The Torah relates that when Moshe refused to go to Pharaoh, Hashem became angry and told Moshe that his brother Aharon would be the spokesman instead of him. Describing Hashem’s anger, the Torah uses the phrase, ;t rjhu, which, according to Chazal, reflects a high degree of anger. It indicates that Hashem intends to punish the offender with midaas ha’din, the attribute of Divine justice, devoid of any rachamim, mercy. If this was the case, what was Moshe’s punishment? There does not seem to be any major punishment meted out to Moshe as a result of his resistance to go to Egypt. R’ Yosi responds that indeed there was a punishment, which is implied by the words “Aharon, your brother, the Levi.” Originally, it had been intended for Moshe to be the Kohen and Aharon to be the Levi. With Moshe’s refusal, however, the tables were turned, and Aharon became the Kohen.
Horav Shimon Schwab, z.l., offers a novel interpretation of this punishment and its present day ramifications. When Aharon met Moshe in the desert, the Torah states that they kissed one another. Regarding this, the Midrash comments, “Righteous and truth meet, charity and justice kiss each other.” Moshe stands as the paradigm of emes, truth, while Aharon is the exemplar of shalom, peace. The Torah teaches us that the meeting of these brothers reflects two human characteristics which complement one another. One who achieves the epitome of human relationship has been able to meld together the two qualities of peace and truth.
Regrettably, peace and truth are not always compatible. When one is faced with either compromising peace or making concessions in the area of integrity and justice, truth must prevail. If one is confronted with a situation in which he must either offend his friend or offend Hashem by transgressing His laws, truth dominates. In any event, a true friend understands that Torah observance takes priority. One who does not respect another Jew’s moral principles is so involved in himself that he probably is not much of a friend.
The notion that emes, truth, takes priority is implied by the fact that emes is represented by the Kohen and shalom by the Levi. In truth, the purpose of shalom is to serve and to enhance truth just as the Levi serves the Kohen. Originally, Aharon, the rodef shalom, who was constantly in pursuit of peace among his fellow man, was destined to be the Levi. Moshe, on the other hand, who was the designated representative of the mantle of emes, was to be the Kohen. It was Hashem’s “charon af,” full measure of anger, that caused Him to reverse their positions, so that Aharon became the Kohen. Suddenly, shalom was given access to rule over emes, a circumstance which was to have tragic consequences. This predicament resulted in the sin of the Golden Calf. Aharon’s desire to maintain harmony among Klal Yisrael, coupled with his position of Kehunah leadership, set the tone for the building of the Golden Calf. At such a time Moshe’s leadership capabilities and his intractable devotion to emes would have contained those rebels who sought to undermine the Torah values of our people.