Parshat Shemini: The Committed Soldier

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Parshat Shemini (9:7) discusses how Aharon the Kohen Gadol was supposed to perform the inaugural service at the Mizbei’ach (altar), but he could not bring himself to complete his obligation. Moshe Rabbeinu needed to tell Aharon to go close to the Mizbei’ach. How come? Why did Moshe have to order Aharon to head to the Mizbei’ach? My father, Rav Yitzchok Fingerer shlit”a, answers that Aharon was intimidated and bashful. His sin with the golden calf remained on his conscience plaguing himself with utter remorse. Aharon HaKohen did not feel worthy of saintliness and serving at the Mizbei’ach. In fact, the Minchah Belulah amazingly shares that Aharon was unable to approach the Mizbei’ach due to hallucinations. The Kohen Gadol had visions that the golden calf was hovering over the Mizbei’ach. Therefore, his brother Moshe convey the message that he must draw close to Mizbei’ach. Moshe cajoled and coaxed Aharon to serve at the Mizbei’ach expressing, “Do not let your past haunt or torment you. It is time for a new beginning.”

There is a tremendous lesson in never letting our past errors take hold. We also build images and have preconceived notions, even hallucinations from our past, that come to haunt and prevent us from growth. We must flourish and become greater; ultimately, we can change as there is an inherent potential within to shine anew. Let’s work on ourselves!

One Rosh Hashanah morning, Rav Shimshon Dovid Pincus zt”l stepped outside the Beis HaMedrash for a moment and spotted his talmid sitting in a hallway corner covered in tears. The saintly rabbi approached his pupil, placed an arm on his shoulders, and questioned his obvious sadness. The boy looked up and told his rebbe that he tried very hard to improve but felt that his efforts had fallen short. Rav Shimshon related a scenario from his personal youth to the student. “During the Yom Kippur War, I was in the emergency room in Shaare Zedek Medical Center with one of my children when I suddenly noticed a commotion. Many doctors were gathered conversing, appearing to be discussing an important matter. I soon discovered that a soldier had been shot in the leg and the bullet required immediate removal. Following the successful operation, the chayal was informed that he was free to return home. The young man grimaced in pain as he attempted to slide off the operating table. As beads of sweat formed on his forehead, the young soldier peering questioningly at the doctor. ‘Home? You think I am heading home? I was shot and lost at battle, but there is still an ongoing war, and my fellow combatants need me back on the battlefield.” The brave, tough soldier hobbled out of the room and returned to the frontlines.”

Rav Shimshon concluded the chronicle adding, “I am not convinced that you have not stumbled. I know you may have fallen; however, a setback does not mean that you are unable to rise on your feet once again. Suffering defeat at a clash certainly is not evidence to a lost the war.” Pointing to the Beis HaMedrash, the devote rabbinical guide expressed, “We are fighting a war in there and I do not want to head back inside without you amongst the other talmidim. We need you to attack unified with the rest of us!” Together, the rebbe and learner walked back into the hallow walls of the Beis HaMedrash to skirmish alongside his contemporaries.

It is time we prove our magnitude to ourselves because retaining faith in our capabilities is paramount. We have the power to orchestrate our own superior future filled with beautiful opportunities. Even if we have collapsed during a solitary mission, we still have plenty of chance to be victorious overall. When we tumble, do not harbor feelings of hopeless or helpless. Stand up and go back to the battlefield!

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