First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/bamidbar-overqualified/
Netziv Numbers: Bamidbar
“Few men during their lifetime come anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling within them. There are deep wells of strength that are never used.” -Richard E. Byrd
The beginning of the Book of Numbers reintroduces us to Aaron the High Priest and to his sons. His two eldest, Nadav and Avihu, we are reminded, died while bringing the unauthorized “strange” fire during the consecration of the Tabernacle, where they were immediately struck by divine fire.
Aaron’s two remaining sons, Elazar and Itamar, are introduced with an unusual phraseology, “and they served as priests, Elazar and Itamar, over the face of Aaron their father.”
The Netziv on the verse (Numbers 3:4) explains that by mentioning Elazar and Itamar in this fashion, the Torah is telling us that in fact, these two sons were already at a high enough level of sanctity and devotion that they were each worthy of serving as High Priest. However, Elazar needs to wait almost forty years to take over his father’s role and we have no account of Itamar, the youngest son, ever filling that prestigious position, even though he was qualified. Instead, we see Itamar having secondary managerial roles in the Tabernacle, always in the shadow of his illustrious father and his more honored older brother – though Itamar is not any less qualified for the important tasks.
Each person has hidden strengths, talents and potential that their current circumstances don’t give them the freedom to develop or use. That does not diminish the individual, nor are they free to ignore such attributes. One must seek where they can best use their strengths for the tasks at hand.
May we have opportunities to use as much of our potential as possible.
To the upcoming Hebrew Studies teachers of Integral whom I’ve had the great privilege of teaching. May they fulfill their teaching potential and pass on our heritage to many students.