“Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the LORD from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.” — Exodus 27:20–21
As we remember the anniversary of Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s passing this month, we offer you a selection of his devotional thoughts on leadership. Learn how you can honor Rabbi Eckstein’s lifework and legacy through our Wings of Eagles ministry.
Our verses today begin with God’s directive, “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil . . .” God was giving the command, but to whom was He talking? In context, the answer is obvious: God was talking to Moses. However, the fact that Moses was not mentioned by name raises a red flag. From the time of Moses’ birth until the end of the Five Books of Moses, Moses’s name is mentioned in every single Torah portion – except for this one. Why?
The Jewish teachers explain that this portion deals with Aaron’s appointment as the High Priest and the duties of his descendants. This was Aaron’s moment. Moses, in his great humility, understood that this was Aaron’s portion. He gladly stepped aside so that Aaron could shine.
Moses is known as the most humble man of all (Numbers 12:3), and his example teaches us that true humility is having enough self-esteem that you don’t need to be the one in the spotlight. True humility is being able to peacefully and joyfully move aside so that others can have their moment. This is also the hallmark of any great leader. A good leader can lead the way. However, a great leader can empower others so that they can forge a path of their own.
When Moses stepped aside for Aaron, it was a beautiful counterbalance for the time that Aaron made way for Moses. Back in Exodus 4, when Moses encountered God at the burning bush, he puts forth all sorts of arguments for why he should not be the one to redeem Israel. Finally, Moses pleaded with God, “Please send someone else” (v.13); Moses was essentially arguing that Aaron should be chosen, not him. Aaron, as the older brother, deserved the privilege and honor of being the leader of Israel, not Moses. But God responded, “What about your brother, Aaron . . . . He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you” (v.14). God reassured Moses that Aaron knew that Moses had been chosen and that he was sincerely happy for Moses. Aaron didn’t need to be in the spotlight – he was only too glad to see his brother shine.
We can all learn from Moses and Aaron by looking for ways to help others shine. How might we take a step back to let someone else advance? For a parent, it may mean giving a child a chance to do a grownup job. At work, it may mean giving an employee a shot at doing something new and extraordinary. Be joyful and glad for others when they have their moment – and be ready to step aside to let others shine.
You can honor the lifework and legacy of Fellowship Founder Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein by participating in the Rabbi Eckstein Memorial Freedom Flight, bringing Jews from Ukraine and countries of distress home to Israel.