Reb Dovid Seltzer, a follower of the Rebbe Harav Mordechai of Lechovitch, zy”a, owned the only store that sold salt in Slonim, a monopoly from which he earned a comfortable living. One day a newly married young man who had received a considerable dowry from his father-in-law decided to invest it into what seemed to be a very promising venture: just a short distance from Reb Dovid’s place he opened a salt store of his own.
Soon Reb Dovid realized that his competitor was drawing the majority of his steady customers. He was shaken. After all, it was the livelihood of his wife and children that was at stake. As these thoughts were racing through his mind, he suddenly stopped and, even more shaken than before, cried out, “What has happened to me? The Gemara tells us that no man can touch what belongs to another. So, after all, it’s not possible for that fellow to take away something that belongs to me. So how could it be that it is bothering me? Oy, vey!”
Reb Dovid totally forgot about the competition, he completely forgot about his salt store. He was only perturbed over what he perceived as a weakness in his avodas Hashem. So for him there was only one thing to do: He would go to his Rebbe in Lechovitch.
He packed his bags and made his way to the Rebbe. After spending Shabbos basking in the glow of the Rebbe’s presence, he came back to Slonim. He was no longer bothered by the customers going into the other fellow’s store.
However, as the weeks went by, something else began to bother him. Usually, whenever he saw somebody going into a Jew’s store, he rejoiced that a fellow Yid was earning some money. However, when he saw people going into his competitor’s store, although he no longer felt distressed, he did not have any feelings of happiness, either. This bothered him deeply, for he interpreted this lack of proper emotion as a spiritual weakness, a flaw in his avodas Hashem.
Once more he packed his bags and made his way to the Rebbe in Lechovitch. This time, when he returned after Shabbos he was relieved, for he was able to rejoice each time he saw someone enter his competitor’s store.
This week the Torah teaches us that when Hakadosh Baruch Hu instructed Moshe Rabbeinu to take Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt, Moshe was concerned that his older brother, Aharon, would resent the fact that Moshe was the one who was ascending to greatness. Hashem assured Moshe to the contrary: “He is going out to you and will see you and rejoice in his heart.”
Not only didn’t Aharon Hakohen have a trace of envy, but he actually rejoiced that his younger brother had been chosen!
The Midrash (Rus Rabbah 5:6) relates that if Aharon would have known that the Torah would state this about him, he would have greeted Moshe with music and dancing.
The same Midrash also says that if Reuven would have known that the Torah would have stated about him that “Reuven heard and saved [Yosef] from the pit,” he would have carried him on his shoulders and brought him back to Yaakov Avinu.
At first glance, this Chazal appears perplexing.
Reuven and Aharon Hakohen were spiritual giants, whose greatness we can’t fathom. Why would whether or not the Torah wrote about them affect their decision in each of these cases?
Hagaon Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv,& zt”l, gave a very illuminating explanation:
Of all the brothers, Reuven, who was the firstborn, had the most reason to feel resentment against Yosef, as the brachah was taken away from him and given to Yosef. (It was Yosef who received the equivalent of a “double portion” as both Efraim and Menashe are considered shevatim.)
Since he acted totally l’shem Shamayim, without any intention that this should be publicized, he didn’t take into consideration what people would say. While Reuven’s sole intention was to save Yosef Hatzaddik’s life, his action and motives could easily be misunderstood. Those learning of the incident — cognizant of the fact that had Reuven not been on such a lofty level he would have had reason to begrudge Yosef — would have assumed that all Reuven was trying to do is stop his brothers from actually killing Yosef with their own hands, and intended to allow him to die in the pit. Had he known that the Torah would publicize his act, and attest that his true goal was to save Yosef’s life, he would have “carried him on his shoulders” to leave no room for misinterpretation.
Similarly, it didn’t even occur to Aharon Hakohen that Moshe Rabbeinu would suspect it would bother him that his younger brother was chosen. Had he known that Moshe was concerned, and that Hashem therefore saw it necessary to reassure him, Aharon would have greeted his younger brother with music to underscore the fact that he rejoiced in Moshe’s being chosen.