Different but Equal by Rabbi Ben Krinsky


In Parashat VaEira (Shemot 6:14-25), the Torah lays out Moshe Rabbeinu’s family tree over the course a substantial amount of Pesukim. At the end of the section, the Pesukim explain that the purpose of the listing of the family is to specifically identify Moshe and Aharon; the Torah tells us “Hu Aharon U’Moshe, Asher Amar Hashem Lahem Hotzi’u Et B’nei Yisrael MeiEretz Mitzrayim”, “These are Aharon and Moshe, to whom Hashem said: Bring B’nei Yisrael out of Egypt” (6:26). In order to make sure that we grasp the message, the next Pasuk tells us “Heim HaMedabrim El Par’oh Melech Mitzrayim LeHotzi Et B’nei Yisrael MeiEretz Mitzrayim; Hu Moshe VeAharon”, “They are the ones who spoke to Par’oh, king of Egypt, asking him to let B’nei Yisrael out of Egypt; these are the same Moshe and Aharon.” Interestingly, the second time the brothers’ names are mentioned their order is reversed. At first Aharon’s name is first and Moshe’s is second, while later Moshe’s name is first and Aharon’s is second. Rashi (6:26 s.v. Hu Aharon U’Moshe) is bothered by the switch in the order. The source of Rashi’s confusion is a well-known principle in Chazal -- lists are always in order of importance. If this is in fact the case, then the same person should always be mentioned first; however, we would need to know who was more important -- Aharon or Moshe? Rashi, again drawing on Chazal, explains that in fact neither was more important, and in truth they were equal. The Torah switches the order to demonstrate that Moshe was not more important than Aharon, and Aharon was not more important than Moshe.

Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his classic work Darash Moshe, is bothered by the obvious difficulty with Rashi’s explanation: How can Rashi claim that Moshe and Aharon were equal? Indeed, Aharon was a great man, and because of his righteousness he was appointed as the first Kohein Gadol. Furthermore, due to his stellar Middot, Chazal point to him as a role model in Pirkei Avot (1:12) when they advise “Hevei MiTalmidav Shel Aharon; Oheiv Shalom VeRodeif Shalom”, “Be among the students of Aharon; love peace and pursue peace.” And even so, he was not as great as Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe, and not Aharon was the one chosen to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt, and Moshe, not Aharon was chosen to be the one to deliver the Torah to the Jewish people. Moshe, and not Aharon is the one described by Hashem as “BeChol Beiti Ne’eman Hu”, “In all of my house he is trustworthy”, the greatest Navi to ever live. We must not belittle the accomplishments of Aharon HaKohein in any way, but he was not as great as Moshe Rabbeinu. So how can it be that Aharon was considered equal to Moshe?

The answer to this question can be found, by way of example, by looking at any sports team. Every team has many different groups of players: There are star players, and there are role players. The star players are the ones who do the heavy lifting; they score the most points and are the leaders of the team. However, there are no star players who can win a game by themselves. Every star player needs contributions from their other teammates, as it is impossible for one person to win a game on his own, and in the end of the day, we consider everyone’s contribution important.

Rav Moshe Feinstein explains our Rashi by employing the same basic idea. Even though Moshe was greater than Aharon, Moshe could not have succeeded without his older brother. As described in Parashat Shemot (4:10), Moshe did not feel comfortable enough with his speaking ability to speak to Par’oh by himself. Enter Aharon, who was to serve as Moshe’s mouthpiece (4:11-15.) Later in Parashat VaEira, we find that Aharon was not merely a mouthpiece—he even performed the first three of the ten Makkot by himself (7:8-8:15), without Moshe. Even though Moshe was certainly the most important person in the bringing about of the Exodus from Egypt, Aharon’s contributions were vital. Without Aharon, Moshe would never have been able to communicate with Par’oh and the nation, and Yetzi’at Mitzrayim as we know it would never have happened.

We can learn a valuable lesson from the Torah’s presentation of Moshe and Aharon. Despite Moshe’s greater role, the Torah regards them as equals. In the eyes of Hashem everyone’s contribution is valuable and important. No matter if we are the driving force or just a side player, we must always try to remember that everyone's contribution is just as crucial and just as critical to the end goal.

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