This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H & my grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H & in Z’chus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta, and my great aunt Rivkah Bas Etta
-Miriam Liba Bas Devora
-Yechiel Baruch HaLevi Ben Liba Gittel
-Aharon Ben Fruma
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamah of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
צַו ~ TZAV
* שבת הגדול ~ Shabbos HaGadol *
“Opportunity of a Lifetime”
Continuing the topic of the Avodah (service) of the Mishkan, the Torah shifts the discussion to the respective laws of each Korban (offering) with a particular focus on the role of the Kohanim (priests). The Torah caps off this discussion with the rituals and procedures of the Milu’im, or the Inaugural ceremony of Aharon and his sons as the Kohanim. During this time, Moshe Rabbeinu would personally dress Aharon and his sons in the Bigdei Kehunah (Priestly Vestments), anoint them with the Shemen HaMishchah (anointing oil), and bring the necessary offerings.
In this seemingly innocent and arguably uneventful Sidrah, the text contains one of the most unique Cantillation notes, the “Shalsheles” [שַׁלְשֶׁ֓לֶת], which appears only three other times in the entire text of the Torah. Usually, when this note appears, many explain, it is to connote a sense of wavering in the subject’s emotions (reflected in the back and forth nature of the sound and appearance of the Shalsheles). The subject experiencing the Shalsheles is performing some action, but he is apparently torn. Perhaps the most famous subject of the Shalsheles is Yosef HaTzaddik who, the Torah relates, refused to succumb to the seduction of his master’s wife, all the while, experiencing the emotional struggle of wanting to give in, hence, the Shalsheles on the word “Vayima’ein”-“and he refused” [Bereishis 39:8].
What’s challenging to explain, however, is the Shalsheles in our context. When we reach Parshas Tzav, where there is a hardly a story happening, it is hard to understand why and where the Torah would possibly need to express this sense emotional tension. The Sidrah contains literally nothing more than ritual procedures telling us about the Korbanos being offered for the Kohanim’s Inauguration. Yet, when Moshe Rabbeinu slaughters the ram of the Milu’im to smear the blood on Aharon and his sons as G-d commanded [Vayikra 8:23], the word “Vayishchat”-“and he slaughtered” contains the Shalsheles. The question is: What concern could possibly be going through Moshe’s head that he struggles emotionally as he slaughters a ram?
In his book on the Parshah, Lessons in Leadership, R’ Jonathan Saks, among others, suggests, based on the plain context, that the source of Moshe Rabbeinu’s struggle apparently has to do with the Inauguration of the Kohanim. Chazzal tell us that Moshe Rabbeinu was originally supposed to become the Kohein Gadol (High Priest), however, when he persistently refused to obey Hashem and return to Egypt as Hashem’s messenger to rescue the B’nei Yisrael from their slavery (although he ultimately complied), Hashem transferred those rights to Moshe’s brother Aharon [Shemos Rabbah 3:22]. Thus, when Moshe Rabbeinu was proceeding to induct his brother’s family into the Kehunah, Moshe’s emotions were stirring with that slight trace of sadness due to what he knew he had lost out on.
The question is why Moshe would be feeling this “Shalsheles” feeling right now? Presumably, by this stage of the process, the idea that Aharon would be taking Moshe’s place in the Priesthood is all old news, and everything that Moshe was doing now for the Milu’im should not have been a shock to him. In fact, one might notice that the procession of the Inaugural ceremony of the Kohanim here in Parshas Tzav is really just a repeat of that which was previously recorded in Parshas Tetzaveh, the difference being that Tetzaveh was when the original command was issued, and here in Tzav is where the command was ultimately carried out. So, assuming that none of this was intellectually new information for Moshe, then why is Moshe’s emotional hesitance so delayed?
So, really, this question is not such a challenging question, and is, in fact, quite easy to understand. Yes, for some time now, Moshe has known that his brother’s family would assume the responsibilities and honors of the Kehunah. Nonetheless, Moshe’s emotional wavering right now is not surprising, and is actually quite human, because the emotional reality of one’s loss typically does not kick in right away, rather when the reality has actually been internalized in a concrete and tangible way, much later down the line from the moment one intellectually becomes aware of that reality. Thus, Moshe’s Shalsheles experience was not at the time that G-d expressed His anger at Moshe, but at the time when Moshe was experientially engaged in that reality, essentially handing over what G-d had stripped from him.
What is still kind of strange, however, is the exact timing in this process of Moshe’s emotional struggle. Sure, it might not always kick in immediately, but why does Moshe emotionally waver only now, at the slaughtering of the ram of the Milu’im? The slaughtering of the ram was not the only part Moshe Rabbeinu actively had in the process of inducting Aharon and his family into the Kehunah. The Torah tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu personally dressed them in the holy Bigdei Kehunah and that he anointed them with the holy Shemen HaMishchah. For some reason though, none of this apparently bothered Moshe Rabbeinu so much. Why was Moshe so torn as he slaughtered the ram in this ceremony?
To answer this question, we have to understand firstly what exactly Moshe was upset about losing. Yes, the Kehunah. But, what about not having the Kehunah hurt Moshe? Why was it worth for Moshe to force G-d’s hand if he was going to regret it later?
As far as what Moshe was upset about, we have to understand that to Moshe Rabbeinu, it was not about the honor. The Torah tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu was an Anav MiKal Adam, the most humble one of all mankind [B’Middbar 12:3]. By this point, post-Golden Calf story, we also know that Moshe was ready to have his name wiped out of the entire Torah. Moshe always forgoes his own honor. Certainly, he would not been hurt that by the fact that he had to anoint his brother or dress him in majestic and splendorous garments. In fact, Chazzal understood that a major part of why Moshe didn’t even want to obey Hashem and lead the B’nei Yisrael out of Egypt was that he, in his humility, wanted to give up the honor to his brother. Thus, the aforementioned Midrash tells us that Moshe argued that Hashem has many messengers to choose from! Moshe never needed to be the guy! So, what did Moshe feel so bad about? Was he torn between his Anivus—his humility, and the glory he would’ve enjoyed as a Kohein? Probably not. We have zero indication that the Anav MiKal Adam suddenly craved Kavod (honor). So, where then did Moshe Rabbeinu’s regret lie?
For this question, we have to understand why it was that Moshe was ultimately wrong for denying G-d’s command to be His messenger for the B’nei Yisrael. True, Moshe Rabbeinu had the right idea in not wanting to amass Kavod for himself, but when a there is a Mitzvah (commandment) from Hashem—an Avodah in which one is charged to be a messenger on behalf of Hashem and His people, one cannot become too small for that Mitzvah. Indeed, that Avodah, and really all holy Avodos, we have to realize are much bigger than ourselves, and yet, we have to see each Avodah as an opportunity to get closer to Hashem, to get His people closer to Him. Will it come with the Nisayon (test) of Kavod? It often does. But, if one truly understands that the true Kavod of the Avodah is the Avodah itself, the ability to connect to Hashem—and certainly, Moshe was on such a level of G-d awareness—then he would’ve accepted the opportunity to be Hashem’s messenger.
Thus, it is amidst performing the Avodah, the slaughtering of the ram of the Inauguration, that it hit Moshe what he had lost. It was the opportunity of—not the glory, but the holy Avodah, that he gave up, the opportunity to be a Shliach (messenger) for Hashem, to offer the Korbanos of the B’nei Yisrael before Him. He realized that the Kavod was not the essence of the Avodah, but that the Avodah itself was the essence of all the Kavod, the true Kavod which is merely an extension of G-d’s Kavod, the Kavod of being a subject to G-d.
It is for all of these reasons that on Pesach, although we are humbled to have been freed from Egypt, despite being idolaters who deserved exile and worse, at the same time, we turn around, dip, recline, and act like kings with an “upraised hand.” It is because there is no contradiction between genuine humility and the pride of nothing more than living on this earth as a messenger of Hashem. Our Kavod is really His.
We, like Moshe Rabbeinu, really do have the capacity for both humility and the honor of being Hashem’s subjects. Accordingly, we have to realize that the essence of our life is our mission as Hashem’s messengers, that as much holiness as we can bring into our lives, we must grab. All the while, yes, we must maintain our humility, but do so with the understanding that by definition of our existence in Hashem’s world, we are not too small for any level of holiness, even if some honor comes with it. As Hashem’s Mamleches Kohanim (Kingdom of Priests), we must strive to strike that balance, take the holy opportunities presented to us, and then we will never have to look back, wondering about the opportunity of a holy Avodah that we let slip away.
May we all be Zocheh to jump at the opportunity to be messengers of Hashem’s holy Avodah, maintain our personal humility while reflecting Hashem’s Kavod to the world, and not only should our Avodah be accepted favorably, but Hashem will accept us into the era of the final Geulah with the coming of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos HaGadol!
-Josh, Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂