21:1 And these are the ordinances…
Chazal take note of the word “v’ele” – “and these are…”. The Torah seems to be starting a new subject about the laws between man and his fellow, which are totally disconnected from the laws of ascending the mizbeach – the last topic of last week’s Parsha. However, the prefix “and” connects this week’s parsha to last week’s parsha. There are many explanations given to this connection by various commentaries. There is one that I would like to share with you:
The Medrash tells us that when Hashem approached Moshe Rabbeinu at the burning bush, Moshe resisted taking the leadership position because he was afraid that his brother Aharon, who was the leader of Klal Yisrael at the time (and had been their spokesman and their prophet for decades), would be unseated by his younger brother. To this Hashem countered “you have nothing to fear, for not only is Aharon not going to be slighted, but he will actually be happy for you.”
Indeed, this is a wonderous tale about the sensitivity of Moshe and the selflessness of his brother Aharon. But the question plagued me: If Hashem told Moshe to do something, why should Moshe resist? Is Hashem less sensitive than Moshe? Reb Elya Lopian answers that in order to be a leader, one must not put down the people around him. In fact, the Gemora tells us that Reb Yochanan said that the reason he merited to live a long life was that when he walked in to say his shiur, he did so in a way that it did not even appear as if he was stepping on those around him (let alone to actually step on them).
These words above are very wonderful and demanding, but they do not seem to have relevance to the average person. I, however, think that indeed they do. All of us are judging others all of the time. Whether it is giving a perspective on something that happened at work, in shul, or in traffic, we are judging others. It is improper for someone to judge others if he thinks that he is better than them.
I would like to share with you a personal incident. I once was commissioned to purchase a pair of tefillin and I sought out a sofer who wrote with a beautiful script. However, about his fear of heaven I had no clue. There was a person who I considered a great Talmud hacham, with good middos, and a sensitive Jew, who knew this sofer. I approached him in a candid fashion to get his impression of this sofer. He looked at me and said, “I am not a maiven (expert) to know about my own fear of heaven – and you want me to judge others??” I believe that if we had this kind of outlook, we would probably avoid many issues with our fellow Jew and would not even have to come to Beis Din for litigation.
The idea of not making broad strides on to the mizbeach shows a position of humility. This is the prerequisite for successful interpersonal relationships.