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During their sojourn in the wilderness, the Jewish nation had three remarkable leaders: Moshe, Aharon and Miriam. In Parshas Chukas, the passing of both Aharon and Miriam is related and we are also informed that Moshe will die before the Bnei Yisrael enter Eretz Yisrael. Of the three leaders, Aharon was mourned the most. The Torah states that the entire House of Israel - meaning both men and women - wept for Aharon, thirty days whereas for Moshe it was only the sons of Yisrael who wept (Devarim 34:8). The people had a special affinity for Aharon because he would pursue peace between adversaries and restore domestic harmony between husband and wife.
Chazal (The Sages) describe Aharon's unique method of achieving shalom (peace). He would approach one of the parties involved in a quarrel and say, "The other individual is extremely distressed over the argument and is full of remorse. He said to me, 'How could I have hurt and shamed my friend? I hope he forgives me.'" In this manner, the first individual's animosity towards the second would dissolve. Aharon would then proceed to the second fellow and repeat what he had said to the first one. The next time these two would meet, they would embrace as friends (Avos d'Rav Nissan 12:3).
In order to bring about shalom, Aharon told an untruth. This is certainly permissible. Even Hashem altered the truth for the sake of peace. We could applaud Aharon's actions using many superlatives, but "paragon of truth", is unlikely to be on the list. Yet this is exactly what the Torah does! "The teaching of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and with fairness, and turned many away from iniquity (Malachi 2:6)." Chazal explain that this passuk refers to Aharon (Avos d'Rav Nassan, ibid: Sanhedrin 6b). Aharon definitely walked in peace and turned many away from sin, but to do this, his mouth and lips uttered untruths. (See however Michtav Me'Eliyahu vol.1, p.94). How are we to understand Aharon's "teaching of truth" in his deceptive method? Furthermore, how was Aharon able to employ this method time and again with success? Surely after a few repetitions, the people would see through the ruse and even the antagonists whom Aharon approached would realise that the scenario described by him was a fabrication.
The Talmud Yerushalmi asks "How can we be expected not to take revenge and not even to bear a grudge against someone who has hurt us?" The Yerushalmi explains with a mashal (parable). While chopping meat, the knife slips from a person's hand and cuts the other hand. It would be ludicrous for the injured hand to avenge itself by cutting the first hand. The entire Jewish nation is one body. It should be unthinkable for one Jew to take revenge against his fellow Jew. It would be like taking revenge on himself. (Talmud Yerushalmi Nedarim 9:4 with Korban Eida).
Rav Dessler zt'l writes that giving fosters love. When one gives to others, he is literally giving of himself. Part of him is now the recipient (Michtav Me'Eliyahu vol. 1 p. 35, vol. 3, p. 89). Aharon exemplified this ideal. He represented the entire Jewish nation through his service in the Mishkan (Sanctuary). He also prayed constantly for the spiritual and physical well being of the people (see Targum Yonasan Bamidbar 20:29, 35:25). Therefore Aharon felt a strong bond and connection with each and every Jew.
Whenever Aharon told a Jew involved in a disagreement that his friend was sorry and distressed for hurting him, he was not lying. Aharon truly felt that his life was bound up together with the lives of all other Jews like parts of one body. The part of him that was intertwined with these two rivals was troubled and filled with guilt and sorrow for having caused a rift. In this respect, the rivals were truly sorry! Each one sensed that Aharon was talking from the heart, expressing the true feelings of a Jew. This reminded them that all Jews are one. When they would meet again, they would embrace each other. How fortunate were they to be connected to this great nation, unified through a person as special as Aharon! Thus Aharon loved truth. He uncovered their true feelings of love giving expression to the emotions that lay buried in the recesses of their hearts.
In Aharon's merit of uniting the Jewish nation, Hashem protected us with Ananei Hakavod - clouds of Glory. The Shechina (Divine presence) only dwells when there is a state of Achdus (unity). The Midrash relates (Yalkut Shimoni, Chukas 764) that Hashem asked Moshe to do Him a favour and tell Aharon of his imminent passing. It seems that it was necessary for Aharon to accept his fate before he could be taken from this world - for with Aharon's passing, every Jew would feel that a part of himself was also dying. Only if Aharon willingly accepted Hashem's decree could He bring suffering to the entire nation (See Shaarei Orah).
Let us strive to be Aharon's talmidim: to love and pursue peace, to love people and bring them closer to the Torah (Avos 1:12).
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