Throughout Tanach we have many models of leadership. In this week’s Parashah, Aharon HaKohen’s unique style of leadership is highlighted. Parashat Naso contains the Birchat Kohanim, the blessing of the Kohanim, first commanded by Hashem to Aharon. What was unique about Aharon that enabled him to be the model of the Birchat Kohanim?
Aharon epitomized a style of leadership in that he was able to have complete humility, yet understand his ability to impact others. Aharon’s humility is already evident in Sefer Shemot, when he is able to rejoice for his brother Moshe, who is appointed as the one who will bring Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt. He does not express any jealousy or even disappointment, as another older brother in his situation may have felt. Rabbi Effy Greene, a friend of mine, pointed out that Rashi, commenting on a Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (1:12), quotes a remarkable activity in which Aharon used to engage. A man once vowed that his wife could not receive any benefit from him until she spat in the eye of the Kohen Gadol. Immediately upon hearing of this vow, Aharon ran over to the man’s wife and explain that his eye was bothering him, and if she would do him a favor and spit in his eye, it would surely cure him. By allowing himself to be spat upon, Aharon would restore peace between husband and wife. Although this case is eccentric, it is illustrative of Aharon’s willingness to humble himself in order to achieve peace between others. Aharon did not think he had any special stature that needed to be upheld, but he understood that his role as Kohen Gadol could be utilized, as shown by his ability to reunite a husband and wife. Aharon’s humility and selflessness became evident in his reaction to the tragedy that transpires in his life, when he loses his sons Nadav and Avihu. Instead of becoming upset, and focusing on himself and his own feelings, Aharon understands that there is a job that needs to be done, and is silent in response to their deaths, as the Torah says “VaYiDom Aharon” “And Aharon was silent” (VaYikra 9:3), and continues to perform the Avodah.
The Kohanim are separated and elevated from the rest of Klal Yisrael and are then told to bless them BeAhavah, with love. Chazal comment that Aharon merited to be the first one to utter Birchat Kohanim on account of the Torah’s description of “And Aharon lifted up his hands to Bnei Yisrael, and he blessed them.” The Sefat Emet points out that Aharon’s strength came from his appreciation of his connection to Bnei Yisrael. He did not believe that he had anything inherently special about him. Rather he was an emissary of the Jewish people and as a result had the incredible power to convey the Berachah to them. Aharon has a clear understanding of what it was to be a member of Klal Yisrael, which enabled him to appreciate the special connection he had with them as the Kohein Gadol. He understood the Great Kedushah of each Jew, and the nation as a whole, and therefore appreciated the greatness of being Klal Yisrael’s leader. Aharon’s ability to perceive the Kedushah in each Jew was another factor in his love for all of Am Yisrael.
The prerequisite for Birchat Kohanim is to bless the people through Ahavah, love. If a person loves himself too much, there is no room for others to be involved. Aharon’s love of Klal Yisrael came from his humility and his appreciation of his link to Klal Yisrael, which he was able to channel into a powerful Berachah. In return, the love of each Jew to Aharon made everyone receptive to the power of Aharon’s Berachah.
May we learn from Aharon to appreciate the greatness of each Jew, the opportunity we each have in our own way to represent Klal Yisrael, and subsequently, our ability to impart Berachot on all those we come in contact with, BeAhavah!