Parshas Chukas: The Death of Aharon

This week’s Parsha, Chukas, is memorable for a number of different reasons. It begins with the laws of the red heifer, before moving on to tell us of the death of Miriam, the sister of Aaron and Moshe Rabbenu. After Miriam’s death, the well from which the Israelites drank suddenly dried up and Moshe Rabbenu was commanded to strike a rock and bring forth water. In doing so, he erred- either in displaying faith to Hashem, or in speaking in an appropriate manner- and he was told that he would not live to see the land of Eretz Yisroel. Next, Aharon dies, and here we read of the great sorrow surrounding his death, in which all the Israelites weep, before Elazar succeeds him. The Parsha ends with Moshe Rabbenu leading the people of Israel in battle against the kings Og and Sichon, succeeding and conquering their lands.

We can learn many lessons from the events found in this week’s Sedra. From the importance of women to the dangers of loshon hora, there’s a number of morals which apply to a great deal of situations. But especially intriguing is what we read about Aharon, and, more specifically, the Israelites’ reaction to his death. Avos d’Rabbi Nathan provides us with a commentary on the line, “They wept for Aaron . . . all the house of Israel”, in which we read;

“For Aaron, “all the house of Israel”—both men and women—wept; but regarding Moses it says only that “the sons of Israel” wept for him (Deuteronomy 34:8). For Moses would rebuke them with harsh words. Aaron never said to a man, “You have sinned!” or to a woman, “You have sinned!”… There were thousands in Israel named after Aaron, because were it not for Aaron they would not have come into the world. For Aaron would make peace between husband and wife, and they would come back together and call the child by his name.”

Aaron was a peacemaker in the truest sense of the word. Where others used harsh words or convincing arguments, Aaron appealed to the good nature of his fellow Israelites. He spoke kindly to everyone and in doing so instilled such a level of confidence that they became better Jews and better people, not wanting to disappoint him.

Above all, Aaron hated to see quarrelling and sadness amongst the people of Israel. He worked to resolve disputes and spread love. And this desire to spread joy and harmony stemmed from the greatest attribute of all: ahavos Yisroel. Throughout history, but especially in recent weeks, there has been a sad trend of antagonism between fellow Jews. Of disputes concerning denominations, life choices, or even small business related matters. In our lives, we must all seek to emulate Aaron. To end conflicts. To spread love. And above all, to bring Moshiach, speedily and in our days iyH!

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