Motivation and change can come in a variety of ways. One of the most impactful long-term motivators is through love and excitement. Halachah conceptualizes this notion through the idea of Aseih Docheh Lo Ta’aseh, meaning a positive command overrides a negative commandment. Ramban develops the idea that a Mitzvat Aseih signifies the loving relationship we enjoy with Hashem, while a Lo Ta’aseh symbolizes the fear we have of Hashem. Korban comes from the Shoresh of Karov, which means to draw close. This is because the goal of bringing Korbanot is to strengthen our relationship with Hashem. The motivation and manner in which we achieve this closeness can come in a variety of ways. Perhaps Aharon HaKohein can provide a valuable lesson to demonstrate the importance of growth through positive motivators.
Prior to Aharon approaching the Mizbei’ach to bring his inaugural Korbanot to achieve atonement for him and the entire nation, Moshe gives Aharon encouragement (VaYikra 9:7). Rashi and Ramban are bothered by the need for Aharon to be encouraged. Why was Aharon reluctant to offer the Korbanot and what encouragement did Moshe provide? Rashi (ad loc. s.v. Kerav El HaMizbei’ach) explains that Aharon was embarrassed to approach Hashem, and Moshe responded that he was appointed for this role. Ramban (9:7-8 s.v. Kerav El HaMizbei’ach VaYikrav Aharon El HaMizbei’ach) elaborates by explaining that the Cheit HaEigel still weighed on Aharon’s conscience. He felt the image of the Golden Calf permanently etched in front of him. Sensing this, Moshe encouraged Aharon to realize that Hashem chose Aharon to be the Kohein Gadol. Moshe instructed Aharon to draw close to Hashem and bring the Korbanot. The message to Aharon was to move forward and continue to connect to Hashem. Rav Baruch Simon, a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University, uses this idea to illustrate that even Teshuvah and regret should not create paralysis due to depression. Rather, they should inspire a person to draw closer through an excitement about what is still possible.
Purim provides an opportunity to reflect on the importance of excitement and joy in religious growth. The celebration and festivities of Purim ensure that it is a joyous day. Chazal state (Shabbat 88a) that Purim was the day on which we chose to accept the Torah willingly through love.
Aharon’s lesson and the celebration of Purim demonstrate the importance of religious growth emerging from a positive place. Religious growth which comes from rejection, fear, or guilt may lead to quick results, but can create the paralysis that Aharon was feeling. As Aharon experienced, regret must transform into a positive vision of growth and action to draw close to Hashem’s embrace. May the joy of Purim and the example of Aharon help us continue to experience religious growth through joy and enthusiasm as we enter the 30 day Pesach preparation period.