Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen – Parsha Tetzaveh – Moshe And Aaron – Brothers Dwelling Together

Shemos, 4:13: “He (Moshe) replied, ‘Please, my Lord, send through whomever you will send!’  The wrath of HaShem burned against Moshe and He said, ‘Is there not Aaron your brother, the Levi?  I know that he will surely speak; moreover, behold, he is going out to meet you and when he sees you he will rejoice in his heart.”

Shemos, 28:15, 30: “And you will make a Breastplate of Judgment (Choshen HaMishpat) of woven design…Into the Breastplate of Judgment you will place the Urim V’Tumim and they will be on Aaron’s heart when he comes before HaShem…”

Gemara, Shabbos, 139a: And Rebbe Milai says, ‘In the merit of, ‘and he (Aaron) will rejoice in his heart’ he merited to have the Choshen HaMishpat on his heart.

In Parshas Tetzaveh we find the Mitzva to make the priestly garments for Aaron and his sons. The regular Kohen’s uniform consisted of four garments and the uniform of the Kohen Gadol consisted of eight garments. One of these eight garments was a breast plate known as the Choshen HaMishpat which was worn on his heart.  The Gemara[1] explains that Aaron merited to wear the Choshen HaMishpat on his heart, because of the fact that “he rejoiced in his heart” when he saw his younger brother, Moshe Rabbeinu,return to Mitzrayim as the newly-appointed leader, even though it meant that Moshe would be replacing Aaron himself as the leader.  The Choshen HaMishpat was not just an item of clothing, it also contained the Urim V’Tumim.

The commentaries offer various explanations as to why Aaron’s joy in his heart in particular was the source of the merit that he wore the Choshen HaMishpat.  The Maharsha explains that since Aaron was happy in his heart, measure for measure, he merited to wear the Choshen HaMishpat that covered the heart.  The Maharsha adds that this comes to stress that he was not just externally happy, rather he was totally glad in his heart about the success of Moshe Rabbeinu even though it meant that he would no longer be the leader.

The Drashas HaRan[2] discusses the deeper symbolism of the connection between Aaron’s joy and the Choshen HaMishpat.  As mentioned above, the Choshen HaMishpat also contained the Urim V’Tumim.  What exactly was the Urim V’Tumim? If the Jewish people had some type of question of national import, they would go to the Kohen Gadol, he would pose the question to the Urim V’Tumim, and the lights of the letters on the Choshen haMishpat would illuminate in such a way as to spell out the miraculously communicated answer. Thus, the Urim V’Turim was basically just a drop below the level of Prophecy in terms of the Kohen Gadol receiving HaShem’s word.   The Ran notes that Prophecy is not something that we associate with the Kohen Gadol.  His role was in the realm of Avodah, while Prophets were in a totally separate category.   This begs the questions of why here is the Kohen Gadol in particular, the person who is chosen to communicate with HaShem via the Urim V’Tumim in a form of pseudo-prophecy?

The Ran answers that it is because of Aaron’s response to the news that Moshe Rabbeinu would be the leading Prophet of the Jewish people in place of Aaron.  Chazal teach that Aaron did have Prophecy in the eighty years that he led the Jewish people before Moshe Rabbeinu became leader.[3]  Thus, it would have been understandable if Aaron would feel some small tinge of pain that he was losing his position as leading Prophet.  However, on the contrary, Aaron demonstrated true happiness when he greeted Moshe after Moshe’s assumption of leadership and Prophecy amongst the nation. As a measure for measure reward for this joy, Aaron merited the reward that he received prophecy as well through his control of the Urim V’Tumim.

Thus far we have seen how Aaron felt absolutely no jealousy towards Moshe, and was as happy at Moshe’s success as his own.  Do we see that Moshe reciprocated this attitude?  Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt”l[4] brings a number of sources to prove that he did.  He cites the verse in Tehillim[5], “A Song of Ascents to David: Behold how good and how pleasant is it when brothers dwell together in unity. Like the precious oil upon the head running down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down over his garments.” The Midrash[6] states that David HaMelech is referring to the brothers, Moshe and Aaron.  The Midrash notes the double usage of the word ‘beard’ and it explains that this come to teach that when the oil ran down the beard of Aaron, it was as if it also ran down the beard of Moshe himself because Moshe was as one with his brother.  Thus, Moshe viewed Aaron’s joy as the same as his own.

Rav Shmuelevitz uses this idea to explain an interesting Gemara[7].  At the Burning Bush, after Moshe’s persistent refusal to lead the Jewish people, the Torah relates that HaShem grew angry[8], but the Torah does not seem to tell us of any consequence of this anger, or punishment to Moshe.  Accordingly, Rav Yehoshua Ben Korcha understands that this is the only place in the Torah where there is no punishment after HaShem’s anger.  However, Rebbe Yosi disagrees and says that the very next words show that there was a punishment: HaShem says, “Is there not Aaron your brother the Levi? I know that he will surely speak”.  Rebbe Yosi explains that by calling Aaron Levi, HaShem was alluding the fact that up until then Aaron was supposed to be a mere Levi while Moshe would be the Kohen Gadol, but as a punishment for his refusal to listen to HaShem’s instructions, Moshe would no longer be the Kohen Gadol and Aaron would assume that role.   The simple understanding of this dispute is that they disagree as to whether the words describing Aaron as a Levi was an allusion to Moshe losing the Kehunah to his brother.  However, Rav Shmuelveitz suggests that everyone agrees that HaShem was alluding to this punishment, but Rebbe Yehoshua Ben Korcha understands that Moshe was on such a level of unity with his brother, that he felt absolutely no pain at the fact that Aaron would be the Kohen Gadol in his place.

Needless to say, Moshe and Aaron reached an incredibly high level of absence of jealousy and joy at each other’s success.  However, in truth, this is not considered a Middos Chassidus – the Ramban understands that this is a fundamental part of the obligation of the fundamental Mitzva of ‘V’ahavta lereyecha kemocha’.  He holds that the essence of the Mitzva is to want what’s best for one’s fellow, and to remove any vestiges of jealousy at his fellow’s success. Moshe and Aaron perfected this Mitzva – may we merit to emulate them.

[1] Shabbos, 139a.

[2] Drashas HaRan, 3, cited by Rav Yissachar Frand shlit’a.

[3] Midrash Tanchuma, Shemos, 27, cited by Rashi, Shmuel Aleph, 2”27, Dh: Hanigleh:

[4] Sichos Mussar, Maamar 51.

[5] Tehillim, 133:1-2.

[6] Vayikra Rabbah, 3:6.

[7] Zevachim, 102a, also cited by Rashi, Shemos, 4:14, Dh:Vayichar Af:

[8]Shemos, 4:13.