To Admit

Moshe heard and he approved (Vayikra 10:20)

The day of the inauguration of the Mishkan, Rosh Chodesh Nisan, was to be a day of joyful celebration imbued with the sanctity of Hashem’s presence in the camp of Israel. The happiness turned to grief when two of Aharon’s children were consumed by fire and died because they offered an “alien fire” before Hashem. Their new position of Kohanim in the Mikdash was tainted by their status as onenim — relatives awaiting the burial of one for whom they must sit shivah.

A dispute ensued between Moshe and Aharon about the propriety of Aharon’s surviving children’s conduct in regard to sacrificial offerings of the day. Moshe rebuked his nephews and Aharon defended the conduct of his sons. The conversation between the holy brothers culminates with “Moshe heard and he approved.” Rashi explains that Moshe admitted that Aharon was correct and he was not ashamed to say “I had not heard this law.”

There was once a Jew who became a sinner and eventually sank to the point of becoming a robber and a thief. One day he experienced a desire to repent and abandon his evil ways. Feeling depressed and inadequate to undertake the teshuvah process, he approached a Rabbi to ask how to reform his ways.

“You can’t bite off more than you can chew,” the Rav explained. “You are best off starting with one resolution.”

“All right,” he replied. “What do you feel is an achievable first step?”

“Starting immediately, accept upon yourself never to lie. Resolve to speak only the truth 100 percent of the time!” the Rabbi suggested.

What good is not lying when I rob, steal and kill? the man thought to himself. In any event, he decided to do as the Rav advised and promised that he would never lie again.

It did not take long until the desire to commit a crime welled up inside him. He set out to rob someone, but on the way he recalled his promise to the Rabbi. What if I get caught? he thought. I would have to deny it and that would be a lie! He overcame his desire and returned home. And so it was whenever he thought of sinning. Eventually he became a genuine baal teshuvah — repentant soul.

Our parashah relates how “Moshe heard and he approved” — i.e., Moshe admitted that Aharon was correct; Moshe was not ashamed to say “I had not heard this law.” The most perfect of all men was not embarrassed to admit that he was less than complete as a human being. His confession, his ability to speak the truth when it revealed a personal weakness, did not indicate failure or weakness; it was a testament to his greatness and his perfection.

Our sages teach that people believe that great persons have no battles with the evil inclination. On the contrary, their battles with our spiritual foe are greater than those of the masses. The evil inclination expends more effort and invokes his wiliest tricks to entrap a “big fish.” Admitting one’s weaknesses strengthens a person in his or her battles with the yetzer hara. Being truthful with others will develop the power of honesty to properly and truthfully assess oneself and use this power to admit one into an exemplary life of repentance and good deeds. Learn from Moshe to admit!

Shabbat shalom.