The Torah is not merely a record of historical events but a guide book to teach humanity ethical lessons and codes of conduct. Therefore, the incidents that are recorded in the lives of our great leaders, no matter how painful, are meant to us teach important ethical lessons.
We read this week that Aharon was reluctant to serve as High Priest because of his participation in the shameful episode of the golden calf.
In trying to understand Aharon’s rationale in his decision to join and participate in the golden calf’s building, our sages site 3 important reasons:
- Delay, delay, delay. Aharon was simply trying to stall for time, delaying its completion for another day in the hopes that in the interim, Moshe would finally arrive and put a stop to the rebellion.
- Aharon felt that by making extraordinary demands on the rebels to part with their precious gold jewelry that they had just acquired, they would abandon the idea of a gold idol.
- His nephew, Hur, was just murdered in his opposition to the rebels and Aharon reasoned that he too would be killed which would be a monumental crime with devastating consequences. Now Aharon could have used these and many other reasons to explain his actions, but instead, he chose not to defend himself with excuses. He bravely faced the fact that what he did was ultimately wrong, particularly for a person of his exalted stature. The greatness of Aharon and why he was ultimately chosen as the people’s representative as High Priest was because he accepted responsibility for his actions without excuses.