Chosen for Priesthood
Adapted from Parasha U’Pishra by Rabbi Moshe Grylak
The spiritual elite of the Jewish People have been the Kohanic dynasty since the Almighty assigned the priesthood to Aharon (Aaron) shortly after the giving of the Torah. The Kohanic family was to lead the nation in their service of the Almighty for all generations to come. “Now you, bring near to yourself Aharon your brother and his son with you…” (Exodus 28:1). Why was Aharon chosen for priesthood?
The purpose of the priesthood was intimately linked with the purpose of the Mishkan (tabernacle) itself. The Mishkan and later the Beis HaMikdash (temple) were sanctuaries of memory. Their purpose was to remind the nation of their obligations in light of the truths established at Sinai. These memories reminded us of who we are.
The Mishkan could have been described as a portable Sinai experience. Participating in the sights, sounds, tastes, touches, and fragrances of the Mishkan and later the Beis HaMikdash brought such truths as the ten commandments and all the other mitzvos (commandments) bequeathed at Sinai back into vivid focus in our hearts. As the Torah coalesced heaven and earth so the Mishkan served to harmonize the physical and spiritual in man, the earth and the heavens, the Almighty and His human creations. Man and universe balanced together in a state of unity achieved by the Mishkan at their shared center.
The central role of the kohen (priest) in this system was to facilitate these relationships, most of all a continually deepening relationship of love between every Jew and his or her Creator. The choice of Aharon as quintessential priest and father of all future priests to come was a perfect fit since no one was more intimate with the Almighty than Aharon himself. Better yet, helping others come close to each other and to their Creator was the primary element in his own relationship with the Almighty.
Aharon was a personality whose goodness of heart simply overflowed. Jealousy had never been allowed a place inside of him even when his younger brother, Moshe (Moses) had been chosen as the greatest leader and redeemer the Jewish People would ever see. When Moshe voiced his concern about the potentially upset feelings of his brothers, the Almighty Himself reassured Moshe, “Behold, he is going out to meet you and when he sees you he will rejoice in his heart” (Exodus 4:14). Not only in his behavior, but in his heart! Such a recommendation from the Almighty confirmed that Aharon’s heart was as flawless as could be.
Aharon’s extraordinary refinement was displayed in his treatment and approach towards all people. His love for human beings had no parallel. One of the ways Aharon’s love came to the fore was through a behavior little seen in national leaders: “When two people fought with one another, Aharon would go and sit with one and say to him, ‘My son, look, your friend is eating his heart out in sorrow.’
“The Jew would respond, ‘Whoa is me! How can I look and see my friend? I am ashamed to be seen by him!’ But Aharon would sit with him until he had taken all the jealousy and anger from his heart.
“Afterwards Aharon would go to the second party to the fight and say similar things to him. When the two friends met later, they would kiss in love for one another.” (Avos D’Rebbi Nassan)
This was Aharon’s character and the Jewish People knew it. Aharon became the symbol of these qualities for all generations: “Hillel would say: Be among the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving the creations and bringing them close to Torah” (The Ethics of the Fathers 1:12).
The crown of priesthood fit Aharon and suited his personality beautifully. The purpose of the priesthood was to instill peace between the Almighty and man and to help human beings achieve atonement for their mistakes, the atonement that would reinstate man’s inner peace as well.
Aharon endowed the priesthood with the wholeness of his own personality, a wholeness only the Almighty knew in it‘s entirety. Aharon developed these qualities by the way he lived his life and related to others. These behaviors brought him close to the Almighty.
“Bring near…Aharon your brother,” said the Almighty to Moshe. Summon him to this task because he is the man capable of bringing my beloved People close to Me.