Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshat Chukat – Part II

In our parsha we have the deaths of both Miriam and of Aharon. There is an interesting statement in regards to Aharon that is not found with the death of Miriam. When Aharon dies- it states that the entire assembly of Israel wept and mourned for thirty days. However, the first thing that is mentioned after the death of Miriam, is the people complaining about water. Undoubtedly they would have mourned for her- but it would seem that the grief they felt at the death of Miriam was muted in comparisaon to that at the death of Aharon!

Why was there such sadness at the death of Aharon? Why did his death have such a huge effect on the entire nation? There is comment in the Talmud that we should be like Aharon- to love peace and to chase after peace. How did Aharon exemplify this trait of peace, a trait of Hashem himself? In the parsha dealing with the sotah, we learn that G-d is so concerned about shalom bayis (peace in the home- i.e. relationship between the husband of wife) that it is the name of G-d that is erased as the final step of the process to determine her innocence or guilt.

In a similar vein, Aharon took great care to men relationships between people- particularly between husband and wife. He, personally, regardless of the importance of his position and the indignity of the role, would make sure to visit both sides of the conflict- speak soothing words and encourage them to come together and resolve their differences. Like G-d with the sotah, Aharon involved himself in creating shalom bayis, creating peace in the home and thus strengthening the overall nation.

It was this attribute of his- that he was so involved with ensuring happiness in the home and harmonious relationships he was beloved by the entire nation and thus the grieving over his death was very pronounced, far more so than with Miriam who, while loved by many (especially the women for whom she was a leader)


July 2, 2008 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah | , , , ,


  1. An interesting take- especially as in the post after your gaga died you argued the opposite- that the effects of Miriam dying had a worse effect on the nation! How do you reconcile the two?

    Comment by Avraham | July 3, 2008 | Reply

  2. Hmm- somebodies been reading what I wrote! LOL

    IN the first post (found here: ) I looked at the effects of the dissapearance of the miracles associated with Miriam and Aharon- the well and the clouds that surrounded the people. There I discussed how the distress of the nation over the death of Miriam (and the well) led them to sin and Moses to strike the rock- with Aharon the attack came from outside, rather than internal grief.

    Here, I look at the grief of the nation over the actual deaths. Yes- with the death of Miriam the well dissapeared and the people were grief stricken- complaining to Moses and Moses striking the rock and sinning. The attack was internal, reflecting the importance of the women in maintaining the family and sustaining the nation. But this role was not intrinsic to Miriam- while as a woman she exemplified it, she is not associated with the creation within Israel of these bonds (beyond her leadership of the woman). As a consequence, at her death we see the effect that a great matriarch can have in causing people to err when they loose her guidance- but the grief was not as great as when Aharon died. With Aharon- the grief was not associated with any internal threat (the dissapearance of the well made people fear that God would cease to sustain them in the desert- thus part of their grief was fear at loosing this sustenance)- though an external threat did appear. Instead, the grief was purely from the mourning of somebody that not only symbolised the nation and its devotion to God, but also was symbolic of how hard we should work to maintain the family and the nation as a whole.

    Comment by marcl1969 | July 3, 2008 | Reply

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