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		                                    Thinking Torah Blog		                                </span>

03/09/2023 05:00:00 PM


Rabbi Chelsea Feuchs

Even our best traits can have their drawbacks. Aaron was known as an incredibly empathetic man. He was deeply connected to the people, and he understood their experiences in a way that Moses simply could not, given his unique upbringing. Aaron knew what it was like to live under the burden of slavery, to suffer under Pharaoh’s decrees, to wonder if he and his people had perhaps been forgotten by God. This ability to relate to the Israelites, to help them feel seen, endeared Aaron to the people and made him a beloved leader. It is said that Aaron was the embodiment of pure rachamim, or compassion.
It is wonderful to cultivate compassion, but as students of Mussar know, every character trait must be balanced with its opposite. We see the results of unbridled compassion this week when Aaron heeds the demands of the Israelites and helps to create the golden calf. Yes, he tries to stall them. Yes, he tries to redirect their energy toward God. But ultimately, he allows their anxiety to overtake them and lead them astray. Our text even says explicitly “that the people were out of control because Aaron had let them get out of control.”
Aaron had to learn to temper his rachamim/compassion with din/judgment. It is not that one that one trait is good and the other bad, one nice and the other mean. Each has its time and place. We pray to a God of compassion when we need healing for ourselves or a loved one. We pray to a God of judgment when we want to hold ourselves accountable for our missteps and grow from that experience. We ourselves embody rachamim when we visit the sick and comfort those in mourning, and we embody din when we stand up to injustice and fight to make our communities more inclusive. May we all find the balance required in our lives and in this moment so that we can be the leaders our world needs.  

Fri, April 19 2024 11 Nisan 5784