by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Parashas Chukas (71)Numbers 20:26
25) Take Aaron and Elazar his son and bring them up to Mout Hor
26) And Aaron shall take off his clothes and dress them on Elazar his son and Aaron will be gathered in and died there.
27) And Moses did as Hashem commanded, and they went up to Mout Hor before the eyes of the whole congregation.
26) his clothes : Rashi: He dressed him in the clothes of the High Priest. He (Moses) said to him (Aaron): Go into the cave, and he went in. He saw the bed arranged and a candle lit. He said: go into the bed, and he went ; Stretch out your arm and he did ; Close you mouth and he closed it; close your eyes, and he closed them; Immediately Moses longed for a similar death. That is what it says (Deut. 32:50) [G-d said to Moses "And die on the mountain…as Aaron your brother had died." The death you desired.
This is a long comment. Let us look at it piecemeal. How does Rashi know that Aaron was dressed in the clothes of the High Priest?
The verse says that Aaron's clothes were taken off and Elazar his son was dressed in them. Considering that Elazar became the High Priest as soon as Aaron died and the clearest installation of Elazar would be that he don the clothing that only the High Priest is allowed to wear, it would make most sense that the clothing here was that of the High Priest.
A Question: Why does Rashi go into such detail about Aaron's death?
A Possible Answer: This same description of Aaron's death is quoted word by word by Rashi again on verse 32:50 in Deuteronomy, where it speaks of Moses' death. (as Rashi quotes here). The strange verse in Deuteronomy seems to be the starting point of Rashi's comment here. What does that verse mean when it says that Moses will die as his brother Aaron died? People who die a natural death - as Aaron certainly did at age 123 years old - all die more or less in the same way. So what does the Torah mean to tell us when it says that Moses died (at age 120) as his brother Aaron died?
Aaron's death must have been physically painless and without anxiety, if it was considered a special 'prize' for Moses to die that way.
So the Midrash (Rashi's source), imagined what would be the most peaceful way to die; quietly, orderly and gently 'laid to rest'. This is what Rashi describes and why he describes this here.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and