Kabbalistic Concepts

Our Mistakes Are Perfect

In the portion Shmini, it says after the physical structure of the Tabernacle had been built, Moses does the work inside it for the first seven days, then, on the eighth day, calls Aaron, telling him he was chosen to bring the sacrifices.

And in a beautiful section in the Zohar, it says an amazing thing. During the time of the Golden Calf, when Moses went up to receive the Light of the Torah, Aaron was down with the Israelites. We know they became afraid that Moses wasn’t coming back, and told Aaron they wanted to make the Golden Calf. Aaron thought if he said no, they would kill him, so he told them to go gather gold, hoping to stall them. He thought it would take them so long that by the time they returned, Moses would be back. But as we know, that didn’t happen. When they brought Aaron the gold, he told them to give it to him and he would start the process, hoping, again, that he could stall them further, giving Moses enough time to come down. But we also know that didn’t happen.

In the Zohar, when it says Aaron takes the gold in his hand, Rav Shimon bar Yochai begins crying; whenever Rav Shimon cries in the Zohar, it's a powerful moment. And he talks about Aaron, saying that Aaron was an elevated soul, and when his hands touched the gold, they infused it with Light. The Golden Calf, therefore, could never have been made if Aaron had not had the gold in his hands. Had he told them to just put the gold on the ground, for example, it would not have had that Light and could not have become the Golden Calf. But because Aaron took the gold in his hands, Rav Shimon says, crying, Aaron enabled them to make the Golden Calf… and when the Golden Calf was made, the Light of Immortality was lost. The Zohar tells us from that moment on, everywhere Aaron looked he saw a Golden Calf; he never forgot it, and was always trying to purify and elevate himself from it. 

So, it comes to the eighth day, and Moses goes to his brother Aaron and tells him it’s now his job to continue the process of bringing all of humanity and the world towards a direct connection with the Light of the Creator. However, Aaron looks at the Tabernacle and the altar and sees only the Golden Calf. He says, “I can't do it, knowing what I've done.” Yet, Moses tells Aaron not only can he do it, but the fact that he fell, the fact that he took that gold in his hand and in some way facilitated the creation of the Golden Calf, is actually why he is right for the job, because Aaron is broken, and the Light of the Creator rests upon the lowest. The Ari also reveals to us this is why Aaron was chosen. Had he not been broken, he couldn't do this work. It's a beautiful story, but there's a deeper level to it.

There's a concept that says the Light of the Creator protects those who are elevated from making mistakes and falling. But if that’s the case, why did the Creator allow Aaron to take the gold and fall? The kabbalists tell us Aaron needed to take the gold, because he had to be broken. The only way for Aaron to be broken was by making this mistake. So this mistake, therefore, wasn't really a fall; it was what prepared him to be able to be the high priest. It is what prepared him to bring the great Light of joy into this world. Moses says to him, “This has all been a perfect process for you, Aaron. That fall is what prepared you for this work. “ 

So, when we ask why the Creator didn’t protect Aaron from falling, it is because this fall, the taking of the gold in his hand and in some way facilitating the Golden Calf, was what Aaron needed to be broken, and therefore, become a conduit for the great Light in the Tabernacle, for the great Light of joy that is revealed on Shabbat Shmini.

We learn an amazing lesson from this: our mistakes, the times that we fall, are part of our process of elevation. One of the greatest mistakes we make is thinking that we've made mistakes. If we have certainty in the Light of the Creator, then the Light of the Creator is involved in every aspect and moment of our lives, including the mistakes we make. How many times do we think, in retrospect, “If I hadn't made that mistake, maybe this or that wouldn't have happened?” But when we do that, we’re losing our certainty. Therefore, what we learn here from Aaron is not to think we’re so smart as to have made any mistakes by ourselves; we made those mistakes with the assistance of the Light of the Creator. And those mistakes are perfect for us and our process. 

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