Aug. 25, 2020

Cantor Howard Stahl on Leviticus 9:1 - 10:3 – "Silence: The Consecration of Aaron"

Mark is delighted to welcome his great friend, Cantor Howard Stahl, to the podcast today. Howard was called to Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, New Jersey, in July of 1999, having previously served Temple Israel (Lawrence, New York) and Congregation Beth Emeth (Albany). In addition to being hailed as one of America’s outstanding cantors, Howard’s accomplishments include having been the President of the American Conference of Cantors, having served on the Board of Trustees and the Executive Committee of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and currently serving on the faculty of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. The passage he has chosen to discuss today is Leviticus 9:1 – 10:3.

Howard starts off today’s discussion by setting the stage for the passage, describing this first example of a dual leadership model, explaining the difference between a prophet and a priest even as it is sustained today, and emphasizing the Torah’s proclivity for intentional word selection. He and Mark continue by examining Aaron’s Imposter Syndrome, the quality which makes him the most qualified to assume the role of High Priest, and, through an analysis of his sons’ deaths, they reveal the true moment of his consecration. Howard concludes the discussion by sharing lessons that this passage offers regarding how to treat those in mourning, the burden of leadership, and the lessons that he has learned about mankind throughout his long and storied career. The sheer amount of knowledge, wisdom, and enthusiasm which Howard brings to today’s conversation renders it a joy to listen to – those ‘hungry to learn’ will find in his words, truly, an unparalleled feast.

Episode Highlights:

  • Setting the stage for the passage
  • The first example of a dual leadership model
  • The difference between a prophet and a priest and how it is sustained today
  • Aaron and The Imposter Syndrome
  • The Torah’s intentional choice of words
  • What makes Aaron the most qualified to assume the role of High Priest
  • Nadab and Abihu, fidelity to law, and religious extremism
  • Aaron’s true consecration
  • Lessons from this passage about how to treat those in mourning
  • The burden of leadership
  • The lessons that Howard has learned about mankind


“This is really the ordination of Aaron as high priest and his sons as the priestly dynasty.”

“We have a leadership paradigm being established here.”

“Your biggest weakness will be your greatest strength.”

“The reason why you feel like an impostor is actually the reason why you’re the most qualified guy I could possibly have.”

“They had a zealousness that consumed them.”

“Judgment and fidelity to law is something that the priesthood must follow.”

“He cannot assume this high office with haughtiness. He has to be grounded, just like you’re grounded to the earth.”

“Every loss is unique, and sometimes just a shake of the head or a comforting hand on someone’s shoulder offers more comfort.”

“We are who we were.”

Leviticus 9:1 – 10:3 -


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