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Moshe 5: Prophet and Priest

“When the Israelites heard nearly one hundred imprecations besides the forty nine in Vayikra, their faces blanched, and they said, ‘Who can survive this?’ Moshe began to soothe them, ‘You stand this day. You have greatly angered the Omnipresent, yet He has not destroyed you. You have endured before Him.’” (Rashi, Devarim 29:12)

Was Moshe sending a mixed message? He voiced ninety-eight curses, and then when effectively terrified them, he soothed them by telling Israel not to worry.

“Moses and Aaron looked alike. Whoever saw our teacher Moses thought that he was Aaron, and whoever saw Aaron thought that he was the father of all prophets (i.e., Moses) Theirs sons, too, looked alike.” (Ginzei Shechter 1:94)

Many of us picture Moses and Aaron as entirely different people. After all, Moses was feared, while Aaron was deeply loved. Yet, the Midrash is telling us that the two were more similar than different.

Moses actually served two roles. He was the prophet and teacher who would challenge the nation. He pushed them. He criticized them when necessary. He was a demanding leader. But Moshe understood that people cannot thrive with such an unbalanced approach. They needed love. They had to be gently nurtured. They also had to understand that the challenging prophet came hand in hand with the loving priest.

The prophet Moshe challenged Israel with the curses. It was Moshe the priest who soothed and reassured them.

Moshe, the ultimate human teacher, reminds us that a teacher must always remember both his roles. We must educate with a balance of challenge and nurture, a combination of fear and love. (Machberes Avodas Hashem)

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