By Rabbi Yitzchok D. Frankel
Agudath Israel of the Five Towns
On the eighth day, Moshe called Aharon and his sons and the elders of Israel.
Rashi explains that Moshe called the elders of Israel in order to tell them why Aharon, rather than one of them, was chosen to be Kohen Gadol. Moshe explained that it was not because of a subjective reason. It was not a personal choice. It was for the simple reason that HaKadosh Baruch Hu commanded that Aharon be chosen for this task.
Yet this point was already made before, in Parashas Tzav:
“‘This is the matter’—The things that you see me doing in front of you, Hashem commanded me to do them” (Rashi, ibid. 8:5).
Why is this point repeated here?
Earlier, Moshe Rabbeinu was speaking to the entire congregation. He gathered all of Klal Yisrael and told them that in appointing Aharon as Kohen Gadol, he is only doing what Hashem commanded. Who was the message for? Everyone.
However, that left open the possibility that among the elders and the leaders of the tribes, in the high echelons of the nation, there might be individuals who harbored doubts about Aharon’s appointment. They might concur that Aharon was more suited for the position than any of the common people were, but still question what made him more worthy than all the elders and the leaders of the tribes.
Thus, before Aharon began serving in the Mishkan, Moshe called together the elders of the nation, to whom he explained as a private group that Aharon was chosen above all others because of a direct and unequivocal command that came from HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
Was all this really necessary?
On the contrary: We see that in spite of Moshe’s efforts, Korach and his group of followers still didn’t grasp the point. They contested the position of Kehunah Gedolah nonetheless.
But at least Moshe delivered advance warning. He preempted the claim that he had decided on his own to install Aharon, choosing him from a group of equally worthy candidates for the sole reason that he was his brother. He clarified in advance that Aharon’s appointment as Kohen Gadol was made by none other than HaKadosh Baruch Hu Himself.
Subsequently, I was happy to discover that the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh made this very point: “And he said . . . ‘This is the matter…’”— Moshe said this in order to inform them, lest they contest the matter as did Korach and his followers, thinking it was Moshe’s own idea and will to do this. But now, Korach will not be able to claim that he was innocently mistaken, for Moshe informed him at the time of the event [of Aharon’s installment as Kohen Gadol] that this matter was Hashem’s command. It was not Moshe’s own idea and will to do this (Ohr HaChayim, Vayikra 8:5).
Baruch shekivanti. v
Rabbi Frankel can be reached at email@example.com. Now in print: Machat shel Yad Vayikra.