Submission and Subordination as the Basis of Avodat Hashem

"You shall bring Ahron and his sons near to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and immerse them in water. You shall dress Ahron in the sacred vestments and anoint him; you shall sanctify him and he shall minister to Me." (Shemot 40:12-13)

I always pondered the significance of the above verses. Why did Hashem command Moshe to immerse Ahron in water, dress him in his clothes and anoint him with oil? Why could Ahron not do this himself? Does it not show a certain lack of respect for Ahron HaKohen, that his brother Moshe should immerse him in water like a small child? Was this not humiliating for Ahron?

This command also concerned the sons of Ahron. The verse says (ibid, 14-15), "And his sons you shall bring near and dress them in tunics. You shall anoint them as you had anointed their father and they shall minister to Me". We will try to clarify why Hashem commanded Moshe to dress them, were they not capable of dressing themselves?

The answer to this difficulty is an essential and basic element that the Torah wishes to teach us. Namely, that submission and self-annulment for the sake of the will of Hashem is the foundation of all our avodat Hashem. A person must know that nothing else exists in the world besides the will of Hashem, and all his personal desires are negated for the sake of His commandments. A faithful servant who sincerely loves his master is ready to fulfill his every request, wholeheartedly and with joy. This is exactly how we must behave. Even if the request demands true self-sacrifice, it is not difficult for him to fulfill his master's wish because the love that he feels for him is so strong that he is willing to subordinate himself, simply for the sake of fulfilling his wish. The complete deference that he feels towards his master leaves him with no desire other than fulfilling his wish.

This is what Hashem wanted to teach Ahron and his sons. They should realize exactly what true avodat Hashem is all about. For only through complete submission and nullifying one's selfish desires, does one merit becoming a vessel fitting to contain Hashem's honor. The moment that Ahron and his sons were anointed with the anointing oil –they were transformed into 'vessels' for serving in the Mikdash, exactly like the other vessels of the Mishkan, like the Altar and the Washbasin. These vessels were also anointed by Moshe and became holy, and from then on, anyone who misused them had to reimburse their value plus a fifth, and also bring a guilt offering. Similarly, Ahron and his sons, once they were washed and anointed with the oil by Moshe, became objects of holiness and holy vessels for serving Hashem Yitbarach.

This high level can only be attained after a person completely subordinates himself to Hashem. There was no greater submission than the honorable Ahron HaKohen, who was older than Moshe Rabbeinu, standing before Moshe, and wholeheartedly agreeing to be washed like a small child. Ahron could do this because he said to himself, if it would be the will of Hashem, I would even be willing to give up my life. All the more so was he willing to feel humbled and sacrifice his honor in order to fulfill the command of Hashem. Just like a servant is totally submissive to his master, nothing should stand in one's way besides the will of Hashem Yitbarach; personal desires or concerns do not come into question.

There is no doubt that on Moshe Rabbeinu's part too, the matter was not easy at all. He was required to wash his older brother, and he understood that it was, as if, an embarrassment for Ahron. Nevertheless, Moshe said if this is the will of Hashem, he is willing to comply with joy, without any questions or doubts. As it says (ibid 16) "Moshe did according to everything that Hashem commanded him, so he did". This is the nature of a faithful servant who is dedicated to his master. He annuls his desires for the honor of his master, and forsakes his own honor and is even prepared to endure shame for the sake of obeying his master.

This parsha manifests this important message. One who wishes to become a holy vessel for Hashem Yitbarach, must be willing to go through this procedure that Ahron HaKohen went through. First of all, "and immerse them in water"; he should wash himself from any impurities that may have clung to him, by cleansing himself in the waters of the holy Torah. After that, "You shall dress Ahron in the sacred vestments" – he should dress himself in spiritual clothes, which are created by observing Torah and mitzvot and performing good deeds, which are considered as one's spiritual garments and called by Chazal "itztala d'rabanan". Finally, "You shall anoint them"- a person should anoint himself, just like the Kohen who was anointed to be chief of war, with the 'war of Torah' - with invigorating Torah study. One who perseveres in this holy path, is promised that he will be transformed into a holy vessel, fitting to serve Hashem, and Hashem will wish to dwell inside him.

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