In every generation, there are men and women who truly make an impact on the world. These incredible individuals are honored both in life and in death, particularly at their time of passing, when people realize what it will mean to be without them.
Aaron ben Amram, the first Kohain Gadol (High Priest) was such a man. The Torah states that “when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they wept for Aaron thirty days” (Numbers 20:29).
The sages note that “Three good leaders arose for Israel: Moses, Aaron and Miriam (Talmud Taanit 9a). This statement is meant to emphasize the fact that Aaron and Miriam were great in their own right, not simply because they were Moses’ siblings. Beyond being the spiritual leader of the Israelites, Aaron was beloved among them for his constant and extraordinary efforts of making peace between individuals.
On the morning of the first of Av, God informed Moses that it was time for Aaron to “be gathered unto his people.” Moses was to take Aaron and Aaron’s son, Elazar, to Mount Hor. There he would remove the garments of the High Priest from Aaron and place them on Elazar ” (Numbers 20:23-28).
The reaction of the people upon learning of Aaron’s passing is most telling. According to the Midrash, the people refused to believe Moses and said “‘If you bring him [Aaron] back, fine. If not, we will stone you.’ Thereupon Moses rose in prayer and said, ‘ Master of the Universe, remove this suspicion from me!’ Immediately [God] opened the cave (where Aaron was buried) and showed them” (Numbers Rabbah 19:20). Only then did the people accept Aaron’s death and with that, the mourning period began.
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