Friday, June 23, 2017

Seasoned Leaders

Our Parsha describes how Korach, a descendent of Levi, challenged the authority of Moshe Rabbeinu.  Specifically, he questioned Moshe’s appointment of his brother Aharon as the Kohen Gadol.

To counter the accusation, Moshe prays that Hashem send a clear message to the entire nation and that Korach not be allowed to succeed in his deception.

After fulfilling Moshe’s request, Hashem proceeds to reaffirm Aharon’s appointment and to delineate the various priestly gifts to which he, and his descendents, will be entitled. 

This arrangement is referred to by the Torah as “ברית מלח עולם”, (an eternal covenant of salt).  Rashi explains that just as salt never spoils, similarly, the covenant between Hashem and Aharon will never expire.

The NETZI”V, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, offers an additional significance to this reference.  Just as salt is used to improve the taste of food, but, if it is used in incorrect proportions it can spoil the food.  The same can be said of the responsibility and authority of Aharon’s lofty status.  As a leader, Aharon has the ability to raise the people to great spiritual heights.  If however, these gifts are exploited or abused, they can ruin the people, just as too much salt will ruin the meal.

We each have aspects of our lives that will put us in a leadership role.  This may be as
employers, parents and confidants or as organizational leaders.  In each of these we have the power to influence and create.  The advice or direction that we dictate can shape the future for an individual or for a group.  It is vital  that  we  learn  from  the  mistake  of Korach and from the successes of Aharon, to apply ourselves fully and unselfishly in our responsibility to those who rely upon us.  Just as a master chef is able to combine the perfect balance of flavors to create a masterpiece, so does the seasoned leader know to measure the perfect balance of patience, wisdom and compassion.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Don Pacht

Friday, June 16, 2017

In Good Company

This week we read the story of the Meraglim.  These twelve men were selected to spy-out the land of Israel and report back to Moshe on the best approach to conquer the land.  Unfortunately, their return with a negative report caused a national hysteria, and this lack of faith in Hashem resulted in a forty-year delay in our entrance and inheritance of our homeland.

Before the departure of the spies, Moshe summons his trusted disciple and changes his name to Yehoshua by adding the letter ‘yud’ to his name.  This extra letter represents a higher level of spirituality and would serve to give him the strength of character to withstand the evil influence of the other spies.  Later we are told that Kalev detoured to Chevron so that he could pray on his own behalf at the graves of his ancestors.  Ultimately, Kalev and Yehoshua were the only two men in this group who returned with a truthful, positive report about the land.

Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein wonders why it was necessary for these extreme measures.  Would it have been so difficult for these two great Tzaddikim to find the truth without the assistance of prayers or segulot?  Rabbi Levenstein explains that the Torah is teaching us a valuable lesson about the incredible powers of peer pressure.  The wrong environment or influence can lead even the greatest individual along the wrong path, particularly in the area of spirituality.

Fortunately, the same rule applies for the good.  With the proper role models we can benefit immensely from their wisdom, example and company.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Don Pacht

Friday, June 9, 2017

No Small Deal

Hashem has Moshe instruct Aharon his brother in the daily procedure of preparing and lighting the lamps of the Menorah.  The very next verse reads “ויעש כן אהרן”, (and Aharon did so).  Rashi explains that the Torah is praising Aharon for his precision in carrying out Hashem’s command without variance.
 The obvious question is, why would it be a surprise that Aharon would dutifully carry out his responsibilities in the service of Hashem?  Why would the Torah write an entire verse to confirm what no one would ever doubt? 
The Alter of Kelm offers a deeper understanding to shed light on this seemingly superfluous pasuk.  One might suggest that for Aharon, who was the Kohen Gadol, the “highest ranking official” in the service of Hashem, the menial task of preparing the lamps of the Menorah would be viewed as beneath him.  After all, it was Aharon who would enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur to offer the special incense service and to atone for the entire nation. 
The Preparation of the Menorah, on the other hand, was merely twisting some cotton into wicks and could be performed by anyone, even a non-Kohen! 
Nevertheless, the Torah informs us, Aharon carried out this task with the same level of energy and enthusiasm that he invested in any Avodah. 
Sometimes, we have the tendency to “rate” the perceived importance of one Mitzvah against another.
The message to learn from Aharon is that there are no minor tasks in the service of Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Don Pacht