This week’s Parsha contains an invaluable lesson in just how difficult, yet important it is to admit one’s mistakes. After the tragic death of his two sons, Aharon HaKohein assumed that due to his Halachic status as an Onein (mourner) he was exempt from eating any part of the Rosh Chodesh offering, and had it burnt completely.
Moshe Rabbeinu reprimanded Aharon for burning the Rosh Chodesh offering and a debate ensued between them. When Moshe heard Aharon’s reasoning, Moshe immediately and unconditionally admitted he was mistaken. In fact, the Pasuk states (Vayikra 10:20) “And Moshe heard, and it was good in his eyes.” The Seforno explains that Moshe actually rejoiced upon hearing his brother’s and (surviving) nephews’ reasoning and ability to understand and explain the proper Halacha in this instance.There are a number of insights to be drawn from here. Even though Moshe Rabbeinu was the greatest of the great, the most humble person who ever lived, the Torah nevertheless found it worthwhile to praise him for admitting a mistake. It obviously, therefore, was no small accomplishment even for a Moshe Rabbeinu. (HaRav Yehuda Leib Chasman zt’l, paraphrased by Rabbi Elyakim Rosenblatt, Shlita)
Secondly, it is one thing to admit one’s error, but to rejoice in having been `put in his place?’ Moshe had not only disagreed with Aharon, he had just sharply rebuked him! The reason he rejoiced is because Moshe’s goal was not to be right. It was to live by the truth. Aharon showed the way and for that Moshe was grateful and elated. (Love Peace, Rabbi H.D. Becker p.167)All of us – teachers and parents, usually feel that we cannot admit to our children that we’ve been wrong. Our concern is it will undermine our authority. Our subconscious (and conscious!) feeling is that if we’re not always right, our children will lose confidence in us and our guidance. Moshe is teaching that the reality is just the opposite. Who more than the leader of the entire nation, the guarantor of the perfection and purity of the Torah has a need to maintain an aura of being right? One can easily envision the fallout from a loss of confidence in Moshe’s leadership and authority. Nevertheless, there was a higher calculation – is it the truth? Moreover, confidence in Moshe was strengthened, because he embodied and lived by truth no matter the consequences. This cemented his stature and authority, it did not undermine it. A follower can more easily put his faith in a leader who has unswerving loyalty to the truth, than to one who pushes his own agenda and ego.
Our children learn many things from us. We can choose whether the lesson is – it’s important to always appear to be right, or it’s important to live by the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable or difficult at the moment. When a person has the self-confidence to willingly and joyfully admit there’s a better way, a wiser opinion, his stock rises, his trustworthiness increases. Will our joy come from winning an argument or battle of wits, or will we be joyful when the truth is uncovered, even at the expense of our personally held opinion? If we can make this paradigm shift in our thinking and attitude, we will truly be forging a path of greatness for our children to follow.
Best wishes for a Shabbos of true joy and Nachas,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann