Chukas 5784: Aharon Ha’Kohen, A Man of Peace

After the opening chapter of Parshas Chukas, which delineates the laws regarding death and the ashes, and ritual, of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer, Chapter 19), the Torah turns its attention to Chapter 20 and year 40 of desert wanderings.  We learn of the death of righteous Miriam, the prophetess; the resulting lack of water in her absence; the sin of Moshe and Aharon in striking, not speaking, to the rock to draw forth water for the nation and their flocks; G-d’s decree that Moshe and Aharon would not enter the Holy Land, for they failed to sanctify the Name of G-d amongst the Children of Israel; and the death of Aharon atop Hor Ha’Hor.

At the command of G-d, Moshe, Aharon and Elazar, the son of Aharon, ascend to the top of Hor Ha’Hor.  There they entered a cave where Moshe divested Aharon of his bigdei kehunah – priestly vestments – and dressed Elazar in them, as a sign of the transfer of the kehunah.  Aharon lay down on a bed that was prepared for him, alongside which a candle was burning, and with tranquility and peace, Aharon died (Bamidbar 20:22-29).

When Moshe and Elazar returned back to the Bnei Yisrael, without Aharon accompanying them, the pasuk tells us:

וַיִּרְאוּ֙ כׇּל־הָ֣עֵדָ֔ה כִּ֥י גָוַ֖ע אַהֲרֹ֑ן וַיִּבְכּ֤וּ אֶֽת־אַהֲרֹן֙ שְׁלֹשִׁ֣ים י֔וֹם כֹּ֖ל בֵּ֥ית יִשְׂרָאֵֽלand the entire assembly saw that Aharon had died, and they cried for Aharon, the whole House of Israel, for thirty days (Bamidbar 20:29).

Why does it say that the “whole House of Israel” mourned Aharon’s death?  Rashi (quoting Avos d’Rabi Nosson) explains: כל בית ישראל. הָאֲנָשִׁים וְהַנָּשִׁים, לְפִי שֶׁהָיָה אַהֲרֹן רוֹדֵף שָׁלוֹם וּמַטִּיל אַהֲבָה בֵּין בַּעֲלֵי מְרִיבָה וּבֵין אִישׁ לְאִשְׁתּוֹthe men and the women mourned Aharon’s death; because Aharon was one who pursued peace and promoted love between parties in a quarrel, and between husband and wife.

While when Moshe died, the pasuk says that the Bnei Yisrael – literally the Sons of Israel, i.e.: the men alone – cried for Moshe for thirty days (Devarim 34:8), when Aharon died, the entire nation mourned.

Furthermore, the Sages teach us how very righteous and peace-loving Aharon was, and they urge us to go in his ways: הִלֵּל אוֹמֵר: הֱוֵי מִתַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁל אַהֲרֹן, אוֹהֵב שָׁלוֹם וְרוֹדֵף שָׁלוֹם, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, וּמְקָרְבָן לַתּוֹרָהHillel would say: Be of the students of Aharon, love peace, pursue peace, love people, and draw them close to Torah (Pirkei Avos 1:12).  Aharon not only loved peace, but pursued peace and actively strove to cultivate harmony and unity amongst people.

The very next topic in the parsha is the war launched by the Canaanite (Amalekite) King of Arad against the Bnei Yisrael (Bamidbar 21:1-3).  What is the connection between the death of Aharon and this ensuing war?

Rashi (21:1) explains that this nation heard that Aharon had died, and the Clouds of Glory – which were in Aharon’s merit – had disappeared, leaving the nation open and vulnerable to attack.

When Miriam died and the well dried up, the people thirsted for water.  However, when Aharon died, they were now susceptible to attack by an enemy nation.

Perhaps we can offer an additional reason as to why now, specifically when Aharon died, the nation was weak and prone to attack by the Canaanite (Amalekite) king.

When the merit of Aharon’s peace-loving ways, when his harmonious behavior – which promoted and cultivated harmony and ahava amongst the people – dissipated along with his physical demise, perhaps then the people were weakened.  With the diminishment of the koach (power, strength) and zechus (merit) of shalom, the nation was weakened and susceptible to enemy attack.

As we once again find ourselves in the month of Tamuz, leading into Av, the months of mourning for churban Batei Mikdash and galus Tzion v’Yerushalayim (the destruction of both Temples and the exile), we must remember the lessons of Aharon’s death.  When there is shalom amongst our nation we are strong to face our enemies, and Shalom (a Name for Hashem – Shabbos 10b)  – HKB”H’s presence – is amongst us and with us to save us.

R”L, when shalom is absent, chalilah v’chas Shalom – Hashem’s Shechina becomes absent – and this is the condition of Exile which we have endured for almost 2,000 years.  Though the people in the time of Bayis Sheni were involved in Torah, mitzvos and acts of chessed, because sinas chinam prevailed, the Temple was destroyed (Yoma 9b).

In the Divine promises of Bechukosai, the pasuk  (Vayikra 26:6) tells us: וְנָתַתִּ֤י שָׁלוֹם֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ וּשְׁכַבְתֶּ֖ם וְאֵ֣ין מַחֲרִ֑יד וְהִשְׁבַּתִּ֞י חַיָּ֤ה רָעָה֙ מִן־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְחֶ֖רֶב לֹא־תַעֲבֹ֥ר בְּאַרְצְכֶֽם, and I will place peace in the Land, and you will lie down and no one will frighten you; I will cause wild animals to cease from the Land, and no sword will pass through your land.  On this pasuk, and promise of serenity and security, Rashi tells us: מִכָּאן שֶׁהַשָּׁלוֹם שָׁקוּל כְּנֶגֶד הַכֹּלfrom here we learn that shalom is equal to all other brachos, and אִם אֵין שָׁלוֹם אֵין כְּלוּם, if there is no shalom, there is nothing (Rashi, ibid).

Though perhaps, as individuals, we cannot change the global state of affairs, or the larger national issues that abound, we can – each and every one of us – do our part to love, pursue, and cultivate shalom – harmony – within our families, communities, our nation and our beloved Land.  And perhaps then, we will merit the blessing of ונתתי שלום בארץ ושמחת עולם ליושביה.

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.