Discussions concerning חטא העגל are often accompanied by feelings of shock and astonishment as to what happened, specifically, under Aharon’s supervision. I have repeatedly heard the question of “How could Aharon, someone of such stature and disposition, allow such a thing to happen?” While other people may perceive Aharon’s actions as difficult to understand and completely out of character, I personally perceive his behavior as not only something I can understand, but also identify with intimately. Furthermore, I see this behavior as completely ‘in-character’; it is specially because of Aharon’s nature that something like this could have happened.
There are many Midrashim that help paint a more comprehensive picture of Aharon’s nature and personality. There are two Midrashim that although at first glance seem unrelated, actually highlight the same trait–only manifested in two opposing directions. Chazal describes Aharon as a person who is ״אוהב שלום ורודף שלום ומשים שלום בין איש לחבריו״, someone who “loves peace, chases peace, and brings about peace between a person and his friend” (Sanhedrin 6:). In other places, Chazal continue to describe Aharon as someone who intervenes in fights between friends as well as fights between husband and wife. Aharon wants everyone to be happy and content, and is willing to involve himself in whatever way is needed in order to bring about resolution and peace. This desire to love and pursue peace is something that I think many of us strive to actualize in our lives–who wouldn’t want to ensure that everyone feels content, comfortable, and understood? For myself, this is often a motivating factor in many of my decisions.
Yet every strength has its weakness, and the chase after peace must be pursued with much caution. There is another Midrash that describes Aharon’s thought process when בני ישראל first approached him about the עגל. Since it is well-known, I am going to paraphrase this Midrash with some of my own embellishments. Aharon thinks to himself, “Moshe is coming back in just a bit. There really is no reason to put my foot down. So you know what, this is what I’ll do. I’ll tell the people to get their wives’ jewelry. The women will never want to give up their jewelry. By the time they finally receive the jewelry and bring it to me, Moshe will be back and this will all be solved!” This way of thinking has Aharon’s name written all over it; it is an expression of Aharon’s peace-loving personality. If he can pretend to be on the people’s side and stall long enough, then he can maintain peace within the camp and keep everyone satisfied. Yet the Tanach seems to disapprove of Aharon’s actions, so much so that this entire episode ends with the words, “And G-d struck the people because they made a calf, that Aaron made” (Shemot: 32,35).
This peace-loving character trait is something many of us see as worthy to pursue. But the question of where to draw the line between the desire to pursue peace and the need to “people-please” needs to be considered. As we see with Aharon, the latter can lead to the mindset of ‘better not to say anything too confrontational and make someone upset, and instead deflect or maneuver the situation in order to stay clear from trouble and avoid conflict.’ Sometimes the desire to “be nice” or the fear of “rocking the boat too much” can lead a person to compromise on his/her values or commitments. In order to be a leader, you’re going to have to be willing to ‘rock the boat.’ In order to be a leader, you have to be willing to make people unhappy. Aaron’s involvement in Chet Haegal was not in spite of his character, but because of it. Leadership not only requires the ability to recognize peoples’ wants but also the courage to reject those wants when necessary.
Shabbat Shalom!!!שיעורים נוספים ניתן למצוא בקטגוריות הבאות: כי תשא
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