Nachal novea; makor chochma -
A flowing river; the source of wisdom (Mish. 18:4)


Parshas T'tzaveh 5750

(Exodus 27:20-30:10)

“And Aaron shall bear the [breastplate of] judgment of the children  
of Israel upon his heart continually.” (Exodus 28:30)

The Talmud tells us: Aaron the first high priest, merited the distinction to wear the breast plate (which is worn on the heart) because he wasn’t jealous of his younger brother’s superior spiritual accomplishments.  (Talmud: Shabbos 139). The Midrash tells us: "Because Moses didn't want to take away any honor from his older brother Aaron, Moses stubbornly refused to accept the leadership position and did not want to be the one to lead the Jews out of Egypt. Because of this, the privilege of the priesthood was transferred from Moses on to his older brother Aaron" (Midrash Tanchuma: Shemos 27). The Talmud and the Midrash base these two teachings on the following verse: "G-d           displayed anger toward Moses [for refusing to accept the role of leader]. Is not Aaron [who was originally supposed to be) the Levite your brother (and is therefore not jealous of your greatness]?   He (Aaron] is setting out [into the desert] to meet you (Moses), and when he sees you, he  will be glad in his heart (and not be jealous of your being greater than he.  Because of this, you will now be a Levite and Aaron will be the priest]" (Exodus 4:14). Aaron displayed true humility, for he wasn't jealous of his younger brother's achievements. Aaron merited to the priesthood for himself and all of his descendants because it did not matter to him that his younger brother greatly surpassed him. Aaron was a great figure in his own right. The book of Yeheskel mentions that before Moses became the leader, it was Aaron who was the leader and chief prophet of the Jews in Egypt. It was Aaron who everyone came to for advice and direction on how to find G-d. Despite all of Aaron's toil and effort that he expended for the sake of the Jewish People, Moses surpassed him in greatness. Aaron was happy in his heart when he discovered that Moses had surpassed him and thus replaced him as leader and chief prophet.

This means that Aaron was able to humble himself and submit himself to the truth. The truth was that Moses was the leading tzaddik (saint) of his generation. Aaron recognized this and he immediately deferred to Moses. Aaron humbled himself to Moses who was the greatest tzaddik who ever lived. Likewise, a person cannot receive illumination from G-d, a tzaddik, or from one's teacher unless one humbles himself before one who is greater than himself.  A person should always seek out someone who is truly greater than himself. Once a person freely decides to submit to the influence of such a mentor, it is only then that the person can absorb the light and good character traits of his chosen mentor. This can be compared to the light that the moon absorbs from the sun. Aaron's greatness was that he had the ability to humble himself before Moses; therefore, Aaron emulated the moon. He was then able to absorb the great light of the sun, Moses. Once Aaron absorbed the great light of Moses he was able to mold and shape this light and make it more digestible for the consumption for the common man.

The great Tzaddik (saint) draws the great light of G-d into this world. The priest is able to absorb and reflect this light from the tzaddik, so it can be used to benefit the world. The following verse points out that this is the main function of the priest: "When he [Aaron] sees you [Moses, the leading Tzaddik of the generation] he will be glad in his heart [and submit himself to you to be able to receive G-d's light]" (Exodus 4:14). Therefore, the beginning of the verse says: "Is not Aaron your brother [who originally designated as) the Levite?     [Who has now been chosen to be a priest, because he has humbled himself to you the tzaddik Moses]" (Exodus 4:14).

The breast-plate of judgment had the proper name of G-d written on a parchment, which was inserted between its folds. This gave the breast-plate the power to provide the Jewish people with true and good advice.  Only a person who is wise enough to make the right decisions is truly worthy of wearing the breast-plate. The right decision is always to negate the desire for power and to submit to the will of G-d. The will of G-d is to adhere to the commands of the leading tzaddik.  The breast-plate could only be effective if a humble person such as Aaron would wear it, for only a humble person, who is only interested in the truth, could be the proper receptacle for the word of the G-d of truth. (Lekutai Halachot: Orach Chiam: Hilchot Tefilin 7:8)

Rabbi Nachman gives an insightful explanation to the following verse: "[The land of Israel is] a land that consumes its inhabitants" (Numbers 13:32). This verse conveys the evil and discouraging report that the ten spies brought back to the Jewish People, concerning the land they were just about to enter and settle.  At the time the Jews were given this bad report, they were camped in the desert. Rabbi Nachman explains this verse as follows: If a person stays close to a righteous man, even if he does not hear any Torah teachings from him or he doesn't follow any of his advice on how to come closer to G-d, this closeness is still a very good thing. The nature of eating is that the food that one eats becomes transformed and becomes part of the person who ate the food. For example, if an animal ate some grass, when the grass is digested by the animal it then becomes part of the animal itself.  This is how our verse can be understood: "A land that consumes its inhabitants" - "Land" is the code-word for faith, as the verse says, "Dwell in the land [of Israel] and be nourished by (its] faith" (Psalms 37:3). "Consumes its inhabitants" - When one enters the land of Israel, which G-d saturated with faith, one is digested by the land itself. The person is transformed into the substance of the land itself, just as food becomes merged with the one who ate it. If one believes in G-d and in the righteous tzaddik of the generation, he literally becomes consumed and digested into the tzaddik. That person literally becomes transformed into the same spiritual substance as the tzaddik himself. In addition a person must allow his soul to consume his flesh and let his body become just like his soul, for the verse says: "[Let my soul] To devour my flesh" (Psalms 27:2). In another verse it says: "Let the companions eat" (Song of Songs 5:1). This verse refers to the necessity for the two companions, who are the two sides of the brain, to eat one's flesh. That one should allow the discipline that comes from the mind to control the body in order to make the body become like the soul.

If one has no desire at all to serve G-d, living in the land of Israel and befriending a tzaddik will not help him cultivate his faith in G-d. This type of person can be compared to eating tainted food, which is vomited out. Since this type of person refuses to allow himself to be digested by the tzaddik, the tzaddik has no choice but to vomit this person out, just like indigestible food. For the verse says: "Don't allow the land [of Israel] to vomit you out also [through your sins), when you defile it [the holy land], as it has vomited out the nations that were (living there] before you" (Leviticus 18:28).  (Lekutai Moharan I:129)

We can now understand why the most important character trait necessary in coming close to G-d is humility. This is why Aaron was chosen to be the priest and wear the breast-plate. For Aaron by humbling himself to the tzaddik Moses, had become a fitting conduit to disseminate the power of G-d to the Jewish people. This is why Joshua was chosen to be the next leader after Moses. For he realized that the only way to learn from Moses and to become like Moses is to void himself before his master, as the verse says about Joshua: "His (Moses's] attendant, Joshua the Nun, a simple youth, departed not out of the tent [of Moses)" (Exodus 33:11). This verse describes Joshua as being a mere simple youth when, in fact, he was at that time 70 years old. What this verse is telling us is that Joshua humbled himself before his master and acted as if he knew nothing before Moses, as a mere youth. By doing this, Joshua absorbed more of the personality and wisdom of Moses than any other person was able to. Because Joshua was able to excel in this, he was therefore chosen by G-d to be the next leader. Rabbi Nachman's chief disciple, Rabbi Nosson, had this very same attitude. Rav Nosson said the following about every word that he ever heard from Rabbi Nachman: "A little more wisdom, I have just acquired a little more wisdom.”  It was this submission that allowed Rabbi Nosson to absorb and understand more about Rabbi Nachman than any other person was ever able to.

Hillel had 80 students. The greatest one of them was Yonatan ben Uziel and the least of them was Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai. The Talmud relates that the Torah study of Yonatan ben Uziel was on such a high level that if a bird would happen to fly by when he was studying, the bird would be consumed by fire. However, it was Raban Yochanon ben Zakai who was chosen to be the next leader. For he was very humble and therefore, absorbed more of Hillel’s character than anyone else.

Joshua, Raban Yochanon ben Zakai and Rabbi Nosson were very highly qualified scholars, however there were even greater scholars available in the time of Joshua, Raban Yochanan ben Zakai, and Rabbi Nosson. However, it was their submissive adherence to their teachers that enabled them to capture and absorb the essence of their teachers persona. This is why they were the one's chosen to lead the next generation.

Therefore, the future revival of the dead will be brought about through the agency of a descendant of Aaron. The Talmud in Sotah tells us that the revival of the dead will be brought about through Elijah the prophet. Elijah the prophet is really Pinchas, who was the grandson of Aaron. The main ingredient necessary to accomplish this feat is true humility. For the verse says: "Your dead shall live, my dead bodies shall arise. Awake and sing, those that dwell in the dust" (Isaiah 26:19). The phrase in this verse, "those that dwell in the dust", refers to those people who are truly humble. They act like they are dust before others. Therefore, the revival of the dead can only be brought about through the agency of a priest. For it was Aaron the priest, who by his own exceptional level of humility, caused the characteristic of true humility to be instilled into the spiritual root of the priesthood. Therefore, every priest has the potential to activate the spiritual root of the priesthood that he is connected to and draw to himself the actual humility of Aaron.

True humility is the highest spiritual level of all. For Moses was the most humble person who ever lived. He was so humble that he totally nullified every limb in his body to the will of G-d. It is the light of G-d that gives a person life. It is the light of G-d that is contained in the food that we eat. It is this light of G-d that gives our body and soul the life-sustaining nourishment that we need to live. We can only receive the light of G-d indirectly, through the food we eat, because the coarse materialism of our bodies prevents us from digesting the light of G-d directly. It is our ignoring the wishes of G-d and submitting to the desires of our bodies that strengthens and fortifies the coarseness and power of our bodies. When we try to live independent of G-d, we become out of touch with our souls and therefore our spiritual sensitivity becomes dulled. Since Moses eliminated the coarseness of his body, as much as any human could possibly do, Moses was able to live for three forty day periods without eating and drinking. It was Moses's great humility that caused his body to become sanctified. This transformed his body to become like his soul. Therefore, his soul and body were able to absorb the life sustaining light of G-d directly, without having to obtain G-d's light through the medium of food, as all other people do.

The definition of humility is to acknowledge the superiority of G-d. When this belief is put into action, it causes a person to put aside his own wishes to fulfill the will of G-d. When a person actually defers his own desires, and fulfills the will of G-d, this can be termed as true humility. By choosing to fulfill G-d's wishes instead of one's own is an actual act of humility. For by choosing to do G-d's will, one is acknowledging that there is a superior intelligence to one's own. A person who commits a sin is in effect saying that his desires are more important than the wishes of G-d. The sinner is attaching more importance to himself, than he is to G-d. This is called in Hebrew, "Yeshus". Therefore, the act of a sin blocks out G-d's light. When a person diminishes G-d's light within himself, he is diminishing the life within himself. When there isn't enough of G-d's light within a person he is subject to the attacks from the forces of evil. This situation could drive him even further away from G-d, chas v’shalom.

As we mentioned above, true humility is the highest spiritual level of all. However, one must avoid what is termed “anavah pasula”, false humility.  This is termed, the "bite of the snake." G-d cursed the snake for enticing Adam to sin as follows: "And the L-rd, G-d said to the snake: Because you have done this (tricking Adam to sin against G-d...upon your belly you shall go, and the dust shall you eat all the days of your life" (Genesis 3:14). The phrase, "and the dust you shall eat," refers to those people who act like they are as humble as dirt, but they are really not. They fool themselves into thinking and acting like they are like dirt, but they are just the opposite. These type of people have so much desire for recognition from others, that they act outwardly as if they are humble and are as low as dirt. However, inwardly they desire that everyone should respect and admire them for being humble. This is the highest level of arrogance that there is. This can be truly be termed eating the dirt of humility from the food of the snake.

True humility does not mean that a person thinks that he is nothing or acts like it.  In order to have true humility one must believe that he is very precious in G-d's eyes. Man is so important to G-d, that G-d desires that he use his free choice to do His will. One of the reasons why we sin is that we have no self-confidence in our own worth. If we actually felt that we were important and that what we do has tremendous impact on the universe, we would not sin.

One must be aware of and acknowledge one's talents as well. However, one must realize that all of one's talents, intelligence, and abilities are a gift given to him by G-d to be used as tools to serve G-d. To concede and come to this recognition is the definition of true humility. The highest level of true humility is to say about oneself, "I am a very talented” but not feel any self-pride, for if a person is truly aware that all of his talents and accomplishments are a gift given to him from G-d, then even the good deeds that we perform are also a gift from G-d. If G-d did not allow us to perform the good deed, we would have never been able to do it. Therefore, true humility is to recognize the source of where our talents and achievements come from. We should never be fooled and use the excuse motivated by false humility to cause us to be negligent and not take the proper action. One shouldn't say, "Who am I?" The Talmud says: "In a place where there are no men [of action] strive to [take charge and] be a man [of action]" (Talmud: Avot 2:6). We find  that there where many humble and righteous tzaddikim (saints), who were the leaders of their generations. They were all well aware of their great talents, but they used their talents to serve G-d. They didn't say, "Who am I?" They knew their self- worth and took charge and lead the people of their generations in the service of G-d. (Lekutai Halachot: Orach Chiam: Hilchot Tefilin 7:9-12)

Rabbi Nachman taught: It is written, "For whoever was despised, the day of small things" (Zechariah 4:10). The Talmud says that this verse refers to the following: "Why are the tables of the tzaddikim despised in the hereafter? Because of their own smallness." That is, because they do not believe in themselves. The Talmud concludes that there were some among them who did not believe in G-d. If they were tzaddikim (saints), how is it possible that they didn't believe in G-d? Rabbi Nachman explains that they did not have enough faith in G-d's goodness to believe that they were important to G-d. This is why the Talmud speaks about their smallness. Their lack of belief was really a lack of faith in themselves. The main thing is that everyone must have faith in themselves and believe that they are very dear in the eyes of G-d. One must constantly ask G-d for help to achieve true humility. (Sichos HaRan 140)

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