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Shemini: The surprising value of self-doubt

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If you think that you’re not good enough, perhaps that’s the very reason why you’re the best person for the job. We learn this from Parshat Shemini. Hashem had elected Aharon to become the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest of our nation. All future kohanim, priests, would be descended from him to this day. 


The people gathered around the tabernacle in the wilderness for a ceremony with him which Aharon was to be inducted into high office. Everything was ready for the occasion, but there was hesitation. Moshe needed to say to his brother,

“Krav el hamizbeach,” – “Approach the altar,” as if to suggest, “What are you waiting for?” 

Rashi quotes the Torat Kohanim which explains that Aharon was hesitating because he was a man filled with fear of Hashem. He had deep humility and he feared that something might go wrong. He appreciated the enormous responsibility that he had. Moshe reassured him by stating, 

“Lechach nivcharta,” – “It is for this reason that you’ve been chosen. Come forward.”

The Sefer Panim Yafot explains that, “Lechach nivcharta,” those words of Moshe to Aharon, should be translated as, “It’s because of this that you’ve been chosen.” It’s because you have great emunah, faith in Hashem, such deep humility – because you’re nervous that something might go wrong. That’s why you’re the best person for this task.


In the mid-19th century, Reb Yosroel Salanter was the rabbi of the Vilna Jewish Community. A man from a neighbouring town came to see him to be tested to become the shochet of that town. He did wonderfully well throughout the test but before Reb Yisroel actually gave him the result the man stopped him and said,

“You know, Reb Yisroel, I don’t think I should become the shochet. I’ll go home now.” 

Surprised, Reb Yisroel said, what do you mean?”

The man explained, “Well, you know, the responsibility is enormous! Every single member of the community will be relying on me for the kashrut of their kitchens, for every morsel of food that will be upon their plate! I’m nervous that I could make mistakes!” 

Reb Yisroel smiled as he said, “You’ve just proved to me that there could be no shochet better than you for this task. We don’t want shochtim who are filled with arrogance, who don’t believe that anything can ever go wrong, to be responsible for our food. Rather we want those who appreciate that they need to prove to the communities that they deserve the faith that has been put in them.” 

That’s exactly what Moshe said to Aharon. Your sense of responsibility proves that there could be no leader better than you. Let each and every one of us remember that lesson with regard to the jobs, the vocations and the professions that we have. Arrogance can, God forbid, drive us to failure but if we constantly go the extra mile filled with nervousness knowing that we need to show that we deserve the trust that has been placed in us, that will certainly contribute towards our success.

Shabbat shalom.





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