Rabbi Michael Rosensweig
Rabbi Michael Rosensweig

The Leadership Partnership of Moshe and Aharon

Parshat Bo records the very first national mitzvah of the Torah, the imperative to establish the Jewish calendar by proclaiming the new month ("Hachodesh ha-zeh lachem rosh chadashim"). Rashi (Bereshit 1:1) underscores the centrality of this commandment when he cites the rabbinic view that it might have been appropriate to begin the Torah with this law if not for the overriding urgency of the genesis account which establishes our rights to Eretz Yisrael. We have argued elsewhere (Parshat Hachodesh and its Link to Pesach) that the institution of kiddush hachodeshconstitutes a proxy for the concept ofresponsible halachic initiative, as Klal Yisrael is entrusted with the determination of the festivals, signified by the formulation of "mekadesh yisrael ve-hazmanim" (Beitzah 17a) that is recited in the holiday prayers.Given its national character, one would have expected that this law be addressed to the entire Klal Yisrael. The obligation of the Paschal lamb that immediately follows kidush ha-chodesh, is, in fact, addressed to the entire nation (12:3"dabru el kol adat Yisrael leimor"). Moreover, it is noteworthy that kiddush hachodesh is directed to both Moshe and Aharon (12:1), and not to Moshe alone, although there is no priestly component to this mitzvah. Indeed, the gemara in Rosh Hashanah (25b) accentuates this dual audience.

The special role of Moshe and Aharon in this mitzvah is dramatically highlighted by the Meiri's interpretation of the gemara in Rosh Hashanah (25b). The mishnah declares that the proclamation of a new month requires three judges. The gemara explains that this declaration precludes the effectiveness of a "yachid mumcheh" (acknowledged judicial expert), although such an individual may rule in monetary cases. The gemara justifies this conclusion by noting that that it was necessary to include both Moshe and Aharon in this mitzvah despite the fact that there could be no more prominent expert than Moshe. The gemara, however, seems to pose a serious difficulty inasmuch as the mishnah requires three, not two judges. The Tosafists conclude that once the insufficiency of one judge is established, the requirement for a third judge is implicit by virtue of the principle that a court must be constituted of an odd number of judges (bet din noteh- see Sanhedrin 3b) to minimize the likelihood of deadlocks. [Others (Tashbeitz, III:277) point to another problem since Moshe and Aharon should have been disqualified from the task of establishing the new moon as brothers cannot serve as judges.] Meiri, however, posits a fascinating solution.He suggests that Moshe and Aharon were uniquely empowered to initiate the institution of kiddush hachodesh as a two-man tribunal, although a standard three-member court was necessary for their successors. What accounts for this remarkable discrepancy?

Rav Soloveitchik zt"l (Kobetz Chidushei Torah, pp. 47-65, re. the role of the great Sanhedrin in this mitzvah) has explained that the institution of kiddush hachodesh, which affected the entire Klal Yisrael, was really entrusted to the entire nation, albeit through its halachic representative leadership. It is undoubtedly for this reason that the proclamation ideally is to occur in Eretz Yisrael (Sanhedrin 11b; Berachot 63a), the national headquarters of Klal Yisrael, and yet there can be an exception to this requirement when the luminaries of the generation reside in the Diaspora.Unlike the mitzvah of the Paschal lamb which devolves upon each individual and is therefore directed to all of Israel, the proclamation of the new month, which we have suggested may also be a proxy for the very concept of limited but significant halachic initiative, focuses upon the responsible halachic leadership that represents the nation's collective interest. The Torah emphasizes that the ideal embodiment of that concept of responsible halachic and communal leadership for all time was to be found in the leadership team of Moshe and Aharon.According to the Meiri this team's role was so paradigmatic that it did not require the formal institution of a beit din (or at the very least, could operate without the need for the safeguard of beit din noteh).In fact, only in the absence of Moshe-Aharon, did it became necessary to rely upon a more formal legal body to convey this notion of collective halachic responsibility and leadership which was projected by the originators of this halachic institution.

Even those who do not subscribe to Meiri's novel understanding also emphasize the singular role of the Moshe-Aharon team. [And for the Tosafists, it remains significant that these leaders alone are acknowledged by the Torah, while the additional judge's role was apparently only supplementary and therefore derived implicitly.] While Rashi argues that Aharon's inclusion was simply due to his active role in carrying out the makkot, Ibn Ezra alludes to Aharon's larger contribution to Jewish life. He characterizes both Aharon and Moshe as the only two prophets who contributed directly to the content of Torah, contrasting them to subsequent prophets who were bound by the restrictions of "ein navi rashai lechadeish davar mei-atah (prophecy may not impact upon halachic norms). Thus, it is appropriate to mention both as the Torah begins to record halachot. Ramban specifically comments that one would have expected that Klal Yisrael be addressed in context of the first mitzvah of kiddush hachodesh, but that Moshe and Aharon embody the interests of the entire nation ("heim bemakom Yisrael")!

Was it simply their respective enormous stature that qualified these two individuals to represent the national interest? After all, Moshe was the unparalleled prophet of all time, as codified in the concluding sections of the Torah, as well as in Sefer Bamidbar, and later in Maimonides 13 principles of faith. He was the first kohen gadol during the period of the miluim (seven-day sacrificial initiation period) and he occupied the mantle of kingship. Aharon functioned in the role of the ultimate Divine service, as the pattern-setting kohen gadol.

Perhaps, however, it was also the unusual nature of their interaction that was responsible for their inimitable representational status. We have previously ("Moshe Rabbeinu's Legacy of Leadership", TorahWeb Vaera 2000) discussed the fact that Moshe and Aharon presented a sharp contrast in leadership style and even substance. This is particularly evident in parshat Shemot (4:14-16;27-31) and Vaera (7:1-2) in the roles that they play in the exodus, in which Aharon becomes the articulate public spokesmandue to Moshe's self-image as "aral sefataim". Though cast in different roles, the Torah projects the contribution of both as crucial. In Vaera (6:26-27) the order of their reference is reversed in the very same sequence perhaps also to underscore this truth (see Rashi, Ramban, Netziv etc.). The different responses to the eigel, to the concepts of justice and compromise (Sanhedrin 6b-7a), the diverse reactions to their deaths reflects some of this great divergence of style, personality and function. We have suggested that the decision to invest Moshe with the kingship and Aharon with the priesthood is particularly significant.

The different perspectives and striking personality contrast of Moshe and Aharon could conceivably have undermined their working relationship and fragmented the unity of Klal Yisrael.In fact, the opposite occurred.From the beginning of their partnership, the Torah emphasizes the mutual respect, harmony, and unity of vision that characterized their relationship. Instead of rivalry, competition and a battle of egos which would have been a natural development, as hazal themselves underscore the near impossibility of power-sharing (ein sheni malachim mishtamshin be-keter echad; dabar echad la-dor ve-ein shenei dabarim lador etc.), their partnership is defined by the Torah's initial description (4:14) of Aharon's voluntary subordination and submission to Moshe's leadership- "vegam hineh hu yotze likratecha ve-raachah ve-samach be-libo". Indeed, Aharon's capacity to surrendor ultimate leadership to his younger brother attests to the unity of purpose and the selfless dedication to Hashem and Klal Yisrael shared equally with Moshe, and is a critical component of his own stature and leadership. The relationship of the two brothers, characterized in Tehilim (133, and see Midrash Tehilim) as "hineh mah tov u-mah naim shevet achim gam yachad" exemplifies the fraternal ideal.

The unity of vision and harmonious interaction determined that the diversity represented by their personalities and roles would dramatically enhance rather than undermine their partnership and the mission of Klal Yisrael. The range and diversity of their combined leadership as a powerful force in this context contributed to their ability to represent the total interests of Klal Yisrael in an inimitable way. The harmony and fierce loyalty between the brothers was all the more impressive in light of their respective talents and diverse personalities. At the same time, their unity of purpose and harmony insured that their respective differences would be a force for even greater spiritual commitment and inspiration. When it came to the mitzvah of the Paschal lamb, Rashi (12:3) notes that the brothers continued to shower respect upon one another until the communication to Klal Yisrael emerged from both as if from a single source.This is all the more remarkable when one considers their diverse qualities and personalities.

We can appreciate that this unique partnership constituted an ideal representation of the total interests of Klal Yisrael.It was built upon the kind of dedication and principle that was indispensable for appropriate halachic initiative and participation. At the same time, it insured a breadth of perspective and vision.[Perhaps according to the Meiri, if Moshe and Aharon also constituted a beit din for kiddush hachodesh, there was no concern about the requirement of beit din noteh, as the ability to come to a consensus in the interest of Klal Yisrael and as a function of their extraordinarily harmonious reciprocal relationship, was firmly established!]

The leadership principles of the Moshe-Aharon model, its unity and range, remains an ideal.They particularly resonate in the search for responsible halachic leadership in a very challenging era. Even as the components appear to be so elusive, we must continue to strive to recapture the dream of "hineh mah tov u-mah naim shevet achim gam yachad".

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