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Cause for Applause

Friday, 28 May, 2021 - 7:48 am

It’s graduation season. And, we may be tiring of the constant applause. Yes, every student deserves the full credit, but some argue that it becomes monotonous and self-defeating to applaud for everyone. Congratulations are certainly due, but when should we applaud? And, should we offer the same compliments to each student?


In this week’s Torah portion of Behaalotecha we find someone who did not applaud.

When Aharon (Moshe’s brother) witnessed the inauguration of the Mishkan by the princes – each of whom offered sacrifices – he stood by silently. Why didn’t he applaud?

Rashi explains that Aharon felt bad that he was not one of the participants. And G-d then informed Aharon that he has no need to worry: You will kindle the menorah every day, which is greater than their one-time sacrifices.

Why didn’t Aharon cheer on his colleagues? It sure smacks of poor sportsmanship.

And why did G-d acquiesce to Aharon’s feelings? If he was being a sore sport, shouldn’t we call him out on it?

From G-d’s response we can tell that Aharon must have had a different agenda. Rather than the sour attitude that it appears to be on the surface, Aharon was really bothered by something else. Indeed, he was happy for the princes of the tribes. And he harbored no ill feelings or jealousy toward them.

Yet he was bothered at the same time. He was bothered because he saw their significant commitment and wondered how great his own commitment was. So he felt bad not because they got chosen; he felt bad because their activity reminded him of his own personal standing. And he wondered if he was up to par.

In other words, applauding someone else is what spectators do. But Aharon would not suffice to be a spectator. He saw their involvement as a call to action for himself.

And that’s why G-d responded that Aharon’s dedication and call to action was right where it needs to be – lighting the menorah every day.


We all have moments when we find ourselves cheering others on. Aharon reminds us that we can’t only be spectators. We must also be active participants.

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