The Book of Genesis is a book that is filled with sibling rivalries and jealousies. It is framed by Cain killing Abel at the start of the book and Joseph’s brothers throwing him into a pit at the end of the book. In truth, however, Genesis begins with fratricide, but ends in fraternity. Joseph and his brothers reconcile. Thus, although the Book of Genesis begins with conflict and continues with contention (Isaac and Ishmael, Yakov and Esau), it ends with conciliation.
The Book of Exodus also presents a sibling pair, Moshe and Aaron, except that these brothers from the start seem to appreciate their different strengths. Moshe is a man of truth. Aaron is a man of peace. Moshe becomes the leader of the people. Aaron becomes the speaker on behalf of the people. Moshe becomes the law giver. Aaron becomes the high priest.
I can imagine that inside they may have felt envy; the text, however, gives us no indication that this was the case. They do not seem to covet or resent the other’s position or honour. Instead each rejoices in the other’s contribution and accomplishments.
As a result of their combined effort, they succeed in liberating an entire nation of ex-slaves and raise them to the level of a royal people ennobled by the charge to become “a kingdom of priests and holy nation.” Together, Moshe and Aaron lead them safely to the Promised Land. It was because they stood together, led together, functioned as a team, pooled their talents, strengths, and aspirations that they accomplished one of the most grand missions in human history. We are who we are today because of their partnership.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks puts it this way in his d’var torah on this week’s Torah portion:
“The story of Aaron and Moses is where, finally, fraternity reaches the heights. And that surely is the meaning of Psalm 133, with its explicit reference to Aaron and his sacred garments: “‘How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head…running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.’”
My hope is that Aaron and Moses’ example of brotherhood is one that guides the lives of all members of our magnificent TanenbaumCHAT family especially when our loyalty to each other is tested.