Follow the (Non-)Leader

After a week of preparation and training, the Mishkan was finally ready. Moshe instructed Aharon and his sons, the Kohanim (Priests), which services to do upon its inauguration. When it came to actually doing the service, however, it seems like Moshe had to persuade Aharon to get him to do it: “Approach the altar and perform the offerings” (9:7). The implication of the verse, after having already instructed Aharon, is that Aharon was reluctant to perform the task.


The Midrash adds a little more detail to this conversation: Aharon was bashful and afraid to approach. So Moshe said to him: “Why are you ashamed? For this you have been chosen”. Aharon’s hesitation remains peculiar, even after the Midrash. Did he not already know he was going to do the sacrifices? Why would Moshe reminder that ‘for this you were chosen’ motivate him any more?


Some explain that Moshe’s response had little to do with reminding him of his duties, but instead of why he was chosen. Moshe’s response to Aharon’s hesitation, of fear and bashfulness, was that he was chosen because of his fear and bashfulness. While others may think of themselves as worthy for holy services, their ego could get in the way of the proper attitude for the Temple. The proper approach is an approach of bashfulness and humility. The danger of leadership is when the leadership becomes tainted by ego and entitlement. Aharon was bashful, but Moshe was encouraging him- ‘that’s why you’re the right person for the job!’ Like Moshe before him, Aharon’s humility is the source of his appointment.


We all have jobs- whether formal or informal. Approaching our jobs with a sense of deservedness can not only lead to tension in the workplace but can even stifle our growth. To truly grow requires humility to know when there’s more to learn. A certain level of confidence is important, of course, but not to the extent of pretension and superiority. As Moshe and Aharon show, sometimes the best leaders are the ones who don’t want to lead.