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Miriam Aflalo

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

“You [Moses] must command Bnei Yisrael to bring you clear illuminating oil …” (Shemos 27:20)

The Ramban explains: The reason it says “to bring you” is because they would bring the oil to Moshe Rabbeinu and he would see if it was pure and pressed properly.

But that leads to another question: Was there no one else in Bnei Yisrael who was an expert on olive oil except for Moshe Rabbeinu?

Furthermore, it says, [Separate] your brother Aharon and his sons from among Bnei Yisrael, [and] bring them close to you so that Aaron, and his sons … can become priests to Me. (Shemos 28:1)“Bring your brother Aharon together with his sons to you to be Kohanim for Me.” Why does it say “to you” there?

David HaMelech wrote in Tehillim: “See how good and how pleasant it is that brothers dwell together. It is like the fine oil on the head running down onto the beard, the beard of Aharon; that runs down onto the collar of his garments.” (Tehillim 133: 1–2) The Midrash writes that the pasuk mentions the word beard two times because when the oil was on Aharon’s beard, it was as though it was on Moshe’s beard as well. For they felt like one man with one heart. (Sichos Mussar, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, 23, 5732)

I read the bulletin three times: Course offered in self-awareness. Final places available.  Lecturer: Shulamis Emanuel, from Ashdod.

No! This can’t be my classmate from high school! I remember her clearly. She was a mediocre girl, both in academics and socially. Nothing wrong with her — just one of those girls who sort of blend in with the woodwork. It can’t be her. But still, how many Shulamis Emanuels are there from Ashdod?

I picked up the phone to call Chani. She’s the first to know everything. Sure enough, Chani confirms that it’s our old classmate Shulamis and that her series of lectures on self-awareness has changed the lives of hundreds of women.

“How nice,” I said with a small lump in my throat. “Good for her!” My voice sounded hollow to my ears.


Why does it matter that this successful lecturer is my old classmate? All successful lecturers were somebody’s classmate at some point in their lives. And perhaps they too weren’t perfect from the day they were born.

The truth was somehow locked in my heart, and I struggled to get to the source of what was bothering me.

I was jealous. I also wanted to be successful like her.

I, who used to be more popular than she, who always knew the right answers in geometry when she did not, I remained a plain old schoolteacher like so many others. While she became famous and successful.

My voice of reason tried to talk some sense into me: “Don’t you know that nobody takes the success of anybody else? All the people who fill the auditoriums when she lectures don’t take away from your personal auditorium.”

Don’t I know that?

Moshe stood for seven days by the Burning Bush, “arguing” with Hashem to send someone else to redeem Bnei Yisrael from Mitzrayim.

Moshe didn’t want to step an inch into the jurisdiction of Aharon who may have felt that he should be the redeemer. Until Hashem told him: “Aharon will see and he will rejoice in his heart.” Aharon will be happy as if he himself had been chosen to redeem Bnei Yisrael.

Rabi Shimon bar Yochai says: The heart that is happy with the greatness of his brother will wear the Urim V’Tumim, as Aharon did.

The Gemara tells us (Zevachim 102a) that Hashem got angry at Moshe for protesting so long that Aharon should be the redeemer. Therefore, Hashem declared that Aharon and his family would be the Kohanim instead of Moshe.

We can now understand the words “to you” mentioned above. In both examples, Moshe was active in a mitzvah pertaining to the kehunah. Both in anointing Aharon and his sons to be Kohanim, and in examining the olive oil that Aharon would use for the Menorah. The words “to you” are used to show that Moshe was rejoicing equally in Aharon’s mitzvos, although originally they were intended to be his. Together, like one man with one heart. (Ibid.)  

I, too, want to sincerely rejoice with others’ happiness. To feel admiration with no jealousy clouding it and no fog of selfishness marring my vision. To be happy as if Shulamis were my sister, part of me.

Because truthfully, she is.

I have better days and worse days. Sometimes I don’t have space in my heart for anyone and I feel as if everyone is taking what is mine. But on good days, the inner light shines forth and my heart stretches wide.

How good it is when two brothers dwell together.  

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