Parashat Korach

By Rabbi David Shasho: Parashat Korach talks about the twenty-four “Matenot Kehuna” – gifts which the Kohanim receive from the rest of the nation. After listing all the various gifts, Hashem commands Moshe to tell Aharon that these gifts are a “Berit Melach Olam,” “an eternal covenant of salt.”
Rashi writes that just as Hashem made a “covenant,” with salt, creating it such that it never spoils, similarly, He promised Aharon that his status of Kehuna will endure forever.

The Gemara in Berachot (34a) teaches that when somebody is asked to be Chazzan, he should initially refuse. After he has been asked several times, however, he should not hesitate any longer, and should go lead the service. The Gemara comments that if a person rushes right away to serve as Chazzan without any hesitation, then he is comparable to food without salt. And if he refuses excessively, then he is comparable to food with too much salt. Just as food requires just the right amount of seasoning, as food with insufficient seasoning is bland, and food with excessive seasoning is too strong, similarly, religious life requires a perfect balance between humility and confidence. We must avoid both excessive arrogance and excessive humility. Thus, when we are invited to assume a public role, such as to lead as Chazzan, we must be both reluctant and willing, like a dish with the perfect amount of salt.

What mindset should lead one to at first refuse and then fill this role as Chazzan? The answer is that one should initially refuse out of humility, recognizing his unworthiness for such a lofty role, but once he is assured that the congregation wants and needs him to assume this role, he should proceed with confidence, knowing that he brings with him the merit of the congregation. This is the balance that we need to maintain. We must be humble and aware of our shortcomings, but we must have enough respect for our fellow Jews to firmly believe that with their merit we are able to stand before Hashem in prayer.

Aharon was known for his deep love and respect for all Jews, regardless of their background. Pirkeh Avot famously describes Aharon as “a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, a lover of people…” He loved and respected all people, and so he was worthy of the Kehuna, a role he assumed with the confidence he gained from his high esteem for the people whom he was serving.