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ON EQUALITY

by Michael Alterman    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

After providing us with the lineage of the tribe of Levi, the Torah informs us, "These are Aaron and Moses to whom Hashem said, 'Bring out the Children of Israel. . .'" (6:26).

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After providing us with the lineage of the tribe of Levi, the Torah informs us, "These are Aaron and Moses to whom Hashem said, 'Bring out the Children of Israel. . .'" (6:26). This means to say that the same Aaron and Moses who were just mentioned in the lineage of Levi are the men who went before Pharaoh.

Many of the commentators are bothered by the fact that Aaron's name is mentioned before Moses'. Throughout the Torah, except where their lineage is described (where the eldest always takes precedence), Moses' name is listed before Aaron's. Even in the following verse Moses is mentioned first. It is unlikely that the Torah is simply trying to be fair, allowing for Aaron to receive some of the spotlight, because if that were correct, the Torah should then follow suit by listing Aaron first in many more places. What is the Torah trying to convey here?

Rashi, an 11th-century French commentator, answers that the Torah goes out of its way to mention Aaron first to teach us that Aaron and Moses were equivalent. This would seem to mean that they were on the same level in their righteousness and dedication. But is this really true? Moses is acclaimed as the ultimate prophet (Deut. 34:10), the most humble of all men, and is the individual through whom the Torah was given to the Jewish people. He spoke to Hashem face to face. How can the explanation be that Aaron was equal to Moses?

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the leader of American Jewry of the past generation, answers that the Torah does not mean to say that they were equal in their actual accomplishments. Rather, the message is that Aaron fulfilled his mission in life to perfection, just as Moses fulfilled his. Aaron spent his entire life doing the will of Hashem. When Moses was selected as leader of the Jewish people, Aaron showed no signs of jealousy or ill will. In fact, the Torah testifies that Aaron was truly happy for Moses. Aaron accomplished his mission to his utmost capabilities and is therefore considered the equal of Moses. Granted that Moses reached a greater proximity to Hashem, but their missions and capabilities were different, therefore rendering their measures of success unique.

In our lives, we often feel that the obstacles to success are insurmountable and that we will never accomplish the goals we assume are required to ensure us of greatness. Subconsciously, we develop the idea that since we won't be successful anyway, it simply isn't worth it to expend the energy required to try. Through Aaron, the Torah is teaching us that we each have our own individual niches in life, our own milestones and measures of success. After 120 years when we stand before Hashem in the heavenly court, He isn't going to ask us why we weren't Moses. Rather, He will ask us why we didn't reach the heights we were capable of reaching. Let us all strive to reach our potential so that we will be prepared for that day in court.

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Michael Alterman, is currently a sophomore at Yeshiva University in New York.

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