WITHOUT FURTHER ADO
by Avraham Chaim
Many times it is very clear to us that we really should be taking care of something, but we find ourselves delaying its performance for a great period of time. Once we finally take care of it, we often feel a sense of shock at how simple it was, and are frustrated that we did not just do it earlier.
Many times it is very clear to us that we really should be taking care of something, but we find ourselves delaying its performance for a great period of time. Once we finally take care of it, we often feel a sense of shock at how simple it was, and are frustrated that we did not just do it earlier. Usually our excuse for procrastinating is that we do not have the strength needed to perform the task, or we have other things that need to be taken care of first. Perhaps we can learn a lesson in how to better exercise our own will from a Midrash on this week's Torah portion. The Midrash asks why it is that the verse calls the high priest the "Kohen hagadol me'echav - the priest who is greater than his brothers." The Midrash goes on to list five qualities that the high priest must possess, one of which is gevurah, strength. As proof, the Midrash states that Aaron waved 22,000 Levites in one day, lifting each of them to and fro, up and down.
What is so special about mere physical strength that it becomes a necessary prerequisite for a Kohen's being appointed as high priest? We actually find the same requirement with regard to a prophet. The Talmud (Tractate Nedarim 38a) states that Hashem only rests His Divine presence on a man of strength. The Rambam, one of the leading Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, actually interprets this to mean one who overcomes his evil inclination.
Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz, one of the towering Torah figures of the previous generation, addresses these questions with a concept based on verses in Proverbs: "I passed by the field of a lazy man, and by the vineyard of a man lacking heart, and, behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; nettles had covered its surface; and its stone wall was broken down. When I saw this, I set my heart to understand; I saw and accepted discipline" (24:30-32). The verse speaks about a "lazy person" and "a man lacking heart" as being the same person, suggesting that laziness comes about through lack of heart. Rabbi Shmulevitz explains that "a man lacking heart" is one who knows what his task is, and to whom it is very clear why and how he should be doing something, but fails to translate his intellectual realization into a concrete drive of the heart. Without this heartfelt vigor, he is unable to accomplish much besides dragging himself into frustration. King Solomon, author of Proverbs, teaches us that intellect alone will not suffice. One needs to observe and take in the facts himself.
We often avoid many tasks with the excuse that "I'm tired now." We may indeed be tired, but if we had a real, unadulterated drive to do it, we would look at things differently. Rabbi Shmulevitz explains that physical strength and spiritual capability are actually related. One who possesses a sincere ambition will be able to accomplish much more than his normal capacity. Although Aaron may not have normally been able to wave so many people on one day, his will to fulfill the commandment to do so was such that he was given special strength. It is now apparent why strength is an integral attribute of both the high priest and the prophet. Indeed, he must be one who is able to overcome his own desires, as the Rambam says, but this power stems from the same trait which will allow him to accomplish great physical feats as well.
Avraham Chaim Feldman, a native Atlantan, is a student at the Ner Israel High School in Baltimore.
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