Dr. Abraham Twerski, a Hasidic rabbi and psychiatrist, uplifts me with memories of our times together and through his writing on both the nature of addiction and the wisdom of the Jewish tradition. Dr. Twerski’s words resonate because I identify his life’s work and personality with compassion, humility, and integrity. In his book, Living Each Week, he focuses on the opening verses of Beha’alotkha:
“God spoke to Moses, telling him to speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall illuminate the menorah’…Aaron did so, mounting the lamps to illuminate the menorah, as God had commanded Moses” (Numbers 8:1, 3). Rashi, the influential Biblical commentator of 11th century France, remarks that the Torah commends Aaron for “not deviating.”
Rabbi Twerski cites questions of 18th century Rabbi Meir of Premishlan: “Why is this obedience worthy of mention? Why would Aaron even consider deviating from God’s instructions?” Rabbi Meir explains that Aaron was praised for not deviating from his previous concern for each Israelite. Despite his newfound authority, he continued to pursue peace by resolving quarrels and teaching those who sought to learn.
Rabbi Twerski writes, “A person of lesser character than Aaron, having been elevated to so sublime a position, would likely have undergone a change in behavior, if not in personality….The one who entered the inner chambers of the Sanctuary to kindle the menorah remained unchanged. Honor and fame did not turn his head in the least and make him consider himself superior to others. That is the measure of true greatness.”