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    The death of Aaron – Chukkat

    18th century Dutch oak statue of Aaron, the High Priest

    It is strange that hardly anyone observes the Yahrzeit of Aaron, whose death is recorded in this sidra.

    Moses’ Yahrzeit, 7 Adar – yes, that is remembered, at least by Chevra Kadisha members, since Moses’ burial had the highest Chevra Kadisha of all – God Himself. David’s Yahrzeit on Shavu’ot – that too is recognised, though the average Jew does nothing about it. But Aaron seems to be deliberately ignored.

    Is it because of the golden calf? Maybe, but think of all the positive things he did for God and the people of Israel.

    He was the kohen gadol, the high priest who conducted and presided over the sanctuary ritual with meticulous care. He and the Levites created Jewish liturgical music. He was a remarkable diplomat and peacemaker; the Perek says that those who love peace, pursue peace and bring people closer to the Torah are disciples of Aaron.

    He was a man of restraint: when his two sons were summarily struck dead for inappropriate conduct at the altar he kept his peace. He was indeed a great man, despite the golden calf.

    True, while he was alive the people did not fully appreciate him, but on his death Israel mourned him for 30 days (Num. 20:29) and the clouds of glory that went with the people vanished (Rosh HaShanah 3a).

    History has been remiss in not making more of his Yahrzeit on Rosh Chodesh Av. But it is not simply a passing nod that the occasion requires; it would be good for us to think every year of what he really meant to the history of our people.

    “Moses’ teaching,” it has been said, “was aimed at the head; Aaron touched the heart” (Mordechai Beck). The partnership of Moses and Aaron suggests the two ways of Judaism the intellectual and the emotional. You have to think as a Jew, you have to feel as a Jew.

    There are times to be Moses, there are times to be Aaron. The ignorant person cannot be pious, nor can a person who cannot be passionate about being Jewish. We might realise this more if we kept Aaron’s Yarhzeit as well as Moses’.

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