Embarrassed of the Limelight

Parshas Shimini

The eighth day of inaugurating the Mishkan had arrived. The week-long celebrations was nearing it’s climax. Aharon and his sons had been anointed the previous seven days, and it is was now time to permanently hand over the priestly service to Aharon and is family. Yet Aharon was hesitant. Aharon was embarrassed and fearful of assuming his divine duties. Moshe encouraged him, “Aharon, why are you bashful, you are the designated representative”.

Question 

Moshe’s treatment of Aharon “Why are you bashful” seems to have a reprimanding tone, questioning Aharon’s attitude. But surely this can’t be so simple, isn’t being bashful one of our prized attributes? In fact it is one of three trademark qualities borne by Avrohom Oveinu’s descendents: Mercy, bashfulness and acting with kindness. If this is the case then surely Aharon’s uncomfortableness is well placed?

Answer

There is a clue in what prompted Moshe’s chastisement, which enables us to unravel the conundrum. Rashi, quoting Toras Cohanim, writes Aharon was “embarrassed and fearful”. Embarrassment is certainly a worthy trait, fitting to the people of Abraham. It is this very characteristic which will stop a person from sinning. However when embarrasement leads to fear, especially fear in performing a Mitzvah, something is wrong. This is not a function of the desired virtue. We must never have fear of doing the right thing. When Moshe saw that Aharon was embarrassed and fearful, he queried his very embarrassment, thus he encouraged his brother –  assume the position for which you were selected.

Lesson

Sometimes even good ideas, virtues and actions require further scrutiny. Are they truly good? What is their motivation?

Story

Reb Chaim Volozhiner (1749 – 1821) famed for starting the yeshiva movement did not undertake such a monumental decision alone. He first consulted with his mentor the Gaon from Vilna. The first time he enthusiastically broached the idea to the Vilna Gaon, he was met with a negative response. The Gaon did not give him the go ahead.

A year later Reb Chaim, undaunted, decided to submit his request a second time. Perhaps now the time was more opportune to begin a Yeshiva system. This time he was favored with an affirmative reply. The Gaon had lent his blessing to the project.

While elated at the turnaround, Reb Chaim was puzzled what brought around the difference. In essence nothing had changed. He had asked the second time much the same question as the first. So with great deference Reb Chaim asked the Gaon to explain himself.

The Gaon replied, “I have a tradition the Yetzer Hatov doesn’t inspire with over excitement”. The idea was perfect, it was just what Klal Yisroel needed, in fact it would be difficult to imagine what would have happened without the yeshiva system. Nevertheless it has to be prompted by kosher motives. The Gaon sensed that some of the impetus wasn’t from a pure source and refrained from acquesing till the foundation was untainted.

Weekly Halachah

A non-Jew may be instructed to perform Rabbinically prohibited work, to prevent disgrace or embarrassment. 

Questions and Comments

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