From the team at Halacha Yomit
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)
The Parasha states, “And these are the generations of Aron and Moshe on the day Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mt. Sinai” (Bamidbar 3:1).
Rashi highlights that is states these are the generations of “Aron and Moshe” but when it mentions the generations it only mentions Aron’s children and not Moshe’s. The explanation is that since Moshe taught Aron’s sons, the Torah considers it as if they were his children [too], because anyone who teachers his fellows children Torah is as if they bore them (Sanhedrin 19b).
Rabbeinu the Orach Chaim HaKadosh z”l adds a further reason why Moshe was considered the father of his nephews, because Moshe prayed that they not die. As it states after the episode of the Golden Calf, “Hashem expressed great anger toward Aron, threatening to destroy him, at that time” (Devarim 9:20).
The intention of “to destroy him” is that his sons not die, chas veshalom, without their own offspring. With the merit of Moshe’s prayers Aron was left with two of his four sons. Our chachamim explain that the effect of Moshe’s prayer was that Elazar and Itamar not die, therefore it is befitting that the Torah refers to them as the sons of Moshe and Aron.
When Moshe saw Aron after the episode of the Golden Calf, he realised that he was distressed because through him the Bnei Yisrael sinned a frightening sin. He harnessed all his senses and put himself forward to save Aron and his sons that they not die. He channelled all his energy to unite with his brother’s distress, transitioning from a brother in distress to a father in distress, and then transitioning further to he himself being in distress. Through this, he came to pray before Hashem Yitbarach, pouring out his soul. He merited that Hashem listened to his prayer and Aron’s sons were saved from death.
And likewise the commentaries explain Moshe’s prayer after the sin of the Gold Calf, “Moshe began to plead before Hashem his G-d” (Shemot 32:11), meaning that Moshe became ill because of Israel’s sin, as if he himself was enduring the pain.
When we contemplate this, it appears that Moshe Rabbeinu was a king over Israel and he totally cleaved to Hashem our G-d. When he saw that the Bnei Yisrael had sinned, he should have expressed anger towards them and reprimand them as fools, for one day’s delay which you miscalculated you went and worshipped idols? For sure they should be punished and Hashem would have just left Moshe alive and all of Yisrael would have then been descended from him, good children of Hashem. Yet despite this, Moshe Rabbeinu’s perspective was that if Yisrael are in pain so am I in pain and all the considerations to justify Yisrael’s pain is just empty chit chat that should not be considered. And now it is my responsibility to ascertain ways to bring my people out of their current distress.
Many prophets learnt from the behaviour of Moshe the master of all prophets. Midrash Eicha explains that Nevuchadnetzar commanded his officer Nevuzarden three things regarding Yirmiyahu. 1) Take him and keep your eyes on him, 2) on him and not his nation, and 3) don’t cause him any harm. This was all to avoid causing Yirmiyahu any harm. Yet regarding Klal Yisrael he commanded that they pursue them to destruction, to destroy, kill, crush and smash. It is related that Yirmiyahu saw some young men in chains, Yirmiyahu placed his head shackled with theirs. Nevuzarden came and removed him. Yirmiyahu saw a group of old men in iron chains, he placed his head with them. Nevuzarden came and released him. Because Nevuzarden was afraid since King Nevuchadnetzar had commanded not to cause any harm to Yirmiyahu the prophet.
Nevuzarden said to Yirmiyahu, what are you doing? Either you are a false prophet or you reject afflictions or are a murderer. Because for many years you prophesied to Bnei Yisrael that his city will be destroyed. And now that you see that your words are being fulfilled why are you in pain? I do not wish to cause you harm and yet you cause all these harms to yourself. Are afflictions not significant to you? Or perhaps you wish to harm yourself? If anything bad happens to you the king will kill me, therefore go from here. Immediately and in a state of anger Nevuzarden sent Yirmiyahu away.
Nevuzarden was the lowest of the low and was incapable of understanding Yirmiyahu’s actions, namely that he was carrying his fellows’ burdens with them. Even though Yisrael had sinned and were due to be punished, still, one has to empathise and experience their pain too. And when Yisrael are in pain, Yirmiyahu couldn’t sit with folded arms and say “peace on my soul”, but he was compelled to give encouragement as much as he was able to in this dire situation and to make every effort to assist Yisrael. All this Yirmiyahu learnt from Moshe Rabbeinu.
Also Aron Moshe’s brother learnt from Moshe this correct behaviour when Miriam was afflicted with tzara’at. He stood before Moshe and said, “Please, do not hold a grudge against us for acting foolishly and sinning. Let [Miriam] not be like a stillborn child…” (Bamidbar 12:11-12).
Aron not only sought that Moshe pray for Miriam to get better but he also included himself in Miriam’s sin, “for we have sinned”. He was prepared to put himself on the line for Miriam his sister that she not die in from her tzara’at.
In the merit of him sacrificing himself for Miriam he merited that Miriam is associated with his name, as the passuk states: “Miriam the prophetess, Aron’s sister, took the tambourine in her hand” (Shemot 15:20). Rashi asks, the sister of Aron and not Moshe? But because he was willing to sacrifice himself for her when she was smitten with tzara’at, she is called after his name.
From here we may learn that a person should always open his eyes and see his sons and neighbours and all those who come in his contact to ascertain if they are lacking anything which he may be able to assist with. If he can give a helping hand, that is good, and if he cannot extend a helping hand, then nothing should prevent him from praying for his fellow with a prayer before Hashem. Perhaps He will agree to forgive and Hashem will hear his prayer, and it will be good for him too because of this.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.