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Friday
Mar182011

TAKE AARON, PLEASE…

AARON THE BRIDEGROOM

In this week’s parsha, the Torah introduces the inauguration of Aaron and his sons as priests in the Sanctuary with the following three Hebrew words “Kach et Aharon, translated as “Take Aaron…”

Chida (an acronym for R. Chaim Yosef David Azulai, one of the greatest Halachic authorities and Kabbalists of the late eighteenth century) states (in his work Chomat Anach) that if we take the concluding letters of these three words it spells the word chattan, a bridegroom. Chida applies this to Aaron’s appointment as High Priest. He was to be honored and feted as a bridegroom is at his wedding.

Every detail of Torah is precise. Therefore the association made by the Torah between the taking of Aaron and a bridegroom can go both ways. On the one hand it suggests that Aaron should be treated as a bridegroom because he was about to enter into a new relationship with G-d upon serving as a Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. And, on the other hand, it can also be said to imply the inverse: a bridegroom should emulate Aaron.

We can now interpret the words “Take Aaron” with its allusion to a bridegroom as a directive to the bridegroom to take his cue from Aaron. The Torah here is instructing the bridegroom: “When you enter into your marriage, Aaron should serve as your role model.”

What is the connection between Aaron and a bridegroom? And in what way is the chattan to follow Aaron’s example? And how does that relate to each and every one of us, particularly in our day and age?

L’CHAIM: SPEECH, RELATIONSHIPS AND LIFE

The greatest gift given to humans is arguably the power to communicate with speech. It is for this reason that when delineating the four levels of existence (inanimate, vegetative, animal, and human) the term used to describe the human condition is “medaber” which means “speaker,” rather than the title “intellectual.”

Why is speech so central to our identity as human beings?

The answer lies in the very word for life in the Holy Tongue, the word “Chaim”. The Rebbe once asked why this word is written in the plural form? The Rebbe’s answer was that life is only worthy of its name if it is a life that acknowledges, appreciates, and is shared with others. Put another way, true life is defined by the nature and quality of our relationships. And since relationships are created, preserved, managed, and enhanced through speech, it follows then that speech is the primary defining factor defining our humanity.

Marriage is the paradigm of all relationships. For a marriage to succeed it must be one in which the art of communication is well honed and refined. When our ability to communicate with our spouse suffers so, too, our relationship in general suffers. And with our diminished relationship the entire quality of life is profoundly affected since the quality of life itself hinges on the quality of our relationships.

MARRIAGE AND THE ART OF COMMUNICATION FOR THE CHATTAN

At which point in one’s life is the art of communication most crucial? And for which individual is the need to communicate properly most imperative?

It stands to reason that it is the time of marriage, the ultimate relationship, wherein proper communication can either make it or break it, G-d forbid. At the point where two half-souls are to be united (or, more accurately reunited, since, according to the Zohar, our mate is actually the other half of our soul that was separated at birth), that is the time when communication is integral to the success of the marriage.

In the initial stages of marriage—particularly the first year, when Jewish law and tradition refers to the bridegroom and bride as chattan and kalla—the need for proper communication is indispensible. This period of transition from single life to married life is a most precarious time for the young couple. And frequently the future success of the relationship hinges on the way it is established at that time.

As important as this “art-form” is for both chattan and kalla the message and challenge of communication is even more imperative for the chattan-bridegroom. Before his marriage the man is used to a certain form of communication that might outwardly seem harsh. Even Torah learning—which the groom is expected to engage in prior to marriage—often involves the use of critical language. To be sure, even when Torah scholars argue vociferously it is only a façade.

Deep down, the two Talmudic students who argue incessantly about their studies love each other. According to the Talmud this love becomes evident at the end of their discussion and debate. The Talmud applies the verse “Vahev b’sufa-Love in the end” to this phenomenon of Torah scholars showing their true love for each other despite the strident debates in which they engaged that previously may have masked that love.

However, even this façade of harshness one must remove when talking to one’s spouse. And while verbal abuse directed against anyone is wrong, the Talmud exhorts us to be extra vigilant when speaking to one’s wife. In the marriage relationship the external form of communication is almost as important, if not as important, as its inner dimension. While a teacher may occasionally use stern language to rebuke a recalcitrant student this ought not carry over to the way one must communicate with one’s spouse.

THE ULTIMATE ROLE MODEL FOR PROPER SPEECH

Who is the ultimate role model for proper communication?

The answer is Aaron. What was so unique about Aaron? Aaron, Rashi tells us, was beloved by everyone as compared to Moses who was not as “popular.” Moses, in his position as the ultimate leader of the Jewish people, had to occasionally employ the harsh language of rebuke. Aaron, by contrast, would always use gentle language; he would “wear his love for everyone on his sleeve.” He was able to change hearts by speaking with words that everyone could see emanated from his loving heart. Thus they recognized because his outward manner of speaking was a genuine expression of his true inner feelings.

Even when Aaron was in a most difficult position, which would have caused many a person to lose control of the content of their words, let alone their tone of voice, he still maintained his soft-spoken mannerism. One glaring example of this is when he was confronted by Moses for his role in the incident of the golden calf. His response is prefaced by the word “Va’yomer-And he said” which in Hebrew has the connotation that he replied softly.

THE PRO-ACTIVE AARON

One might think that Aaron was a softy, that he was not an assertive or pro-active individual. And one might even conclude that his soft-spoken demeanor was a sign of weakness not of moral strength. To counter this misapprehension of Aaron’s unique model of communication, the Mishnah in Ethics of the Fathers cites the immortal words of Hillel: “Be of the students of Aaron; love peace, pursue peace, love all creatures and bring them close to the Torah.” Not only did he love peace, he pursued it. Not only did he love all creatures, he actively sought to bring them close to the Torah. This he achieved to a great extent by his unique method of communication.

Aaron’s goal was no less pro-active than Moses’. But unlike Moses, his method was obsessively positive, warm, loving and peaceful.

The chattan is therefore well advised to follow Aaron’s example of communication—“Take Aaron”—and incorporate Aaron’s mode of communication as your own.

“WITH KINDNESS AND MERCY”

We are living presently in the transitional period—on the bridge—between galut/exile and geula/Redemption. We are about to enter into a new relationship with the world. We are like the chattan in his transitional period. We too must learn the lesson of communicating with love. And while in earlier generations we could have afforded the luxury of being more stern in the way we tried to affect others, today, the method we must use is the method of Aaron.

This lesson of the chattan and Aaron can be taken a step further and applied to G-d as well.

Our Sages tell us that all of the commandments that we were given are also observed by G-d. If G-d commands us to communicate to our kalla—and, by extension, to all others—with sensitivity and warmth, then we ask of G-d to do the same with the Jewish people, His bride. Indeed, our Sages have compared G-d to the bridegroom and the Jewish people as His bride. More specifically, they have compared the Messianic Age as the time when our marriage will be complete.

However, the initial stages of the Messianic Age can be fraught with difficult challenges. Our Sages referred to the travail that can potentially accompany this transitional period. So we therefore say to G-d:

“Follow Aaron’s example. Just as You have commanded us to communicate with love, so too lead us out of exile with warmth and love. Take us your bride under Your Chuppa (wedding canopy) and into Your embrace with loving and endearing words. We have had our fill of the showers of hidden love that were expressed through the pain and suffering of galut.

We respectfully implore G-d to communicate with us with loving sentiments that are expressed openly in a loving fashion. Not only should the outcome be pleasant but also the road to that outcome be filled with overt goodness. This is consistent with the Rebbe’s frequent blessings and prayers concerning the future Redemption: “May it be b’chesed u’b’rachamim-with kindness and mercy.”

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