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Not to be taken Lightly

Written by Rabbi Daniel Leeman

After the tribal leaders brought inauguration offerings to the newly constructed Tabernacle, Aharon felt dejected that he and his tribe of Levi were excluded [1].

But why did Aharon feel dejected – after all the tribal leaders offerings were brought with a motivation of repenting for their previous laxity in bringing donations towards the construction of the Tabernacle [2].
Besides which, a part of the tribal leaders dedications were (wagons for carrying the dismantled Tabernacle which were) anyway for the direct benefit of the Levites – making their service (of carrying the dismantled wagons) possible!

Furthermore, we have been taught that the tribal leaders brought their offerings of their own volition but that they were nonetheless accepted because their intentions were pure [3]. So instead of feeling left out, why didn’t Aharon (who surely also had pure intentions) instead join in and also bring an offering just like the tribal leaders?

And finally, it seems [4] that Aharon and his sons did in fact participate in the Tabernacle service, in the form of conferring the Priestly blessings, even before the tribal leaders brought their offerings?

In consolation to Aharon’s feeling of dejection, he was promised that “his portion would be greater than theirs (the tribal leaders)” which is explained to be referring to lighting the Menorah (candelabra).
But, after considering the above issues and putting the situation into its proper context, why was credence given to Aharon’s seemingly unfound feelings of dejection. And – being that his feelings of dejection were essentially confirmed – how exactly was he consoled; and how would lighting the Menora be ‘greater’ than the tribal leader’s offerings?

David Chase, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist, was one vacating on his private yacht. Being particular to pray every day, each morning he would ask the captain which way the yacht was facing so that he would know towards which direction to pray. After several days into the cruise, Dick Winters, the non-Jewish captain, intrigued by Chase’s questioning, asked him for an explanation. Chase explained that according to Jewish law, it is preferable to face towards the East, in the direction of Jerusalem, when praying.

A few days later, the yacht docked into Block Island and Winters approached Chase with a request to leave the boat for an hour or two. Chase granted permission and asked Winters where he was intending to go.
“I would like to go to my prayer-house,” replied Winters, “You pray to your G-d every morning, and I am beginning to feel guilty that I do not follow my faith. So I want to go to say my prayers”.

Aharon recognised the truth behind the teaching that a penitent can ultimately attain greater heights than even a completely righteous person [5] and subsequently he felt inferior. His comfort was that through his and his son’s merits, just like the Menorah did [6], they too would bring light to the world, generating, and therefore ‘greater’ than [7], many, many penitents throughout the generations [8].

The story is told of a certain man who went to pray at the Western Wall. A wealthy tourist witnessed the man praying fervently and was inspired. After doing a little research as to which synagogue the man was affiliated to (based on his unique dress code), the wealthy tourist donated a fortune to the man’s synagogue.

Students are also referred to as “sons” [9] and what’s more: today, anyone dedicating himself to Divine service, becomes a part of the Levite family [10]. Each one of us can therefore, through our merits, be ‘greater’ that the tribal leaders, bringing a ‘great light’ to the world.

Have a praysworthy Shabbos,


Additional sources:
[1] Rashi, Bamidbar 8:2
[2] Rashi, Shemos 35:27
[3] Rashi, Bamidbar 7:10 (Sifri 7:152)
[4] Rabbeinu Bachya, Bamidbar 7:1
[5] Sanhedrin 99a
[6] Medrash Tanchuma, Tetzaveh 7
[7] See Bava Basra 9a
[8] See also Ramban, Bamidbar 7:1
[9] Sifri, Vaeschanan 34
[10] Rambam, Hilchos Shemitta v’Yovel 13:13

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