Friday, March 8, 2019 /1 Adar II, 5779
Parashat P’kudei Exodus 38:21-40:38
“We show true love when we can rejoice in the good fortune of another even though it is an experience that we ourselves will never know.”
So wrote Rabbi Harold Kushner, the esteemed Conservative Rabbi from Boston, who is noted for writing, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, among his many books. This thoughtful citation is found in Etz Hayim, the Conservative Movement’s landmark Torah commentary.
In this case, Kushner was offering an insightful teaching regarding an episode in this week’s Torah portion, in which God instructs Moses to anoint not only his brother Aaron as High Priest, but also to anoint Aaron’s sons, Moses’ nephews, as priests. Kushner was commenting on the potential of Moses to be jealous of the priestly lineage which Aaron and his sons were establishing, and which Moses’ descendants would not enjoy. Was it a potential hurt or pain that Moses would never experience his own sons continuing his legacy, but that the only continuity of privilege from his exalted family would be through the Aaronic line?
Kushner suggested that God commanded Moses to show the depth of his character and his truest love for his brother by anointing his own nephews to be the successor priests. This required Moses to either suppress any jealousy, or to be wholehearted and not reserved in his inaugurating his brother’s line as the cherished priests of Israel. And, apparently, Moses did so. “And this Moses did; just as the Lord had commanded him, so he did.” (Exodus 40:16)
As Kushner asserted, we demonstrate true love when we can be fully joyful in the success of another, without decrying the missed opportunity, or the misfortune, or ourselves. True love, therefore, requires both uncompromised humility, and complete magnanimity. It requires us to be content in our own lot, and to celebrate that of another.
This Shabbat, Torah comes to challenge our generosity of spirit. What a wonderful opportunity to live up to the highest of such ideals!
Rabbi Doug Kohn