By Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski
In this week’s Sedra, Moshe Rabeinu continues to rebuke Klal-Yisroel for their wrongdoings, specifically mentioning their sin with the Golden Calf. In doing so, Moshe Rabeinu talks about his painstaking Tefillos on behalf of Am-Yisroel and Aharon HaKohen. Moshe adds that Hashem got angry with Aharon HaKohen for the sin of the Golden Calf, and wanted to completely destroy him.
There are a number of obvious questions that must be answered: why is this the first mention of Hashem wanting to destroy or even punish Aharon Hakohen? What exactly was he to be punished for? What does it mean that Hashem wanted to “destroy him”? Why couldn’t Moshe Rabeinu daven for Aharon together with the rest of Am-Yisroel who had clearly sinned? And lastly, were Moshe Rabeinu’s Tefillos effective?
Rashi answers some of these questions. He explains that Aharon was not being punished for actively participating in the Chet HaEgel, but rather because he had listened to Am-Yisroel and had allowed them to create and worship the calf (see accompanying Sifsei-Chachamim). Rashi explains further, that when the Passuk uses such a term as “destroy him” it is a reference to destroying Aharon’s legacy of descendants. Also, Rashi says here that Moshe Rabeinu’s Tefillos were effective. However, in Acharei-Mos, Rashi states that Moshe Rabeinu’s Tefillos for Aharon were only partially listened to, and therefore, Nadav and Avihu were killed.
This last point leads us to yet another question: why here does Rashi say that Moshe’s Tefillos worked, while it seems later that Rashi maintains otherwise?
The Chasam Sofer is bothered as to why Moshe had to daven for Aharon separately and not with the rest of Am-Yisroel. The Chasam-Sofer says that had Moshe included Aharon in his Tefillos for the rest of Am-Yisroel, it would have been tantamount to his saying outright that Aharon had erred only because Am-Yisroel had pressured him too strongly. This would have placed yet more guilt on an already guilty Am-Yisroel. By isolating Aharon from the rest of Am-Yisroel, Moshe presented Aharon as his own separate entity, to be judged on his own.
We can try to solve the discrepancy between Rashi’s statements here and in Acharei-Mos by saying that Aharon did continue to have descendants, so Hashem did not “destroy” him in that sense, and thus Moshe’s Tefillos on Aharon’s behalf were effective. Perhaps we can answer that this is as well the reason that Moshe Rabeinu chooses now to tell Klal-Yisroel of this particular with Hashem’s being “angry” at Aharon Hakohen. Moshe Rabeinu is pointing out that true Aharon hadn’t really sinned regarding the Chet HaEgel because he only allowed it to go on because he was forced by the Klal. Yet although Moshe Rabeinu could have said this to Hashem he didn’t because he thought of all the ramifications that it would have had and the repercussions for Klal-Yisroel. Moshe was telling Klal-Yisroel how much he thought of them and how careful he was with choosing words for Davening.
We could accept these answers, but perhaps there is a deeper, more significant idea present.
One thing that is quite clear is that Moshe Rabeinu was exceedingly careful as to how he structured his Tefillos. However, even though he was very careful, it may be that he worsened Aharon’s chance of being let off scot free by worrying about Am-Yisroel’s verdict and possibly jeopardizing Aharon’s verdict in the process. If Moshe had davened for Aharon together with Am-Yisroel it may have placed far more guilt on them, however since Moshe didn’t he thus allowed more guilt to be placed on Aharon Hakohen. Hence although if Moshe had structured his Tefillos differently the outcome would have been better for Aharon, given the actual formulation it was truly only due to Moshe’s Tefillos that even two were spared.
While looking at the incident as such, we can see just how powerful, yet extremely delicate Tefilla is.
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