After 80 years, God finally decides it is time to introduce Himself to Moshe (Shemot 3:2-6). Speaking dramatically from within a miraculous fire, God strategically decides to gradually present Himself before Moshe: He begins as an angel, then speaks as ‘אלוקים’, transitions to “אלוקי אביך” and then finally formally introduces Himself as “ה’”. God knew that after 80 years (almost all spent outside of any Jewish context) it would have been impossible for Moshe to be presented with the monumental message of his expected leadership role in the actualization of God’s national mission without some kind of measured introduction. Understandably and brilliantly, God takes five pesukim for this necessary pre-amble before He finally ‘safely’ arrives at His intended, ultimate message of Moshe’s life-altering Divine appointment.
It is very strange, therefore, that we are then told one chapter later, in 4:27:
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ה’ אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֔ן לֵ֛ךְ לִקְרַ֥את מֹשֶׁ֖ה הַמִּדְבָּ֑רָה…””
“And God said to Aharon go and greet your brother in the desert…”
Aharon, too, had never been visited by God; Aharon is 83 years old and all he ‘got’ was a: ‘and God said’!? Why doesn’t he receive an introduction? Where’s his gradual easing into his life-altering Divine appointment?! The juxtaposition between these two scenes clearly highlights the blatant contrast between how God appeared to the two brothers. Although the purposeful juxtaposition creates this unevenness, it could still be easily argued that because Moshe had lived amongst Egyptians and Midyanites almost his entire life, he would obviously have needed a much more gradual introduction than Aharon – the Hebrew – would ever have required.
However, even if we ignore the purposeful contrast between these two episodes, there had almost never been a moment that God speaks to anyone for the first time as informally as He did with Aharon. When Yitzchak first hears from God, He first ‘appeared’ (‘וירא’), formally, and then relayed His message; for Yaakov, it was a formal introduction within a very dramatic dream before God delivers his Divine promise; Lavan and Avimelekh are both given dreams in which God first ‘arrives’ (‘ויבא’) before He speaks to them. So, in light of these episodes, in addition to the distinct textual juxtaposition of Moshe’s episode, how is it possible that God merely begins ‘talking’ to Aharon (using the informal א.מ.ר. and not even the more formal ד.ב.ר.) – no formality, no introduction, no nothing!
In truth, there was one other first-time introduction where God ‘merely’ begins with an ‘אמר’: that of Avraham, when He delivered him the famous message of לך לך.
“וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ה’ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ׃”
What was the significance of this message and how it was relayed? Avraham’s true success in answering God’s call was not in simply leaving behind the “ארצך”, “מולדתך”, “בית אביך” for that was merely a rejection of a place and its philosophies; but rather it was monumentally expressed through the “ויאמר”, “ה’”, “לך” and “ארץ אשר אראך” parts of the Divine charge. For Avraham was a man raised in and defined by Ancient Sumaria – the paradigm of the life and society that embraced tangibility, certainty, dependability, and logically planned paths. Therefore, Avraham’s ready acceptance of a mission that was casually and unexpectedly delivered to him (‘אמר’), by an intangible, thus-far unrecognized God (ה’’), with no definite plan (just ‘לך’), to an undisclosed land was the very attribute that proved Avraham’s worthiness. When he went – because he went – immediately upon being called, he transformed himself into the proper man for God’s mission. Once thus changed, he wasn’t in fact just leaving behind or rejecting his world; for his answer to God’s call wasn’t merely a transplantation but also a transformation; he didn’t merely enter a new Divine context, but was redefined by it. And it was this momentous change that proved he was the right man for Divine nation he was going to help found.
And now we can return to the only other instance where God appeared similarly ‘informally’ and unexpectedly, delivering a life-altering national charge. After Moshe’s insistence of his inability to accomplish the monumental task God charged him with, God tells Moshe that his brother, Aharon, will be his right-hand man, a second-leader, to assist him in actualizing the upcoming Exodus. And it is this context we read our pasuk (now quoted in full):
“וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ה’ אֶֽל־אַהֲרֹ֔ן לֵ֛ךְ לִקְרַ֥את מֹשֶׁ֖ה הַמִּדְבָּ֑רָה וַיֵּ֗לֶךְ וַֽיִּפְגְּשֵׁ֛הוּ בְּהַ֥ר הָאֱלֹהִ֖ים וַיִּשַּׁק־לֽוֹ׃”
“And God said to Aharon go and greet your brother in the desert; and [Aharon] went and met up with [Moshe] at Har HaElokim and kissed him”
Aharon, too, receives an almost identically presented message to that of Avraham! Totally unexpectedly, God appears to Aharon just talking to him (“ויאמר”), telling him to merely go (“לך”) to greet Moshe (whom he hasn’t seen for almost 80 years!) into the desert (an undefined, unspecific wilderness)! And all this from within a slave’s life: one of enforced structure, restricted movement and lack of independence. Just like Avraham, Aharon is being summoned to physically leave behind and therefore defy everything he knows, but also to follow an ‘uncharacteristic’ and personally unprecedented path that will force him, like Avraham, to transform into the different person he will need to become in order to assume his proper place as Moshe’s second for God’s mission. And does he pass the test? Does his reaction accomplish this necessary defiance and personal change? Immediately reported in the second half of this pasuk: without question or pause, ‘Aharon went’ and didn’t merely greet (“לקראת”) his brother but ‘ויפגשהו’ – which we know throughout TaNaKH connotes a significant meeting. And he finds Moshe not merely ‘(somewhere) in the desert’, but at the significantly-specific Har HaElokim! And although he hasn’t seen Moshe in over 60 years, the first expression of ‘hello’ is to kiss Moshe – embracing his charge! Aharon consciously and powerfully accepted and then refined every single unexpected, unspecific, generic and personality/context-defying charge. He significantly infused them with the necessary personal component and in this way, proved to God, and to us, that Aharon, in answering God’s call, did in fact transform into the leader God, and Moshe, needed him to become.