G-d tells Moshe to inform the Jewish People that He is going to take them out of Egypt. However, the Jewish People do not listen. G-d commands Moshe to go to Pharaoh and ask him to free the Jewish People. Although Aharon shows Pharaoh a sign by turning a staff into a snake, Pharaoh's magicians copy the sign, emboldening Pharaoh to refuse the request. G-d punishes the Egyptians and sends plagues of blood and frogs, but the magicians copy these miracles on a smaller scale, again encouraging Pharaoh to be obstinate. After the plague of lice, Pharaoh's magicians concede that only G-d could be performing these miracles. Only the Egyptians, and not the Jews in Goshen, suffer during the plagues. The onslaught continues with wild animals, pestilence, boils and fiery hail. However, despite Moshe's offers to end the plagues if Pharaoh will let the Jewish People leave, Pharaoh continues to harden his heart and refuses.
Big And Great
“This was the Aharon and Moshe to whom G-d had said…” ()
Imagine you’re walking along the street with an attaché case containing ten million dollars. Being a charitable soul, you’ve decided that you want to build a yeshiva, and you’re on your way to donate the money. Suddenly a masked man with a stocking over his face jumps up in front of you. He grabs the suitcase from you and shouts at you, “Speak one word of lashon hara (malicious gossip) right now or say goodbye to the money!”
So what can you do? The Torah says that you have to give up all your money rather than willingly violate one Torah prohibition. You stand there and watch the masked man douse the suitcase with lighter fuel and toss a match on to it. The whole thing goes up in a short-lived but rather expensive bonfire.
A different scenario. Same attaché case, same ten million dollars. However this time no masked bandit appears. You successfully donate the money and in due course there arises a beautiful yeshiva through your efforts.
Imagine walking into the Beit Medrash of that Yeshiva late one night! 400 students are learning there. Imagine how you feel when you go to bed that night!
So let me ask you a question. Why should you feel any less when you go to bed at night having not spoken one word of lashon hara that day?
“This was the Aharon and Moshe to whom G-d had said…”
Rashi explains that in some places the Torah mentions Moshe before Aharon, and in others, Aharon before Moshe. The reason is to teach us that Moshe and Aharon were considered equal.
How can that be? The Torah itself says that there will never be a prophet of the stature of Moshe. “Never again has there arisen in Yisrael a prophet like Moshe…” (Devarim 34:10)
Aharon must not have been on Moshe’s level of prophecy but the Torah equates him with Moshe because Aharon utilized every gift that G-d had given him to the maximum. Aharon actualized all his potential, all his unique gifts, and thus he was considered Moshe’s equal.
We tend to think that we can only be great by doing big recognizable things. Like building yeshivas or being famous. The truth is that even if G-d never blesses us with the wherewithal to do BIG things, we can all be truly GREAT.
- (Heard from Rabbi Chaim Zvi Senter, and a story in the name of Rabbi Meyer Zilberberg heard from Rabbi Dovid Kaplan)