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Meshech Chochma: Shemini

Chapter 9, verse 3: “S’ir izim l’chatos” – The Torat Kohanim says that this sin offering served to atone for the sale of Yosef. Why did this sin suddenly now require atonement? The

Meshech Chochma answers that up until the sin of the golden calf the B’nei Yisroel had an excuse for selling Yosef. They could have claimed that had he rebuked them directly instead of bringing negative reports to their father, they might have accepted his words and repented. However, at the time of serving the golden calf, Chur rebuked them openly and directly. Their response was to kill him. This negated the previously mentioned justification and required atonement at this point in time. During the dedication ceremony for the inauguration of the Mishkan Aharon brought sacrifices to atone for him and the nation.

The Torat Kohanim says that the sacrifices that Aharon brought to atone for himself were only for the sin of later, the golden calf, in which he took part, but the sacrifices brought for the B’nei Yisroel were to atone for both the beginning, the sale of Yosef, as we find that the B’nei Yisroel required a “s’ir izim,” a goat as an atonement, just as we find a “s’ir izim” in the sale of Yosef (Bereishit 37:31), as well as for later, the sin of the golden calf.

These words are most puzzling. Aharon was a descendant of Levi, who along with Shimon took a most pivotal part in the sale of Yosef, actually wanting to have him killed. How then was Aharon not in need of atonement for the sale of Yosef more than any of the other B’nei Yisroel?

As per the Meshech Chochma that Aharon merited to wear the breastplate, an object that carried the names of all the tribes, attesting to Aaron’s not falling prey to the sin of one brother being jealous of another, we may say that although the tribe of Levi required atonement for the sale of Yosef, Aharon personally did not.

By displaying an attitude of total happiness that his younger brother Moshe would become the leader of the B’nei Yisroel, Aharon by action rather than by sacrifice corrected this flaw; hence he did not require a sacrificial atonement.

This might also explain why Hashem gave Moshe the prestigious position of Kohen Gadol for the eight days of the dedication of the Mishkan, starting a full week ahead of Aaron’s becoming a Kohen Gadol.

This too might have been a test to see if Aharon would be jealous of his younger brother. He obviously wasn’t jealous, as we see that when he finally had the status of a Kohen Gadol on the eighth day he was still reluctant to act in the capacity of Kohen Gadol, as indicated by the words “Va’yomeir Moshe el Aharon ‘krav el hamizbei’ach'” (Vayikra 9:7).

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