Parashat Shemini (Eight) Lev. 9:1-11:47
Haftarah: 2 Samuel 6:1-7:17
In this week’s Torah portion Moses has a disagreement with his brother Aaron. It is not uncommon for G-d’s people to argue and have conflict. This is not the problem. The problem is when people are unwilling to learn from one another and allow the conflict to lead to anger and hard feelings. In chapter eleven of the book of Leviticus Moses and Aaron disputed over which offerings the priests should eat and where they should eat them. It is clear from the passage that Aaron and his sons did not follow Moses’ instructions in regard to these two issues (see Lev. 10:12-20). When Moses heard this he became very angry with Aaron’s sons Elazar and Ithamar. When Aaron learned of the conflict he went and spoke to Moses about the issue.
Aaron was wise to confront Moses face to face. So often people allow disputes to go unattended and bad feelings and bitterness grow. It is interesting that Moses became angry (verse 16) with Elazar and Ithamar rather than speaking to them in love. What was the source / cause of this anger? Verse 18 answers this question,
“…as I have commanded.”
Moses saw Elazar and Ithamar as acting in disobedience to him and this spoke to his pride. We all expect people to follow what we say and when we are in authority and when people behave in a manner that is different from what we have commanded we tend to be offended.
One learns from the end of the chapter that it was Aaron’s understanding of the situation which was correct (see verses 19-20). We also learn that the whole conflict might have been avoided had Aaron raised his objection to Moses when Moses gave the instructions rather that apparently instructing his sons to do something different outside of Moses’ presences.
What can one learn from this? –that the root of conflict is often a lack of communication. Moses was right to confront Elazar and Ithamar concerning the deviation in behavior. However Moses made an error in getting angry and not inquiring why a change was made. Aaron was wrong in not discussing this change with Moses before instructing his sons. It was most significant that when Moses heard Aaron’s explanation of the issue he agreed. This shows that Moses was teachable.
I believe this is one of the reasons why HaShem chose Moses to be the leader of His people. In order to be a good leader, one has to be able to listen to the perspectives of others and learn from them. Moses demonstrated some pride earlier on, but was quick to humble himself when confronted with the truth. Failure to humble oneself will make it impossible to hear the truth when confronted by it. One also learns that even a great leader like Moses always has something new to learn.
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