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The Passing of Aaron

by Nissan Mindel

Talks and Tales


Library » History » Desert Sojourn | Subscribe | What is RSS?


It was the fortieth year since the Jewish people had left Egypt. There was excitement in the Jewish camp. Soon, at last, in a matter of months, they will all enter the Promised Land, the "land flowing with milk and honey", which G-d had promised to the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Jewish people, as an everlasting inheritance.

Aaron was 123 years old, but still as vigorous as ever. Yet, his last day drew near. On the day before the new moon of the fifth month (Av), G-d spoke to Moshe, saying:

"Go tell your brother that his last day on earth has come. He will not live to enter the Promised Land, but must die in the desert - because of the transgression at the Waters of Meribah. Console him that his son Elazar will succeed him to the High Priesthood and will uphold his tradition."

Though Moses knew that that day would come, he dreaded it, and it broke his heart. All night Moses cried bitterly, for he loved his brother dearly. On the following morning, Moses rose with the sun, and went to his brother's tent. "Aaron, dear Aaron", Moses called, and out came Aaron much surprised at such an early visit.

Though Moses knew that that day would come, he dreaded it, and it broke his heart
"My dear brother, Moses said. "I have come to ask you to explain to me some difficult passages in the Torah. I have been studying the Book of Bereshith (Genesis). Won't you help me?"

"Why, certainly," said Aaron. "Come let's read it together."

They read how G-d created the beautiful world, the sun, the moon, the trees and plants, the animals and fishes, and last, Man. Yes, he was created last so that he should not get too proud of himself.

"Isn't it a shame that Adam brought death into the world?" Moses remarked.

"But he sinned gravely," Aaron said. G-d had been kind to him, placed him in the Garden of Eden and made him lord of all creatures. Yet, Adam disobeyed G-d, and so G-d told him: 'Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.'"

"Yes, this is the way of all flesh," Moses said sadly. "I suppose our last day is not far off, either. Would you fear to die, dear brother?"

"Your conversation is strange today, dear brother." Aaron said. "Tell me, why are you talking so much of death just now?"

Moses hesitated. He had no heart to break the news to him. Finally, as if changing the subject, Moses said: "I have an important message for you from G-d. Now, come let's go up onto Mount Hor. I'll tell it to you there." Hastily Aaron put on all the eight priestly garments and came out of his tent. His son Elazar and Joshua were also waiting. Off they strolled toward Mount Hor, and by the time they reached the mountain, all the Elders and princes of Israel had gathered around them.

"Only Aaron, Elazar and I shall go up to the mountain," Moses said. "The rest of you wait here."

Silently they climbed toward the summit. Moses still found it difficult to tell him. He had to find a way, somehow.


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Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
1. Assumed the leadership of the Jewish people after Moses died in 1267 BCE. He split the Jordan River and led the Jewish people in their conquest of the Promised Land. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which chronicles Joshua's leadership.
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
The fifth month of the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to July-August. The saddest month of the year due to the destruction of the Temples, and the many other tragedies which befell the Jews in this month.
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Candelabra. Usually a reference to the nine-branched candelabra kindled on the holiday of Chanukah.
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
Brother of Moses. First High Priest of Israel and progenitor of all Kohanim (priests) until this very day. Died in the year 1272 b.c.e.
The first man, created by G-d on the sixth day of creation. He was banished from the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Died in 2830 BCE.
The first book of the Five Books of Moses. It records the story of Creation and its aftermath, and chronicles the lives of the Patriarchs.
Mobile sanctuary which traveled with the Jews in the desert, containing the Ark with the Tablets, and the sacrificial altars. When the Jews entered Israel, it was erected in the city of Shiloh where it remained for more than 300 years. It was buried when the permanent Holy Temple was erected in Jerusalem.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.