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Parshas Matos-Masei

Aharon HaKohen and the Ananei HaKavod
Clouds of Revealment and Concealment

Rabbi Yosef Levinson

This week's parsha lists all the travels of the Bnei Yisrael in the Midbar, Wilderness. The Torah relates that when Aharon Hakohen passed away, the King of Canaan heard. Rashi explains that they knew Aharon died because they saw that the Ananei HaKavod, clouds of Glory, which sheltered the Bnei Yisrael in Aharon's merit, no longer protected them. The King therefore, came to attack the Jewish people as they were now vulnerable to attack. Why was it in Aharon's merit that Hashem enveloped us in the Ananei Hakavod?

Aharon's was a lover and pursuer of peace (Avos 1:12); 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 Aharon's merit of uniting the Jewish nation, Hashem protected us with Ananei HaKavod. The Shechina (Divine presence) only dwells when there is a state of Achdus (unity), as it is written "And He became a king over Yeshurun (Bnei Yisrael) when its leaders gathered; the tribes of Yisrael were united (Devarim 33:5 with Sifri; Bamidbar Rabba 15:14; see also Seforno Bamidbar 7:3).

We can also understand this on a deeper level. The Ramchal (Derech Hashem Ch.4, 8:2) writes: "Besides the physical benefit of providing protection, the clouds of Glory also provided an important spiritual benefit. Just as through these clouds the Jewish people were set apart and elevated above the earth, likewise through the clouds they received the essence of illumination that dwelled solely on them. As a result they were separated from all the nations and elevated and removed from the physical world itself, towering over all the nations of the world.

"This was done to enable Bnei Yisrael to attain the exalted level, which was meant for them. (A by-product of this is transmitted to every Jew for all generations. There is a light of holiness transmitted by Hashem that surrounds every tzaddik (righteous person), separating and elevating him from all other individuals. This concept is renewed every Succos through the Succa.)"

The Talmud Yerushalmi explains that the entire Jewish nation is one body; every individual is another limb of this body. It should be unthinkable for one Jew to be angry with his fellow Jew. It would be like being angry at oneself. (See Talmud Yerushalmi Nedarim 9:4 with Korban HaEida). However this is not something we can always visualize or remember. Unfortunately, at times we do become angry with our fellow Jew. When Aharon would approach each side involved in a dispute, 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! Aharon succeeded in making shalom by bringing out the good hidden in each Jew. He uplifted everyone, thus separating them from their feelings of animosity and jealousy. In this way relationships with one's fellow man were repaired.

Aharon employed a similar method to bring Jews closer to the Torah and their Father in Heaven. The Mishna teaches that Aharon loved people and brought them closer to the Torah (Avos 1:12). When Aharon would meet someone who was a sinner, he would greet him warmly, as if he was a good friend. The next time this individual was tempted to sin, he would think: "How can I sin after Aharon was so friendly to me? If I give in to my desires, how will I be able to face him again?" By befriending him, the sinner realized that he had a common bond with Aharon. In this way, he became elevated and removed from his evil past.

Aharon also used prayer as a means of uplifting the nation and separating them from negative influences. The role of the Kohen Gadol is to pray that the nation be spared from sin. If someone killed another Jew accidentally, the rotzeach (murderer) is exiled to an Ir Miklat (city of refuge) until the Kohen Gadol's death. The Kohen Gadol is held accountable for the murder. If he sincerely prayed on behalf of the nation, this tragedy could have been prevented. As punishment for this lapse, the rotzeach's sentence is linked to the death of the Kohen Gadol. Anyone exiled to an Ir Miklat would hope and might even pray for the Kohen Gadol's speedy demise (See Makos 11a).

The Meshech Chachma makes a brilliant observation: the Torah states that the entire house of Israel mourned Aharon's death, not even a single Jew rejoiced at his passing. This implied that not even one accidental death occurred during their forty-year sojourn in the wilderness. Not in vain did Moshe call Aharon "the Pillar of prayer" (Targum Yonason Bamidbar 20:29; See also Targum Yonason to 35:25. He explains that the Kohen Gadol would pray on Yom Kippur in the Kodesh HaKadoshim to spare the Jewish people from the three cardinal sins, idolatry, promiscuity and murder. In Vayikra 16:3, the Meshech Chachma writes in the name of the Gra, that although the Kohen Gadol could only enter the Kodesh Hakadoshim on Yom Kippur, Aharon could enter whenever he desired, provided that he performed the same procedure which is done on Yom Kippur. Surely Aharon would not take advantage of this for self-fulfillment. Rather he must have had the nation's needs in mind.)

It is befitting that in Aharon's merit we were granted the Anonei Hakavod. He toiled to reveal the good in everyone, through his actions and prayers. He elevated us and protected us from spiritual and physical harm. We were therefore deemed worthy to be enveloped by the Ananei Hakavod, further protecting us from the negative influences of the nations of the world. Basking in the light of the Shechina, we reached our potential in Avodas Hashem.

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).

Daf Hashavua Kollel Beth HaTalmud Copyright (c) 2002 by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

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