failings of so much of the Jewish
People who are not observant, it is not necessarily THEIR fault. "For I
know that it is because of me that this great tempest is upon you"
When a community 'knows better' - when they know what is right and what
is wrong, the responsibility lies with them. This must be our attitude,
the attitude of Aharon the Kohen Gadol and of Yonah the prophet. If we
would have that attitude and use it to improve our lives then we would
merit the descent of the Shechinah, speedily may it come in our days.
This write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher
Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah Portion. The
halachic topics covered for the current week's portion in this series are:
Tape # 005 - Medicines Containing Chometz
Tape # 050 - The Tuna Fish Controversy
Tape # 093 - Melacha Before Havdalah
Tape # 141 - Using a Mikveh for Non-Orthodox Conversions
Tape # 188 - Netilas Yadayim for Bread and Fruit
Tape # 234 - Netilas Yadayim at Breakfast: Is One "Washed Up" for the
Tape # 278 - Netilas Yadayim and Chatzizah
Tape # 324 - Sefiras Ha'omer
Tape # 368 - Don't Drink and Daven
Tape # 412 - Minhagim of the Days of Sefira
Tape # 456 - Gelatin: Is It Kosher?
Tape # 500 - Is Turkey Kosher?
Tape # 544 - Bedikas Chametz
Tape # 588 - The Aveil and the Haircut
Tape # 632 - Baal Teshaktzu - Abstaining From Unpleasant Behaviour
Tape # 676 - Buffalo, Giraffe, and other Exotic Animals -- Are they
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Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Yissocher Frand and Torah.org.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Seattle, Washington.
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Yerushalayim.
Rav Frand Books and Audio Tapes are now available for sale! Thanks to www.yadyechiel.org and Artscroll.com.