The Torah in the beginning of this week’s double portion Achrei Mot-Kedoshim dealing with the laws of the Yom Kippur Service in the Bais Hamikdash concludes with the words, “And (Aharon) did as Hashem commanded Moshe.” (Vayikra 16:34)
Rashi comments: This indicates the praise of Aharon. When Aharon wore the special garments of the High Priest on Yom Kippur, he did it strictly for the sake of Heaven. There was not an iota of personal pride or arrogance.
Consider that one man out of the entire nation was privileged to wear these special garments once a year. That could potentially go to his head and affect him. But the pasuk testifies that this was not the case with Aharon. He was not thinking of personal pride but did it strictly to fulfill the decree of the King.
Rav Simcha Zissel Brody zt” l asks: The Talmud in Brachot speaks of the great Talmudic sage and miracle worker Rabbi Channina ben Dosa, whose intent in prayer was so focused that he did not even notice when a serpent-like animal bit him while he was praying. Rav Simcha Zissel asks: Why would it enter our mind to think that Aharon, the High Priest handpicked by G-d, would have less kavanah concentration than Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa? Surely Aharon’s laser-like concentration would not allow him to deviate for one moment from his kavanah. Why might he wander and have thoughts of personal pride that he is wearing the “White Garments” designated only for the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur?
Rav Brody suggests that it is easier not to be affected by physical pain than it is to be not affected by such things as pride and haughtiness! One can overcome the physical. It may not be simple, but it is doable. However, it is not as easy for people not to be affected by honour, jealousy, pride, and human character traits. Therefore, Chachamim tell us Aaron would not have been affected by a snake bite or the bite of any other animal. Still, even when it came to honour which could have affected him, he was not affected in the slightest and did the entire service strictly for the sake of Heaven.
Human nature is fallible and is affected by honour, lust, pride, jealousy, and all types of human emotions that are extremely difficult to suppress completely. We can overcome physical things, but when we start talking about a person’s psyche, even the greatest of people must deal with human frailties. But as the opening words of Parshat Kedoshim begin Kedoshim Tihiyu, we are commanded to aim higher and act holy in all areas of our lives. Striving to control our emotions regardless and act for the sake of Heaven, like Aharon when he wore the special garments on Yom Kippur. As we count the days of the Omer leading up to Shavuot, focusing on fulfilling the will of G-d rather than our personal desires can help us overcome our human frailties and become holier and better people.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay
Parshat Achrei Mot / Kedoshim – Emotional Control