Jonathan Muskat

Moshe and Aaron: Two Models to Combat Jealousy

We all feel jealousy from time to time.  It is a natural feeling.  In a world where material wealth and professional success serve as the benchmarks for happiness, jealousy invokes sadness and anger at others’ good fortune. How do we combat this very natural and yet very destructive feeling?

If you had a choice, would you rather have Moshe’s job or Aaron’s job?  On the surface, it seems that Moshe’s job was more prestigious. After all, he was the leader of the Bnei Yisrael, he spoke directly with God and he transmitted God’s Torah to his nation.  Aaron was the older brother and understandably, he could have followed in the footsteps of all the jealous brothers in Sefer Breishit, from Kayin to Esav to Yosef’s brothers.  But Aaron was not jealous of Moshe.  In fact, God attested to the fact that “v’ra’acha v’samach b’libo” – that Aaron was truly happy in his heart that Moshe was selected as the leader of the Bnei Yisrael in Parshat Shmot.  Naturally, then, Aaron was the perfect choice to become the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. After all, when you spend your whole day leading the services in the Temple, serving God with such precision and perfection, it is critical that you are also an individual who is selfless, who loves your people so much that you tolerate their mistakes and imperfections. That’s who Aaron was. Aaron mastered the art of thinking about others before himself.  His love and concern for others were the perfect qualifications for a position of being the middle man between God and the people.

However, there was something about Aaron’s job that should have made Moshe jealous.  There are two things that we want in this world: Immortality and legacy.  We all fight to achieve the former, but we ultimately fail.  However, some of us achieve the latter and are blessed to leave a beautiful legacy to our children and grandchildren for many generations to come.  This is something that Aaron achieved.  Moshe is told in Parshat Tetzaveh to draw Aaron and his children close so that they can receive the kehunah, the priesthood.  Yet Moshe’s children disappear into obscurity.  We never hear from them shortly after they are born.  Moshe does not leave a legacy of leadership to his biological children.  And the question is would Moshe be jealous of this.

Just as Aaron passed his test of jealousy, Moshe passed his test of jealousy.  He exhibited no signs of jealousy as he faithfully adhered to God’s Divine command to appoint Aaron and his children as Kohanim of the people. In fact, perhaps the fact that Moshe’s name does not appear in Parshat Tetzaveh is evidence of the fact that Moshe is behind the scenes and intentionally recedes to the background specifically as Aaron and his children are chosen.

It seems to me that Aaron and Moshe combat feelings of jealousy in two different ways and hopefully each one of us perhaps can be drawn to at least one of these Biblical heroes as we contemplate how to battle this negative character trait in our own lives.

Aaron represents the individual who is completely selfless, who puts everyone before himself and that’s why he doesn’t have a jealous bone in his body.  Some of us are naturally selfless people and some of us need to train ourselves to become individuals who are simply happy for other people. However, for some of us, the jealous impulse is just too strong and that is why we need a guide to help us not be jealous.  We need a commandment, specifically the tenth commandment not to covet.  How can the Torah command us not to covet, which is an emotion?  The Ibn Ezra answers this question with the following parable.  A simple peasant seeking a wife, due to his lowly status, may consider his neighbor’s daughter or the peasant girl down the road.  He would never consider marrying the princess because he doesn’t consider the princess to be a realistic option. Similarly, an intelligent person knows that God has allotted to him whatever he has and whatever he doesn’t have is not a realistic option because God has not allotted this to him.  Therefore, if we have a deep faith in God, then we believe that not only is He the source of all creation, but He also provides each one of us exactly what we need so there’s no room for jealousy.

Aaron combated jealousy before the giving of the Torah due to his natural proclivity towards selflessness and that is one paradigm.  Moshe combated jealousy after the giving of the Torah, after the mitzvah of “lo tachmod” – not coveting, due to him being the ba’al emunah, the man of faith, par excellence, and that is another paradigm.  When we combat jealousy, we live happier lives, and Moshe and Aaron provide two models to achieve this goal, either by developing a true love and happiness for others when they succeed, or by working on our faith that God gives us everything we need.

About the Author
Jonathan Muskat is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside.