Rabbi and Sibling Rivalry:
A lesson from the Parsha
Have you ever heard two Rabbis in one synagogue? Maybe an assistant Rabbi as well as a full Rabbi, but two Rabbis? Every successful organization or country usually has only one manager, one head. In the United States it’s the president, in Israel the Prime Minister; they make the final decision. Businesses with two partners often experience conflict.
In the famous story of Egypt we find this idea turned on its head. There are two leaders: Moshe and his brother Aaron. At first Moshe was appointed as the sole leader, but nearly immediately G-d appointed Aaron to speak for him. “He will be for you a mouth and you will be his leader.”
If only a translator was needed, someone could have been hired for $20 an hour. So why was Aaron needed?
When Moshe —before his passing—appointed Yehoshua as a leader, G-d said, “Everything depends on you… There is one leader for a generation and not two leaders for a generation”. Yet, in the generation of Moshe, G-d Himself appointed two leaders!
In the verses relating to Aaron and Moshe, we see the Torah relates to them as one person. The verse says, “And Moshe & Aaron went.” It does not say “and they went” in the plural, but in the singular- “and he went”. (In English, plural and singular verbs are often the same, but in Hebrew it is almost always different, which is often lost in translation).
This pattern of grammar continues for the next 40 years. When the Torah talks about Moshe and Aaron they are often addressed in the singular.
Why did G-d choose to change the usual pattern of a single leader?
To understand this, let us look at the cause of the Egyptian exile. The descent into Egypt was the result of the argument between Yosef and his brothers over the position of Yosef in the family.
Interestingly enough, sibling rivalry is found way back in the beginning of time – with Cain and Abel. Cain, the older did not want his younger brother to outdo him. Then comes the case of Yitzchak and Ishmael, where Ishmael could not tolerate Yitzchak being given preference to him. Then comes the conflict between Yaakov and Esau, in which Esau (the firstborn) refused to accept the superiority of his younger brother, Yaakov.
With Yitzchak and Ishmael, the cause could be an ‘ideological conflict.’ Ishmael was an idol worshipper and Isaac believed in one G-d. In the case of Yaakov and Esau, one was wicked and one was righteous. But Yosef and his brothers shared the same belief in one G-d, so there were no grounds for the conflict. It was this conflict that caused the Egyptian exile.
Because the cause of the Egyptian exile was the ‘hatred of brothers’, therefore, in order to bring the exodus, the opposite had to happen. In other words, two brothers together had to take the nation out of Egypt and become so united that they turned into one entity.
Even more so, the older brother, Aaron had to willingly accept the authority of the younger brother, Moshe.
Moshe and Aaron never had a division of opinion even though their natures were opposite.
Why didn’t Moshe and Aaron ever contradict one another?
The case of a long-married couple may provide the answers to our question. After living together for years, they know each other so well they can predict how the other half will react, what pleases them, angers them, and even what words they will use.
Aaron had such a connection to Moshe, that he knew intuitively what Moshe wanted.
What’s the lesson for us? We want to prepare our children for the journey of life, but it’s impossible to give them the answer to all the dilemmas that will be presented to them in their lifetimes. What we could do is to train them to think in a Jewish manner, and then they can react like the Torah wants them to react. It is not enough to ‘act Jewish’, or ‘speak Jewish’; one must learn how to ‘think Jewish.’