In the portion Shmini, on the eighth day, Moses thinks that he might be the High Priest, but, as it says in the Midrash, the Creator instead tells him that Aaron and Aaron’s children are going to be the High Priests and the ones to do the important spiritual work in the Tabernacle. And when you read the story, it sounds like not only was Moses confused in thinking that he would be the High Priest, but also almost as if the Creator wanted him to be confused.
The Midrash says when Moses was chosen to be the leader and take the Israelites out of Egypt, he argued back and forth with the Creator. The Creator told Moses He wants him to be the person, the conduit, to bring the Light and leadership to the Israelites and to take them out of Egypt, but Moses says, "No, I am not the right person,” and this goes on for seven days, back and forth.
The Creator then says to Moses, "I keep telling you for seven days that you should be the one to take the Israelites out of Egypt, and you keep telling Me that I should send somebody else. Therefore, I promise you there will come a time when the roles will be reversed; where you will be thinking for seven days that you are chosen for something, and at the end I will tell you, ‘No.’” And this is referring to what we are talking about now; Moses does the spiritual work in the Tabernacle for the first seven days, but on the eighth day, the Creator says, "Oh, sorry, it is not for you. Call Aaron and his sons, they will be the ones who will be the kohenim and do the work."
Moses, during the seven days of arguing with the Creator, thought his brother Aaron, and not himself, was the right person to take the Israelites out of Egypt. So, whatever that thought was about his brother, clearly, it was not selfish; why, then, does it sound as if the Creator is punishing him for it? Why does it sound like it was important for the Creator to have Moses think wrongly for the first seven days that it was his job to do, and then finally tell him to call Aaron and his sons because they are going to be the ones to have the job of High Priests? What is the secret?
The answer is an interesting teaching from the Midrash brought by a French-Spanish kabbalist who speaks about why the specific place the Temple was built, on top of the mountain in Jerusalem, was chosen. We know, as the kabbalists teach, it is the physical place Adam was created from, it is where Isaac was brought for the Binding of Isaac, it is a place where they say Noah brought the sacrifice when he came out of the Flood; however, there was a singular reason it was chosen to be where the Temple was built.
What was that reason? He brings the Midrash to answer this, which says there were two brothers who owned fields that bordered that spot. One day, they found a huge treasure on the border, exactly between both fields, and they started arguing about whose treasure it was, each one saying to the other, "It is not mine; I can tell by where it was found, it is your treasure." They each wanted the treasure to go to the other and did not honestly believe it was theirs. The Creator saw that each brother wanted to give it to the other, and so He decided this is where the Altar will be, and where the Temple must be built. Therefore, the Midrash is telling us that the Temple was built there because neither brother said he wanted it for himself nor wanted to split it; their love was so strong for each other that each brother’s first inclination was to give it to the other before taking it for himself.
So, the Midrash says this is the reason the Temple was built there, and not because of all the other things. We always talk about the concept of “love your neighbor as yourself,” but at the core, when you think about it, the most powerful love is not sharing. Sharing is when you have something you know is yours, but are going to share it with or give it to somebody, or sharing is giving what is ours simply because of the love we feel for the other person. And it is important to understand that what happened between these two brothers is not that one was sharing with the other. It is that the love each had for the other was so overwhelming that their first inclination was not to give it to the other, but to say, “It is not even mine,” which is a very different level than saying, “I have this and I am going to share it with you;” rather, it is, “I love you so much that I do not even see it as mine. It is absolutely yours.”
That is what happened between these two brothers, and the secret of that type of love is what enabled the building of the Beit HaMikdash, the Temple, in that location. We need to understand that greater than sharing and greater even than “love your neighbor as yourself,” which is manifested in the action of sharing, is a love so great you no longer see anything as your own, and immediately see it first as somebody else’s, therefore being quicker to give it to them than taking it for yourself. This is a very important secret, and the one that we find with Moses and Aaron.
When the Creator came to Moses and told him, "You are the right one to bring the Israelites out of Egypt,” it is not that Moses was being humble in saying his brother should do it. Rather, it was because of his love and appreciation for Aaron that his first inclination was it should go to Aaron. Therefore, when Moses says, "Send somebody else," he means, "Send Aaron because he is greater than I, he is more spiritual than I, he is more elevated than I, he is the right person for the job.” So, when we understand this, it means that at the Burning Bush when the Creator comes to Moses, it was not that Moses was being spiritual. It was that he was so overwhelmed with his appreciation for Aaron that he could not see anything except for the fact that Aaron was the right person for that job.
And that was the reason – and it is an important understanding – that Moses merited taking the Israelites out of Egypt; because for those seven days he was overwhelmed with love and appreciation for Aaron, and the desire to give him everything. That is why Moses was able to be the conduit for the Redemption. So it was not simply an argument between Moses and the Creator. It was a step that enabled Moses to be able to reveal the Light of the Final Redemption.
The Creator tells Moses, after seven days of arguing back and forth, "Go, become the leader, and when Aaron sees you, he will have joy in his heart. Because just as your love and appreciation for him is overwhelming and you believe that he should be the one to be the conduit for the Redemption, he feels the same about you." And it was the coming together of the love and appreciation between Moses and Aaron that allowed the Redemption to occur. Because any great Light, as we said, has to be revealed through a culmination of great love and appreciation, and where, here, Moses was desiring to give to Aaron first, and Aaron was desiring to give to Moses first.
So, we asked the question, why does the Creator allow Moses to be confused for seven days, thinking maybe he will be the High Priest? Because in order for the great Light of the Tabernacle to be ignited, there had to be, just as at the time of the Redemption, the overwhelming appreciation and love of Moses to give to Aaron, and Aaron to give to Moses. Therefore, the Midrash says very beautifully that besides those two brothers who had the two fields where the Temple was built, we do not find in history two people who had such an overwhelming love and appreciation for each other that their first desire was for the other to receive before them as Moses and Aaron. How do we know that Aaron truly felt great love and appreciation for Moses? Because, as we said, the Creator tells Moses, "Aaron will come towards you and he will have true joy in his heart." And Rav Shimon Bar Yochai says it was in the moment when the Creator saw the overwhelming love from Aaron to Moses that He says, "This is the person who needs to be the High Priest. This is the person who can reveal the Light of the Tabernacle."
And this is true in our lives, as well. Whether it is between spouses, friends, and so forth, if you want to ignite real great Light, the state of love and appreciation that brings a person to say, "This person deserves it before I deserve it," is what ignites great Light. As we said, that is what ignited the Light of the Redemption of Egypt, that is what ignited the Light of the Tabernacle, and that is what ignited the Light of the Beit HaMikdash, the Temple.
If not for Aaron experiencing the same joy towards Moses’ having the position as if it were his own, the Redemption from Egypt could not have happened. If not for the love of the two brothers, where each one desired that the other have the treasure, the Light of the Beit HaMikdash could not have been ignited. This is the state we need to be in in our daily interactions, with people we are close to, and eventually, with more and more people. The Light of the Final Redemption can only be ignited by a person who comes to a state of such overwhelming love and desire to share that his first inclination is, "This person deserves it." It is a very important understanding.