Vaera: Chapter 9

"These are the heads of their fathers' houses"


This section opens with the verse, "And Hashem spoke to Moses and Aaron and commanded them about the children of Yisrael and about Pharaoh the king of Egypt." Rabbi Yosi explains that this means the children of Yisrael were to be led with gentleness and the Pharaoh was to be treated with honor and respect. Rabbi Yesa wonders why it says, "These are the leaders of their fathers' house," and Rabbi Shimon answers that they were kings and the children of kings, leaders of their clans who did not deny their customs or mingle with other nations. Moses and Aaron were without equal among the princes of Yisrael because of their lineage, especially because of Pinchas who saved so many thousands when he killed Zimri and Kozbi and halted the plague. God saw that two of Aaron's sons would eventually blemish the covenant, so he did not want to send Aaron on the mission, but when he saw Pinchas repairing the blemish - sustaining the covenant - he reinstated Aaron with Moses. Rabbi Shimon adds that Moses is air or spirit and Aaron is water, and together they combine Tiferet and Chesed.


When people are chosen to be leaders, it is because they have some quality or qualities that make them fit for leadership. As we think about this section, we can contemplate the ways in which Moses and Aaron exhibited these qualities by showing gentleness, honor and respect to both their own people and their adversary. This ability in a man to transcend his own nature and honor his enemies - for even criminals treat their friends with respect - is the sign of a great soul, one who has overcome his lower nature and thereby rules his inner kingdom. This is the true 'royal man,' who is also the natural choice for a temporal leader. Reading this section will make us more fit for leadership ourselves, and help us guide others to their own freedom.