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SEPARATE BUT EQUAL

by Avi Wagner    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"This was the Aaron and Moses to whom Hashem said 'Take the Children of Israel out of Egypt according to their legions'" (Exodus 6:26).

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"This was the Aaron and Moses to whom Hashem said 'Take the Children of Israel out of Egypt according to their legions'" (Exodus 6:26).

Following the Levite genealogy towards the beginning of last week's Torah portion, the Torah begins to describe the unfolding of the exodus. Rashi, the classic commentator on the Torah, points out that sometimes Moses is mentioned before Aaron, while at other times Aaron is mentioned before Moses, in order to illustrate that the two are equal. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, one of the greatest scholars and leaders of the past generation, wonders how this equation can be true. Moses was the greatest of all prophets. If so, how can Rashi suggest that the two are equal? A possible explanation, says Rabbi Feinstein, is that while Moses and Aaron were unequal in prophecy, they were equivalent in their behavior in an aspect relevant to the verse's context - their role in the redemption. They were both indispensable to the mission's success.

Perhaps we can suggest an additional approach. The rabbis teach in Ethics of Our Fathers (1:12), "Be of the students of Aaron: Love peace and pursue peace, love others and bring them closer to the Torah." The Vilna Gaon, the brilliant 18th century Torah scholar, commenting on the Biblical source of "love others," cites the Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin 110a) where our sages learn from Moses' conciliatory dealings with the rebels Datan and Aviram (Numbers 16:12), having approached them immediately after their protest in order to end the conflict, that one should not remain in a quarrel.

With the Vilna Gaon's linkage of the two sources, we can better understand Rashi's equation. While unequal in prophetic vision, Moses and Aaron had a common approach to public relations. In performing their mission, the redemption of the Jewish people, with a human touch, Moses and Aaron successfully removed Hashem's people from the toil of bondage.

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Avi Wagner, an alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, is studying abroad at the Yeshiva Bais Yisrael in Jerusalem.

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