The Torah portion of Shemini relates1 how Aharon’s elder sons, Nadav and Avihu, were consumed by a heavenly fire when they brought an unauthorized offering on the Altar. As a result, Aharon’s remaining sons, as well as Aharon himself, felt it was improper to eat the sin offering presented at that time. This sacrifice is also brought every Rosh Chodesh. They did, however, eat the special one-time sin offerings.

When Moshe discovered their abstention “He was angry with Aharon’s surviving sons….” and said to them: ““Why did you not eat the [Rosh Chodesh] sin offering…?” Aharon explained that since this was a regular offering and such a terrible tragedy had befallen them that day, it would have been inappropriate for them to eat it. “When Moshe heard this, he approved.”

Moshe understood that there was no difference between regular and one-time offerings, while Aharon and his two surviving sons felt that there was.

Why did they differ?

Furthermore, since Moshe originally maintained that no difference existed between regular and one-time offerings, what caused him to change his mind when he heard Aharon’s response; seemingly Aharon supplied no innovative reasoning?

The difference between Moshe and Aharon is expressed by our Sages thusly:2 “Kindness — that is Aharon… Truth — that is Moshe.” Truth is not subject to change — at all times and in all places it remains the same.3 Kindness, however, must consider the circumstances of the recipient. Since no two people and no two circumstances are ever entirely alike, it follows that there are differences in the beneficence radiated by the attribute of kindness.

Moshe’s logic, resulting as it did from the viewpoint of Truth, dictated that whenever an issue was in doubt, there should be no change from one time and circumstance to the other. He therefore saw no difference between regular and one-time offerings.

Aharon’s trait of kindness resulted in his being “…a lover of peace, a pursuer of peace, a lover of creatures, [a person] who drew them close to the Torah.”4 I.e., Aharon’s devotion to his fellow Jew was such that he dedicated himself even to those individual who could only be described as “creatures.” Aharon saw to it that even such people should have their needs met according to their level and status.

He therefore said there was a difference between “sacred one-time offerings” and “sacred regular offerings.” From the perspective of the beneficiaries who are in need of the kindness resulting from a sacred offering, it is impossible to expect that sanctity will come in the same manner and degree for all people at all times.

Moshe, however, influenced the Jewish people by causing holiness to descend upon them from Above, so that it was felt below with the same intensity with which it was felt Above.5 Relating to the Jewish people in this manner caused him to feel that the same degree of sanctity could be showered upon all Jews at all times and in all places.

Aharon then explained to Moshe that while Moshe’s intentions were surely the best and the noblest, Jews in this physical world differ from each other, as do their spiritual levels; it would prove nigh impossible for them to all be permeated with the same degree of sanctity.

When Moshe perceived Aharon’s reasoning he readily agreed.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XVII pp. 113-114.