Doing Mitzvos as Second Nature

Vaya’as Aharon u’vanav es kol ha’devarim asher tzivah Hashem b’yad Moshe (Vayikra 8:36)

 After discussing more of the laws governing the various offerings, Parashas Tzav turns its attention to the inauguration of the Kohanim. It relates at length the procedure by which Aharon and his sons were consecrated to serve as Kohanim. After relating all of the details of the process, the parashah summarizes and concludes by recording that Aharon and his sons did everything that Moshe had commanded them to do in the name of Hashem.

Rashi explains that the Torah specifically records that Aharon and his sons did everything that Hashem commanded in order to praise them, in that they followed Hashem’s instructions without the slightest deviation. This is difficult to understand. Why does the Torah find it noteworthy that the righteous Aharon and his sons obeyed Hashem’s explicit commands, something that we would have naturally assumed and taken for granted?

The Darkei Mussar notes that the prophet Yirmiyahu relates (15:17), “I didn’t sit together with a group of jokesters.” This is also perplexing; would we have expected a prophet of Hashem to waste his valuable time with such unproductive members of society that it was worth mentioning otherwise? Wouldn’t it strike us as odd to hear somebody mention in a eulogy of the Chofetz Chaim or Harav Moshe Feinstein that he didn’t spend his days at the circus or the bar?

Harav Moshe Rosenstein, the Mashgiach of the Lomza yeshivah in Europe, answers that human nature is to be innately interested in such frivolous matters. It is indeed proper to praise these individuals for refusing to remain with their inborn tendencies. Instead, they worked on themselves until they reached a level at which they had completely uprooted their natural inclinations, and doing Hashem’s will became second nature.

Similarly, Aharon was born as a regular person; only through many years of hard work did he become the great Aharon HaKohen with whom we are familiar. Instead of remaining typical and average, he became a person for whom there was no possibility of intentionally deviating from Hashem’s commandments. Although at the time of the building of the Mishkan he was already on a level at which he faced no struggle, the Torah still praises him for his lifetime of work that brought him to that high level.

The following story presents a contemporary application of this concept. The Beis HaLevi was renowned for his tremendous yiras Shamayim. A Rav in Europe once remarked in jest that if he were on the Heavenly Court at the time of the Beis HaLevi’s death, he would refuse to give him reward for any sin that he didn’t commit.

The Beis HaLevi was on such a high spiritual level that he had no evil inclination pushing him to transgress. Because he had no internal struggle, he wasn’t deserving of any reward for his choices. The Rav added that he would, however, give the Beis HaLevi unimaginable reward for using his free will to develop himself to the point that he reached such a lofty level.

While we may not be on the level of Aharon, Yirmiyahu or the Beis HaLevi, this lesson is still applicable. We all have mitzvos and areas of life with which we struggle. Our natural instincts guide us in the opposite direction of where we know we’d like to be going. We can take strength from seeing that true and lasting change is possible, and we should be encouraged by the knowledge that we will receive eternal reward for our efforts, even after they become second nature to us.

 Q: A Kohen was required to bring a korban minchah on the day that he was inaugurated and first served in the Temple (6:12–16). The Gemara (Horayos 12b) rules that in addition to bringing this offering on the day of his anointment, the Kohen Gadol was also required to offer this sacrifice every day of his tenure. Why was he required to bring this offering every day?

 A: The Abarbanel offers nine reasons for the Kohen Gadol’s daily obligation. The first is so that he should rectify any sins he may have committed prior to proceeding to bring offerings to atone for the rest of the nation. Secondly, seeing the lofty Kohen Gadol bring a daily offering will inspire other sinners to examine their deeds and bring offerings for their sins. This will also reduce embarrassment on their part since the Kohen Gadol also brings regular offerings. Additionally, it will protect the poor from feeling embarrassed at their inability to bring more valuable offerings, as the Kohen Gadol brings a similar flour offering daily. Realizing that his offering is comparable to that of the poor will inspire humility in the Kohen Gadol as he serves in the Temple. A sixth reason is because the Kohanim receive part of the flour offerings that are offered by other Jews in the Temple each day to eat, Hashem wanted to make it clear that they are eating these offerings solely to perform Hashem’s will and not because they are hungry. By bringing a daily flour-offering which is completely consumed on the Altar, the Kohen Gadol makes this clear. This offering also represents an expression of thanksgiving for all of the Priestly gifts that Hashem gave to the Kohanim. An eighth reason is that because the Kohanim scoop a handful of flour from others’ flour offerings to offer on the Altar, we are concerned that they may unintentionally offer less than they are supposed to, thereby depriving the Altar. The Kohen Gadol atones for this by bringing a daily flour offering which is completely burned on the Altar. Finally, just as Hashem wanted a communal offering brought daily, namely the korban tamid, so too did He want an individual offering brought each day, so He assigned it to the holy Kohen Gadol who was most suited for this daily obligation.


Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email