Parashat Vaera: Maintaining Idealism
In Parashat Vaera the Torah traces the lineage of Moshe and Aharon, listing the sons and descendants of Levi through Moshe and Aharon. The Torah concludes this section by saying, "This is Aharon and Moshe to whom G-d said, ‘Bring Beneh Yisrael from the land of Egypt… They are the ones who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt… This is Moshe and Aharon" (Shemot 6:26-27).
The obvious question arises, why did the Torah have to emphasize – twice – that "this is Aharon and Moshe"? Moshe and Aharon have already been introduced, and we have been reading about them in the stories told thus far in the Book of Shemot. What is the Torah’s intent in stressing that "this is Aharon and Moshe" and "this is Moshe and Aharon"?
Rav Mordechai Gifter (1915-2001) explained that the Torah here refers to Moshe and Aharon’s consistent mindset and motives throughout the entire process of the Exodus. Too often, people who involve themselves in noble and important causes gradually lose their idealism as time passes and complex issues arise. As committees are formed and people must sit and work together to achieve the desired results, the egos often take over, and eventually the committee members act to promote themselves rather than the idealistic cause for which they initially joined the project. The initial rush of idealism subsides and gives way to personal agendas and selfish goals. And in the end, what had begun as a noble, altruistic endeavor degenerates into a battle of egos and clash of personal interests.
The Torah therefore emphasizes that "this is Aharon and Moshe" who first went to Pharaoh, and "this is Moshe and Aharon" even later in the process. All throughout, their motives and intentions remained consistent. Their desire was to lead Beneh Yisrael to redemption, and was not tainted by the quest for grandeur and self-promotion. Their involvement in this undertaking began idealistic, remained idealistic, and ended idealistic.
The Torah thus teaches us to keep a proper perspective throughout the noble projects in which we involve ourselves, not to lose sight of the higher purpose for which we committed ourselves to those causes in the first place. The spirit of idealism and "Le’Shem Shamayim" ("for the sake of Heaven") that drives us to take on important projects should continue fueling us throughout the long, and often difficult, process. It must always be about our higher ideals, and never about just ourselves.