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  • Yakov Barber

Love Peace & Pursue It

This past Saturday, the 1st day of the Hebrew month of Av, was the day that Aaron (the brother of Moses) the high priest passed away. It says that when he passed away, all the Jews mourned for thirty days. This is significant, because even when Moses passed away, it doesn't say that everyone mourned. True, there was also a thirty day mourning period for Moses, but it doesn't say that everyone mourned. What made him so beloved to the people, that they mourned him even more than they mourned for Moses? The explanation for this is given in the following fascinating text from Avos D'rabeinu Nosson (Ethics of Rabbi Nosson).


(What's written in bold is the translation in English, and whatever is not written bold is my own addition, to either explain or make it easier to read.)


Avos D'rabeinu Nosson 12:


Hillel would say: Be from the students of Aaron: Love peace, and pursue peace, and bring peace between one person and another, and between husband and wife, [love all people,] and bring them closer to Torah.


Love peace. How so?... When two people were fighting with one another, Aaron would go and sit next to one of them and say: My son, look at what your friend is saying! He is ripping apart his heart [i.e. bashing himself] and tearing at his clothes. He is saying, How can I face my old friend? I am so ashamed, for I'm the one that messed up. Aaron would sit with him until his rage subsided. Then Aaron would go to the other person in the fight and say: My son, look at what your friend is saying! He is ripping apart his heart, and is tearing at his clothes. He is saying, How can I face my old friend? I am so ashamed, for I'm the one that messed up. Aaron would sit with him until his rage subsided. When the two people saw each other, they would embrace and kiss one another. And that is why it says (Numbers 20:20), “And the entire House of Israel wept for Aaron for thirty days” [after his death]...


How do we know that he never said to a man or woman: You have disgraced yourself ? [We know this because] It is for this reason that the entire House of Israel wept for him [and if he would have told them "you have disgraced yourselves", they wouldn't have all wept for him]. But with Moses, who would chastise them with harsh words, it merely says (Deuteronomy 34:8), “The children of Israel wept for Moses.”


And also, how many thousands in Israel were named after Aaron! Because if not for Aaron, they would never have come into the world. For he would bring peace between husband and wife, and then they would come back together, and would name their child [that they would subsequently have] after him.


Aaron's Method of Bringing Peace


Aaron's method of bringing peace between friends, has always bothered me. How long do you expect that trick to work? After a few times, the people would surely have realized that Aaron was playing them! So how was he able to keep using this same method, without it losing it's efficacy?


After thinking about it I realized, that Aaron wasn't playing tricks on anyone. He told the people what he did, because he realized something about fights that isn't necessarily obvious. When friends get into a fight about something, and they are no longer on talking terms, what do you say? Do they really not want to have that close relationship anymore? Or do we say, that they really would rather have that close relationship, it's just that they're too ashamed to face their friend. Or, maybe it's a pride thing. Each one is waiting for the other to come and apologize.


In other words, each one of the friends would really rather still having that close relationship. It's just that they have other feelings getting mixed in, which are holding them back from making amends. So Aaron wasn't playing any tricks by telling each one that the other one is upset and ashamed for having messed up the relationship, he was telling them the truth!


Thousands of People Named After Aaron


For me, I always make this thought experiment after reading this text. There are many thousands of people today named Aaron. Where do they get their name from? Many are named after a grandparent (or the like). Where did that grandparent get their name from? They're named after their grandparent. You do this long enough until you reach the time the Jews were in the desert, where that grandparent was named Aaron, because Aaron the high priest brought peace between the parents! In other words, it's entirely possible that many people today with the name Aaron, (exist) and have their name as a result of Aaron's peacekeeping in the desert 3,300 years ago!


There's no better way to end this article, other than with the words of Hillel (quoted above), "be from the students of Aaron, love peace, and pursue it".


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