He said to Aaron, "Take a bull calf for your sin offering and a ram for your burnt offering, both without defect, and present them before the LORD." - Leviticus 9:2
The Torah portion for this week is Shemini, which means "eighth," from Leviticus 9:1-11:47, and the Haftorah is from 2 Samuel 6:1-19.
At the beginning of this week's Torah portion, the priests, including Aaron as the High Priest, began their holy service in the Tabernacle. In the second verse Moses instructed Aaron: "Take a bull calf for your sin offering . . ." The Jewish sages explain that Aaron had to bring a sin offering in order to atone for his part, albeit an unwilling one, in the construction of the golden calf. (See Exodus 32:1 6.) Now here's what is so fascinating about this verse: The very verse that contains Aaron's greatest moment - his inaugural moment as the High Priest of Israel - also contains a reference to his gravest sin.
This is no accident. In fact, the sages teach that Aaron was hesitant to take this position because that sin had made him feel unworthy. However, God wasn't trying to needle Aaron by reminding him of that one misdeed. Rather, God was sending Aaron, and all of us, an important message: it is in the very same place where we fail that we can also greatly succeed. Aaron was particularly worthy of being the spiritual leader of the nation of Israel because he, too, had made mistakes in life, but he had risen above those mistakes, moved forward and upward.
In Proverbs 24:16 we read, "for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again . . ." The sages note that the verse doesn't say that the righteous get up again; rather the language is very precise when it specifies that the righteous rise again. This teaches us that not only do the righteous get up after failure, but they rise to new heights. They are greater than they were before they fell in the first place.
This insight should inspire us all to keep pushing forward even when we fail. It's only through perseverance and pressing on that we are able to reach our goals. From every failure, we get smarter; from every fall, we can rise higher.
Consider the following: Babe Ruth, who held the world record for the most home runs also struck out 1,330 times. Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball stars of our times, was cut from his tenth-grade basketball team. Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections, failed at two businesses, and suffered a nervous breakdown before he was elected president of the United States; now he is considered one of the greatest presidents in American history. The list goes on and on.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President