“It is the same Aaron and Moses to whom the Lord said, “Bring forth the Israelites from the land of Egypt, troop by troop. It was they who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt to free the Israelites from the Egyptians; these are the same Moses and Aaron.” (Exodus 6:26-27)

The Rambam/ Mamonides in the Laws of Repentance writes that every person has the ability to be as righteous as Moses. How is such a thing possible? The Torah states clearly that no other person was, or will ever be, as great as Moshe! That he was the greatest prophet and the most humble man who ever lived.

In the above verses in this week’s Torah portion, there is something unique about them. Verse 26 lists Aaron before Moses, implying a greater importance, and immediately the next verse has the opposite order. The classic commentator, Rashi, seizes upon this problem and writes, “There are places where the Torah puts Aharon before Moshe, and there are places where it puts Moshe before Aharon, to say that they are of equal significance.”

Darash Moshe explains that while Moses was regarded as the greatest person in many areas, there is a greater measuring stick for a person – that is how much he makes use his G-d-given abilities. So the Torah teaches us that sometimes Aharon is greater than Moses for this very reason. While he cannot rise to the level of his magnanimous brother, in a general sense, he makes more use of his potential than his brother does and this is from where his elevated status really comes from.

In every school, there are gifted students and not-so-gifted students learning side by side. It is natural to pick out the smartest, best-achieving students as the shining stars of the institution. But using a heavenly measure, the stars are the ones that work the hardest, and make the most use of their own inherent abilities, regardless of what they produce in the end. Our spiritual success is not defined by the grades on our report card, but by the extent to which we take our own will and apply it to maximize our own abilities. In this way, we can all be even greater than Moses.


Rabbi Akiva Feinstein is director of spiritual living at Menorah Park in Beachwood.

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