Parashat Matot-Maseh: Following the Example of Aharon Ha’kohen
The Torah in Parashat Maseh briefly mentions the death of Aharon Ha’kohen, noting that he passed away on Rosh Hodesh Ab – a day which always falls around the time of the Shabbat when we read Parashat Maseh.
The Mishna in Masechet Abot instructs us to “be among the students of Aharon Ha’kohen, who loved peace, pursued peace, loved people, and drew them close to Torah.” Aharon distinguished himself specifically in the area of peaceful relations among people. It is therefore appropriate that we read about his passing during this period of year, when we mourn the destruction of the Bet Ha’mikdash, which was the result of Sin’at Hinam (hatred among Jews). Aharon represents the diametric opposite of Sin’at Hinam, as he pursued peaceful relations with all people, and his example is one which we must follow in order to correct the mistake that caused the Jewish Nation’s exile.
However, the Mishna speaks not only of Aharon’s devotion to peace, but also of his efforts to bring his fellow Jews closer to Torah observance: “loved people, and drew them close to Torah.” The Mishna uses here the word “Beriyot” (“people”), which refers to people on the lowest spiritual levels. The word “Beriya” literally means “creature” – something that was created. A “Beriya” is thus a person whose only achievement is the fact that he was created, who has not accomplished anything more than simply existing. Aharon truly loved even the Beriyot. He was genuinely devoted to all his fellow Jews, and rather than reject or ignore the “Beriyot,” he loved them and worked with them in an effort to inspire them to grow.
This quality, too, is something we must try to emulate as we seek to become worthy of the end of the exile and the rebuilding of the Bet Ha’mikdash. The name of this month – “Ab” – is spelled “Alef,” “Bet.” The word “Alef” means “to teach,” and the letter “Bet” represents the word “Bina” –wisdom. After a person learns and acquires knowledge, he bears the responsibility of sharing his knowledge with other people. This must be one of our goals during this period of mourning – to commit ourselves to spreading Hashem’s word and positively influencing our fellow Jews. This is the time to redouble efforts to pursue peace, to love all Jews regardless of their religious background, regardless of whether they are more, less, or just as observant as we are, and make every effort possible to inspire and uplift other Jews so they will draw closer to Torah.