True leaders look after the interests of everyone, not merely those closest to them.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion, “Beha’alotcha” (Numbers 8:1-12:16), discusses the Menorah of the Temple and its ceremonial lighting, the consecration of the Levites, the procedures for those who did not participate in the Passover sacrifices, the silver trumpets used in both war and peace, Miriam’s slander of Moses, and much more. It is an action-packed Torah portion!
Opening with the Menorah ceremony, the Torah tells us that the honor of lighting the menorah each day was given to Aaron. There is much interesting commentary as to why Aaron was given the job. According to one approach, which notes that the instructions of the Menorah follows on the heels of last week’s Torah portion, and most notably each tribal leader’s offerings for the newly inaugurated Mishkan (Tabernacle).
At the end of last week’s reading, we are told how the leader of every tribe brought a tribute and offering to the Tabernacle. There was one tribe, however, that was left out. One tribe that, for whatever reason, did not contribute this offering. It was the tribe of Levi: the Levites, the tribe of Moses and Aaron.
We are told that when Aaron witnessed all the other leaders of the tribes bringing their offerings to the Mishkan, he became depressed that neither he nor his tribe were included in the dedication ceremony. We are told that God patted Aaron on the back, as it were, and told him not to worry and not to be depressed. God told him that He would make it up to him by giving him and his descendants the mitzvah of kindling the Menorah–a much greater and eternal honor.
That seems to be a reasonable consolation prize to me! It is also noted that the Maccabees of the Chanukah story, who rededicated the Temple and relit the Menorah, were descendants of Aaron. All’s well that ends well!
Let’s get back to Aaron. There is much emphasis on Aaron being the one who was distraught at not being able to participate in the leaders’ offerings to the Temple. But the question is asked: Aaron wasn’t the leader of the tribe of Levi! The head of the tribe was Moses!
If anyone from the tribe of Levi was going to participate in the leader’s offerings it would have been Moses, not Aaron! Aaron was the High Priest. He wasn’t a tribal leader. So why is Aaron the one bent out of shape and jealous? It should be Moses? Where is he? What’s going on here?
It is explained that once Moses became the leader of the Jewish people, he forfeited, so to speak, his role in the tribe of Levi. This is because when one becomes the leader of a nation one must stop identifying on a tribal level and be a man of the nation, not a man of any particular tribe.
Moses was “de-tribed” so to speak by becoming the leader. He was nationalized.
And so it is with every leader, presidents and prime ministers cannot merely look out for the interests of their local constituents, they must look out for the interests of the entire nation. Whether or not you or I voted for a particular leader, that individual is everyone’s leade and the entire nation must be treated equally.
As such, once Moses became the leader of the entire nation, the job of “leader of the Levites” became available and it was assumed by Aaron, as he was the most worthy man for the job. This is why it was indeed Aaron who was upset at not having participated in the dedication of the Mishkan with all the other leader.
A nice thought for all of us to internalize: Be a leader. In your home. In your office. In your community. Try looking out for the interests for everyone and not merely those closest to you.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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