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Tetzave: The Torah as a weapon against the Yetzer Hora

Updated: Aug 27, 2018

ואתה הקרב אליך את אהרן אחיך.

“And now bring close Aharon your brother.”

Rashi explains: [This took place] after completing the construction of the Mishkan. For the first week after the Mishkan was completed, Moshe fulfilled the sacred duties, and now Aharon and his children will be taking over.

The Midrash says (Shemos Rabbah 37:4) that when Hashem told Moshe “and now bring close Aharon your brother,” it bothered him. So Hashem told him, “The Torah used to be Mine and I gave it to you.” It appears as if Hashem was comforting Moshe that although Aharon would be doing the sacred duties in the Mishkan, the Torah was given through him and not through Aharon.

At first glance, it seems as if Moshe was hurt that he was forced to relinquish the sacred duty of serving in the Mishkan to his brother Aharon. This is very surprising, since the Torah testifies (Bamidbar 12:3) that Moshe was extremely humble. He was not after any leadership or honors. Furthermore, the Torah relates that Moshe was reluctant to become Hashem’s messenger to redeem the Jewish people and only agreed to go when Hashem promised him that Aharon will go along with him. Moshe rejoiced in his heart (Shemos 4:13) about this and was happy to lead the Jewish people together with his brother. So how can it be that Moshe was hurt that he had to give over the sacred duty of serving in the Mishkan to his brother?

This could be explained as follows: Each of the Seven Founders of the Jewish people had a special attribute to his personality. Moshe’s special attribute was nezach – which can be interpreted as “eternal triumph,” and Aharon’s was hod – which can be interpreted as “submissiveness”. The attribute of nezach has to be used against the yetzer hara. It is a powerful attributes that every Jew must work on achieving in order to overcome his evil inclination. Aharon’s attribute of submissiveness must be used in interpersonal relationships, because a Jew must work on being forgiving to his friend.

It says in the Gemara (Shabbos 146a) that when the Jewish people received the Torah they were elevated to such greatness that they no longer had an evil inclination. This means that after receiving the Torah, they no longer had a need to develop Moshe’s attribute of nezach. They only needed to further develop Aharon’s attribute of hod.

However, after the affair of the Golden Calf, the Jewish people lost this special greatness and their evil inclination returned. Once again, they had to cultivate within themselves both of these special attributes – triumphing over the yetzer hara while being submissive to one’s friends.

The Mishkan was an atonement for the Golden Calf, and proved to the Jewish people that Hashem had forgiven them. Moshe thought that once the Mishkan will be built, the Jewish people will regain their previous greatness just as during Matan Torah. He thought that his attribute of nezach will once again no longer be needed.

However, when Hashem told him “and now bring close Aharon,” he understood that both his and Aharon’s attributes will be needed together, even after the Mishkan was built. Moshe realized that the Jewish people will never again achieve their previous greatness and this pained him deeply. This is what the Midrash means when saying that it bothered Moshe.

So Hashem comforted Moshe by saying, “The Torah was Mine and I gave it to you.” When Hashem wanted to give the Torah to the Jewish people, the angels protested by saying that the Torah should not be given to humans. Moshe answered them that only humans are capable of sin, and of repentance, and therefore the Torah was meant for them. Angels have no evil inclination and therefore they do not need the Torah at all. Although the Torah can be studied even by angels, the Torah is a lot more than that. It is a weapon against the yetzer hara, and can be utilized in this capacity only by humans.

Hashem told Moshe that if the Jewish people would have retained their previous greatness, they would have no claim against the angels who demanded that the Torah remain in Heaven. “The Torah was Mine, and I gave it to you only because humans have a yetzer hara!” Don’t feel bad that you lost the greatness the angels have, because by using the attribute of neztach to overcome the yetzer hara, you can achieve much greater spiritual heights!


With the above explanation, we can understand the meaning behind the incident described in the Gemara (Shabbos 88a), in which Hashem lifted the mountain over the Jewish people and told them, “If you accept the Torah, then all will be fine, but if you don’t you will be buried here.”

The obvious question asked by Tosefos is why this threat was necessary. Didn’t the Jewish people accept the Torah wholeheartedly by proclaiming “We will do and we will hear?” Why did Hashem have to force them to accept the Torah, which they had already accepted willingly?

When the Jewish people prepared themselves to receive the Torah, they were elevated to the level of angels and no longer had an evil inclination. Therefore, they agreed to accept the Torah, but they did not feel a need to use the Torah as a weapon against the yetzer hara. So Hashem lifted the mountain and forced them to accept this part of the Torah as well, saying, “If you accept the Torah – the entire Torah, including its use as a weapon, all will be fine. But if you don’t, you will be buried underneath the ‘mountain’ – which is another name for yetzer hara.” You will not stay in this elevated state forever, and so you must learn to use the Torah as your defense against your evil inclination.


ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך כתית למאור להעלות נר תמיד.

“And take pure olive oil that has been crushed to shine to ignite the eternal light.”

This verse alludes to an important lesson: Each person should strive to make his heart so pure and free of blemishes, as the Torah demands of the olive oil, so that not only would he personally shine, but he should ignite the eternal light in the hearts of the people he meets. The soul of a person is likened to the “candle of Hashem.” Just as one candle can light a hundred candles without losing its own fire, a person who invests in lighting up other people’s neshamas is not giving up his own inspiration, but rather gaining even more.

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