Back to this week's Parsha
Beloved Children

by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
Archive of previous issues

Parshas Shemini

Making Peace among Your Children

And Moshe called unto Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uziel, the uncle of Aharon, and said to them, Come near, carry your brothers from before the sanctuary outside the camp.
(VAYIKRA 10:4)

In one of the villages surrounding Parenchev, Poland, lived Rabbi Refael Dubzhenski, a man who served G-d faithfully. He rented his winery from the poritz, and his income was very good. He had but one worry that gnawed at him: he had no children.

Years passed in the village and nothing changed in his life. Once a priest who was a rabid anti-Semite tried to cause trouble for Rabbi Refael by demanding that the villagers keep away from his winery. The villagers, who loved to drink, would not listen. The priest tried going to the poritz to request that he cancel Rabbi Refael's rental contract, but the poritz refused to listen to him.

When he saw that his plot was not working, the priest devised a wicked plan: Pesach was coming and Rabbi Refael would have to sell his chametz to a non-Jew. Rabbi Refael usually sold his chametz every year to one of the villagers. The priest went to that villager and promised him a large sum of money if he refused to buy the chametz from Rabbi Refael. He also warned all the other villagers not to buy Rabbi Refael's chametz.

Erev Pesach came, and Rabbi Refael waited for the non-Jew to come. He wanted to go back home and prepare for Pesach, but the non-Jew did not come. The time when chametz is forbidden came, and Rabbi Refael, upon seeing that the priest's plot had been effective, opened his store wide and called out in Polish, "You should know that I am letting anyone take my chametz."

When he finished his announcement, he packed his bag and began walking towards his house. During the seven days of the holiday, he was especially happy, knowing that he was being tested from Heaven. He didn't disclose anything to his wife, in order not to cause her distress.

After Pesach, Rabbi Refael harnessed his carriage and he and his wife drove in the direction of the village. On the way, they saw one of the villagers and stopped him. Rabbi Refael was in a good mood and turned to the villager asking, "Nu, how was your Pesach? Did you quench your thirst this year better than others?"

To his amazement, the villager answered, "No, two scary black dogs guarded the winery door and didn't allow anybody to get in." When Rabbi Refael came close to his store, he saw the two black dogs. They approached him, smelled him, and then left the place quickly. Rabbi Refael understood that he was being helped from Heaven, but even so, he told himself that one does not draw conclusions based on the activities of Heaven.(1) In his house he would not keep chametz she'avar alav ha'pesach (chametz which was in Jewish hands during Pesach). With this thought he started to empty the barrels. His wife was taken aback by his actions, for liquor was their livelihood, and how could he throw it out with his own hands?

Rabbi Refael decided to go to the rav and ask a sha'aleh. The rav thought carefully and decided that it was permitted to have benefit from the liquor. His wife went back home happily, and Rabbi Refael went back to his store.

On his way, Rabbi Refael engaged in some soul-searching. True, these barrels of liquor were the source of his livelihood. The rav who had found a weak hetter to use the liquor could be relied upon. "But," he said, "Master of the Universe, how can I, Refael Dubzhenski, allow myself to use a weak hetter because of a desire for money?" When he reached the store, he had come to a resolution. He opened all the taps and all the liquor spilled to the ground to the last drop....

When his wife heard about this, she burst into tears, went to the house of the rav and cried over her bitter fate: she had no children, her money was gone, and what else was left?

"Don't cry," the rav comforted her, "Go back home and remove the worry from your heart, and in the merit of the mitzvah you have fulfilled, you will bear a son who will illuminate the eyes of the world...."

A year later, a son was born to her, who became the tzaddik R' Avrame'le from Tshechnov (the father of Rabbi Ze'ev of Strikov). The Kotzker Rebbe said of R' Avrame'le, "Who can come close to being like this holy man, all of whose limbs are filled with Torah and holiness."

No one could quarrel with Rabbi Refael. He was always willing to relinquish his rights, since he had great fear of Heaven. So too must we train our children not to quarrel.

Since it is written, "And the sons of Kehas were Amram, Yitzhar, Chevron and Uziel,"(2) do I not understand that Uziel is Aharon's uncle? Why then does the verse state explicitly, "Aharon's uncle?" The Torah is saying that the actions of Uziel paralleled the actions of Aharon. Just as Aharon pursued peace in Israel, so did Uziel pursue peace in Israel.

From where do we know that Aharon pursued peace in Israel? It is written, "And the whole congregation saw that Aharon died, and all the children of Israel cried for Aharon for thirty days,"(3) and about Moshe it is written, "And the children of Israel cried for Moshe."(4) Why did "all the children" cry for Aharon, but for Moshe only "the children of Israel cried" [without the added word "all"]? The answer is that Aharon never said to a man or to a woman, "You have sinned." But because Moshe admonished people, it is written, "The children of Israel" [but not "all" of them].

It is written explicitly about Aharon, in the tradition of the Prophets, "My covenant was with him, the life and the peace,"(5) since he used to pursue peace in Israel.

"And I shall give them fear, and they shall fear me,"(6) but [Aharon] accepted upon himself everything in the Torah with fear, with awe, and with trembling.

What is the meaning of the verse, "And before My name he is afraid?"(7) We have learned that at the time when Moshe poured the oil of anointing upon Aharon's head, Aharon was startled and fell backwards. He said, "Woe upon me! Perhaps I have misused the holy oil [by using it for personal use]? The Holy Spirit of G-d answered, "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to sit together, as the good oil upon the head, which falls down upon the beard of Aharon and falls down upon his clothes. It is like the dew of the Chermon, that falls upon the mountains of Zion."(8)Just as there is no misuse of dew, so too was there no misuse of the anointing oil.
(YALKUT 526)

How is it so clear that Uziel was Aharon's uncle? Why do our Sages use the terminology of "pursuing peace" to describe Aharon? Why do we say that Uziel was similar to his nephew Aharon, when it would be more correct to say that a nephew is similar to his uncle? How can we say that someone who does not admonish a sinner is rather pursuing peace, when it seems more accurate to say that he is evading his responsibility to admonish others, since it is written in the Torah, "You shall rebuke others?"(9) Why do our Sages mention men and women separately when they say that he never said to a man or to a woman that they had sinned? How did our Sages learn from the prophets that Aharon sought peace?

What is so exceptional about Aharon's fear of G-d? Why did Aharon think that he misused the anointing oil, when its entire purpose was to anoint? How do we learn from the verse cited that Aharon did not misuse the anointing oil? Why does the verse begin by saying, "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to sit together?" Why does the verse mention Aharon's head, beard and clothes?

Running After Peace

Just as Aharon pursued peace in Israel, so did Uziel pursue peace in Israel.

We know that Uziel was Aharon's uncle from the fact that Levi had three sons: Gershon, Kehas and Merari.(10) Kehas had four sons: Amram, Yitzhar, Chevron and Uziel.(11) Moshe and Aharon were the sons of Amram; Elitzafan was the son of Uziel,(12) therefore Uziel was clearly Aharon's uncle.

Many people are willing to be arbitrators when they have an argument in front of them, but very few actively seek out an argument so that they can make peace wherever it is needed. The terminology describing Aharon as a "pursuer of peace," refers to the fact that he was constantly searching for conflict so that he could bring peace and reconciliation to the conflicting parties.

This characteristic of running after opportunities for making peace between people demonstrates the great love Aharon had for others. He could not tolerate the thought of there being conflict among other people, since he knew that in such situations all parties are in distress. Out of the kindness of his heart he was constantly looking for ways to make peace between his fellow Jews.

We say that Uziel was similar to his nephew Aharon because we find Aharon's dedication to peace explicitly mentioned in the verse, whereas no such mention is made regarding Uziel. We also know that Aharon was greater than his uncle in his trait of pursuing peace, for the very words of our Sages prove this. They say that Uziel was similar to Aharon, which implies that Aharon was the greater of the two and Uziel was second to him. Perhaps Uziel saw the greatness of his nephew and decided to emulate his actions, which is in fact true greatness, since normally an older person feels that it is beneath his dignity to emulate someone younger.

Appropriate Rebuke

Aharon never said to a man or to a woman, "You have sinned."
It is written explicitly about Aharon, in the tradition of the Prophets, "My covenant was with him, the life and the peace," since he used to pursue peace in Israel."

We cannot say that Aharon actually never admonished others, since that in itself would have been a sin. Rather our Sages are perhaps referring to the manner in which Aharon admonished. He would never say to a person outright that he had done something wrong, since that would cause a person to feel hurt. Since he was someone who pursued peace, he did not want anyone to feel upset on account of him. Therefore, he would always find a clever way to rebuke another person, without making him feel uncomfortable. That is what our Sages mean when they say, "He never said to someone, 'you have sinned.'"

Furthermore, our Sages mention that he did not accuse either a man or a woman of having sinned. One must speak more gently to women. We learn this from the verse, "So shall you say to the house of Yaakov, and speak to the sons of Israel."(14)A soft way of speaking is implied by the Hebrew word for "say," whereas the Hebrew word for speak, "saggid," which refers to the manner in which you may talk to a man, implies words "as hard as a tendon," from the Hebrew word "gid," which means "tendon."

We may then expect Aharon to speak to the women gently, and never tell them outright that they had sinned. However we might think that it would be acceptable to confront a man outright, since we are allowed to speak to men harshly. Therefore our Sages praised Aharon for speaking gently even to men, ever careful not to hurt their feelings.

We learn from the Prophets that Aharon sought peace, since the verse says of Aharon, "My covenant was with him, the life and the peace."(15) G-d repaid Aharon with a convenant of peace, and this reflects the way he spread peace in the world. We understand this because we know that G-d pays a person in a measure equal to his mitzvos or sins.(16)

The Exceptional Combination

[Aharon] accepted upon himself everything in the Torah with fear, with awe, and with trembling.

Since we know that Aharon sought peace, it is obvious to us that he was an outgoing person with a warm personality. Of course, we cannot even begin to imagine such a spiritual giant as Aharon, but we can understand that someone with his characteristics was needed to stop a quarrel or to admonish a wrongdoer indirectly. Although Aharon had the character of an outgoing person, yet he had a great fear of G-d. This was possible because he had complete control over his emotions. When it was necessary to act in a warm and outgoing manner in order to bring about peace, he was warm and outgoing. When it was necessary to do a mitzvah, he was full of fear of Heaven.

Fit for Holy Oil

...When Moshe poured the oil of anointing upon Aharon's head, Aharon was startled and fell backwards. He said, "Woe upon me! Perhaps I have misused the holy oil?"
"Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to sit together, as the good oil upon the head, which falls down upon the beard of Aharon and falls down upon his clothes. It is like the dew of the Chermon, that falls upon the mountains of Zion."

Although Aharon knew that the whole purpose of the anointing oil was to anoint, he nevertheless felt that he was not worthy of having such holy oil poured upon him, since he was aware of his own many human flaws. Of course his fear that he had misused the holy oil was a reflection of his great fear of Heaven. But G-d told him not to worry, since he was indeed worthy of the holy oil.

We learn from the verse that Aharon did not misuse the anointing oil, for it compares the oil to dew, and dew does not have any prohibition of misuse, because it is not holy like the anointing oil. Therefore the verse is saying that just as anyone can freely use dew, so Aharon could freely use the anointing oil.

The verse tells us that Aharon possessed the praiseworthy merit of making peace among Jews, therefore the verse states, "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to sit together." It was Aharon who caused brothers to sit together when he was able to bring peace between them. Hence, with such an important mitzvah to his credit, Aharon was surely worthy of using the holy oil. The verse mentions Aharon's head, beard and clothes to show that, as mentioned above, Aharon's praise was his power to make peace and cause brothers to "sit together." In order to succeed in this difficult mission, Aharon used his charm and his honor. He needed his charm to convince people to stop arguing, and he needed the honor they gave him so that they would obey him, therefore the verse alludes to these two assets, through the mention of his beard and his clothes. The beard represents charm, since it adds great charm to one's appearance, and clothes represent a person's honor, as our Sages tell of one who referred to his clothes as "my honor."(17) Aharon used them both to bring peace to Israel, and thus it was fitting that the oil should descend upon them.

Always Quarreling

There are children who constantly quarrel with their siblings, their classmates and their parents. They never seem satisfied and always have something to complain about. Since Aharon is not among us, we must learn to solve these problems on our own.

Such behavior is often an imitation of the child's parents. The child may hear his father complain about how hard he works or what difficult clients he has to deal with. His mother might complain that she has such a heavy load of work and never receives a helping hand.

The child is a quick learner. When he hears his parents complaining or quarrelling, he is quick to catch on and emulates their actions. He learns that complaining and being dissatisfied is part of life. If you cannot find something to complain about, there must be something wrong with you.

Obviously, the solution is for the parents to change their ways, and then there is hope that the children will also change. One cannot expect a child to be a greater tzaddik than his parents. A parent influences his child by setting an example.

A noted psychologist was asked how to get an overweight child to exercise in order to lose weight. The psychologist answered, "It is useless to tell the child to exercise. Instead, the parents themselves should exercise, then the child will follow."

The same is true when it comes to quarreling and complaining. The children will not stop if they see that their parents argue all the time.

Jealousy Causes Quarreling

Quarreling can also stem from jealousy. A child who wants something other children have will fight and try to get it from them.

One way of handling jealousy is to explain to the child how fortunate he is to have what he has. Elaborate on the many blessings G-d has bestowed upon him and explain that it is selfish to be jealous of others when G-d is so good to him. Also tell him about the potential for physical harm when one is jealous, since it can be the cause of many diseases, such as heart ailments and high blood pressure. Tell him that a person who is calm and satisfied with what he has lives a longer and more satisfying life.

Try to find mussar sefarim that speak about jealousy, and learn with him those passages that speak about the damaging effects of jealousy. When the child sees the printed word outlining the evils of jealousy, this may have a great influence on him.

Warn him that if he continues to be jealous, you will have to confer with his teacher about his behavior. This should help, since many children have more reverence for their teachers than they have for their parents. With pressure coming from the teacher as well as from the parents, there should be an improvement in the child's behavior.

Insecurity Can Cause Quarreling

Insecurity can be another cause of quarreling. When a child fears that something bad will happen to him, or that he is not loved, he will quarrel and fight over minor things, since he thinks that more possessions will make him feel more secure.

Embracing and hugging a child will help him to feel secure. When you hold the child close, he feels that no one can harm him. Tell him how much you love him and that you will protect him always. Explain to him that if he needs something, he can ask you and you will discuss it, and if it is necessary you will get it for him. Explain to him that there is no need to quarrel when he can get what he needs without quarreling.

Be Sure That You Are Fair

It is also important to make sure that you yourself are fair in the way in which you give things to your children. It is a common occurrence for parents to love one child more than another. The reason for this may be that one child is better behaved or achieves more than the others, but whatever may be the feelings in their hearts, parents must not show favoritism to their children.

This was the mistake of Yaakov. He made Yoseph a striped coat, which he did not make for his other sons. This caused envy, which led to the catastrophic results of Yoseph's being sold as a slave. From here our Sages learned that one is not allowed to differentiate among one's children.(18)

It is difficult to imagine that a spiritual giant of Yaakov's caliber could have made such a mistake, yet since our Sages point it out, we are to believe that there was an error here. But if someone as great as Yaakov could have made this mistake in educating his children, how much more so are we, who are so much smaller in spiritual stature, liable to make a similar mistake. We must therefore be extremely careful when we distribute anything among our children, not to show favoritism to one child over the others.

We can safely say that there is no family in which siblings do not quarrel; this is normal when it occurs relatively seldom. However, when quarreling is constant, we must try to stop it by teaching our children to work out their problems peacefully.

1. Pesachim 114a
2. Shemos 6:18
3. Bamidbar 20:29
4. Devarim 34
5. Malachi 2:5
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Tehillim 133:1-3
9. Vayikra 19:17
10. Bamidbar 3:17
11. Ibid. 3:19
12. Vayikra 10:4
13. Ibid. 19:17
14. Shemos 19:3
15. Malachi 2:5
16. Sota 8b
17. Shabbos 113b
18. Ibid. 10b

Back to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel