Aharon’s Staff

Friday, 24 January, 2020 - 6:33 am

Every public person finds himself in a situation where he must speak harshly to someone. And not only public personalities: almost every person who is in contact with other people (namely, most of us), and especially teachers and parents, face this dilemma.

These days there is a lot of talk about “unconditional love”. And it is true: we must love our children unconditionally. And not only must we love them, but we must also express that love. But the problem is that sometimes one must also rebuke. Sometimes one is supposed to use the maxim of smol dochah veyamin mekarevet – the left hand should push away and the right hand should draw near. How does one do that correctly? Does it contradict the idea of unconditional love?

The Rebbe brings from the parasha, parashat Va’era, a two word concept, which defines and explains things at the same time: Aharon’s staff.

Aharon Hacohen is a symbol of love; he loved peace and pursued it, loved people and brought them closer to Torah. It is not for nothing that the entire Jewish People mourned him for thirty days after his death. Rashi elaborates: “The entire Jewish People. The men and the women, because Aharon pursued peace and brought about love.”

But Aharon also had a staff. A staff symbolizes a difficulty, or a blow, and Aharon knew to use it as well when there was a need to be firm. But this was Aharon’s staff: a staff of love, hardness, and firmness of love.

Said the Rebbe in Likutei Sichot 26: when one is dealing with another Jew, the way to go is “the right draws near”, out of love for the Jewish people, as was the custom of Aharon Hacohen, who “loved peace and pursued it, loved people and brought them closer to Torah.” As the Ba’al Hatanya writes, the correct way is to use “ropes of love”.

But sometimes there is no choice. As an educator, a public personality or a parent you understand that the only way to act right now is to strike “verbal blows”. And then one should remember that the staff should be Aharon’s staff. It has to come from a place of true love. Only that way can one rebuke another; only that way can the rebuke really have an effect.

May we remember this at moments of anger and frustration.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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