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by Daneal Weiner
Presented with gratitude to Hashem for the miracles and as a merit for the speedy recovery of the victims of the foiled killing spree in Chicago and for a speedy redemption of the Jews in Iran and the world over.
In the second parsha of this weeks DDOOUUBBLLEE
the Torah zips us through a list of the 42 stops Bnei Yisrael made, their 40 years in the desert. Amidst the routine listing the Torah suddenly interrupts telling us the events which took place at a particular spot. (33:37-40 paraphrasing) "They journeyed from Kadesh to Mount Hor, at the edge of the land of Edom. Then Aharon went up the mountain and died there in the 40th year, in the fifth month (Av) on the first of the month. Aharon was 123 when he died."
Rav Wolfson asks, why do we need to hear a story we already heard (in Parshas Chukas- that Aharon died)? And even though we were not told then when Aharon died then, neither did the Torah tell us Miriam's yahrtseit nor will it Moshe's. Why change it's mind about Aharon? And so what by the outskirts of Edom?? And so so what what about Aharon's age?
Rav Wolfson calls upon the Arvei Nachal regarding the relativity of time, space and SOUL! (If only Einstein had a Jewish education!) Aharon is in soul what the Mishkan and Beis haMikdash- Sanctuary and Holy Temple, respectively, are in space what Succos is in time.
One of the 'reasons' for Succos is to remember the Clouds of Glory which surrounded Israel in the desert. When Aharon died the clouds departed. Soon(!) it will be Succos and we'll invite the 7 ushpizin- guests into our succahs. Aharon, the fifth guest, parallels the fifth of Hashem's attributes, Hode- Glory. The Gemorah Brachos reaffirms the connection when it tells us that the Beis haMikdash represents Hode!
Just as the Beis haMikdash was destroyed in the month of Av, we now learn so too did Aharon perish in the Month of Av. But more than just in the same month. Aharon died "on the first of the month." That's Rosh Chodesh- the head of the month. We ask about Rosh Hashanah, why is called the 'head' of the year and not the 'beginning'? Because the beginning of a thing may have no relationship to it's end other than having precipitated it's arrival. The head of a thing represents, even contains all that is in that thing. A good Rosh Hashanah means a good year. The Temple was destroyed on the 9th of Av. If Aharon had died on any day other then the first (or 9th) of Av then they only would have had the month in common. Since Aharon died on the rosh of the month, it can be said they have the month and day in common.
The Noam Megadim writes that the travels of Bnei Yisrael in the desert parallel all Jewish history. All our exiles! Indeed, the Ramban writes that the names of these places don't reveal to us their essence. Meaning, every name in the Torah is a description of the person or place. Somehow these names are different. They're a cloak. Exile is a test. A tikun- reparation. We need to make the correct choices now to make tikun for poor choices of the past. If we knew what each name was about then we would know the essence of that place and our exile is no longer a test. No test, no tikun.
With the destruction of the 2nd Beis haMikdash began the exile bearing the yoke of Edom, that which we suffer from till this day. It is the worst of the exiles because it contains poisons of all previous exiles. It is also the last of the exiles! Next comes redemption, may it come in our time! The Torah tells us Bnei Yisrael is "on the outskirts of Edom". The Edom who (whose descendants) destroyed the Hode of the Beis haMikdash and whose exile seems forever, it isn't, It has it's boundaries! And yes, at the same time that we learn of the death of Aharon (Hode in soul). And this both events were in the 5th month, Av, Hode in time. And that month became for us a month of suffering. The hottest days of summer are not by couincidence during this time when so many fires raged through Israel. But Av is also the month in which the Mashiach will be born. And specifically on day 9 he'll be born! Just as that day will turn to a time of rejoicing so too will the Beis haMikdash be rebuilt and the Hode of Hashem will return to His people. Bimhayrah b'yamainu!
The Mishkan measured 30 amos long on the outside, made up of two adjoining rooms; the Kodesh- Holy and the Kodesh Kodashim- Holy of Holies. Entering the Kodesh, it was 20 amos long, leaving the Kodesh Kodashim to be 10 amos long. That's a 3:2:1 ratio between the lengths of the Mishkan and it's parts. A number reflected in the years of it's counterpart in soul, Aharon, who lived 123 years. Outside of the Mishkan was least holy. It's measurement is the largest. As the physical dimension went down, it's sanctity went up. 3:2:1 - Outside to Kodesh to Kodesh Kodashim. This arrangement directly parallels the years of Aharon, in that the digit which represents the least- the single units- it is the largest. As the numeric digit went down, it's value went up. 3:2:1 - Singles to Tens to Hundreds. 'Av' spelled by the letters aleph and veis has the respective numeric values of 1 and 2 which equal 3. 3 are the fathers, 2 are the tablets and 1 is Hashem. 3:2:1 - Holy to Holier to Holiest! (Actually, Hashem created holiness, but, you know what I mean.)
Back in Chukas we were told of the death of Aharon, the man. That was all we needed to know. Now, in this parsha of exile, we learn of the death of Aharon, the hode, of Aharon the mishkan, of Aharon, the Av (father of all priests).
But don't leave discouraged.
The parsha also speaks of the Ir Miklat- Cities of refuge. Someone who accidentally kills a fellow Jew is exiled to a Ir Miklat. The refuge is from the blood kin of the deceased. The kin is entitled to exact revenge by killing the 'murderer' until he reaches the Ir Miklat. Now it's hands of or the avenger becomes a cold blooded killer. Does the accidental killer have to stay in the Ir Miklat for life? No! Yes, well, no, well yes, for life, but not his life. He is free when the High Priest dies. (actually, he can leave any time he wants but he better watch out for that next of kin!) Some commentaries do give a 'reason' for this. Since the High Priest bears a responsibility for the well being of all Israel, such accidental deaths mean he did not pray hard enough, did not have the proper intentions in his service.
Rav Wolfson asks, what if a High Priest, after 120 years, dies, and before the installment of the next High Priest a killing was found by the courts to have been accidental and the defendant moves to an Ir Miklat? Then a new High Priest is installed. This High Priest's shortcomings had nothing to do with the man now in exile?! What will this one's death have to do with that one's release? Is it just a technical glitch in the rules? Heaven forbid!!! But one good question deserves another.
Our Sages ask, is it better for a person not to have be born? Yes! No, well yes. A soul's existence is clinging to the Throne of Glory! Nice place to be. It should come down to THIS world?! But once it has been born it is a good thing because the potential gained for learning Torah and doing Mitsvos are only in THIS world. Not too mention life itself. The greatest thing for a soul is the chance to learn and do mitsvos. Yet if, G-d forbid, a person is on the brink of death and somehow the doctors say if every Jew in the world would sin he would live a second longer, we are obligated to sin! Just for a second of even a vegetative existence, r'l, when a mitsvah isn't in the realm of possibility!! So when it comes to Torah, mitsvahs, life itself, that's what this world is about. Otherwise we'd celebrate a new birth with condolence card to the infant. But I digress. Yes! No, well...
That's in THIS world. What's going on elsewhere? We learn from the verses regarding Miriam's death that the death of the righteous is atonement for the generation! Onexplanation. While we mourn our loss, in the Garden of Eden there is a celebration for their gain! That righteous soul which has accomplished so much in it's short time now joins the others in eternal bliss. When that celebration takes place in heaven it pulsates throughout the universe which manifests itself as mercy for Bnei Yisrael. Under this wave of mercy Hashem forgives our sins.
The High Priest is one of the most righteous of the generation (ideally speaking). On Yom Kippur, when he goes into the Kodesh Kodashim, hopefully his perfect service will prevent terrible accidents and anyone having to go into exile. If not, and accidents occur, only when the High Priest dies will the influence of mercy from Eden set those in exile free. So the High Priest did not have to be in position when the accidental death occurred.
Why can't the death of any righteous person of the generation bring atonement? Ok, a question. I hear. An Ir Miklat is a city of Levites. They and the kohanim serve by rotation and the rest of the year the sit and learn. [It is to this environment one is exiled, where he can immerse himself in Torah amongst people who serve only Hashem. Maybe then when he gets out he won't find himself the unsuspecting messenger of Hashem's judgements.] Point being, it's not so hard to hear the High Priest being more directly wired to affect a person in a city of priests, more so than another righteous person of the generation. The High Priests mercy brings full atonement for one who has killed accidentally. No doubt this personal exile and the laws around it are found in this parsha because they somehow reflect all Bnei Yisrael's exile. That will be your homework Again we see, though, that as long as "until he dies" sounds, it is not an exile that's forever. It has it's end.
The last topic in the parsha is a mentioning again about the division of the inheritance of the land of Israel which was done by Divine inspiration and verified by the drawing of a lot. Why both methods? The lot reminds us of the salvation from the wicked Haman which came, like the drawing of a lot, with out rhyme or reason. As we go through Tamuz and Av, when history and current events make things look grim, we read Masai. It tells us of the exile but also of it's end by the High Priest, by the drawing of the lot, by finally making it to the outskirts of Edom, by soon reaching the borders of the Erets Yisrael in all her glory. And if that weren't enough, again is mentioned the daughters of Tsalafchad having secured their father's share. Every Jew has a share in Israel in THIS world paralleling their share in the world to come. The whole parsha points to one thing; The redemption will come! The redemption is coming!! The redemption can come today!!! Even with the ignorance, even with the intermarriage, even with the personal shortcomings in the Torah world, even if we don't deserve it, the redemption can happen right now, just because Hashem wants it to.
Although Aharon, the Av of all High Priests is not in THIS world, he is serving in the Beis haMikdash on High and praying that there should be no cause for anyone to be killed, nor for anyone to be in exile. May we soon see the final redemption, may the hearts and minds of all be filled with words of Torah and values of Torah, may we merit seeing the rebuilding of Israel and Hashem's Temple to their full glory.
Using the words a messenger of Hashem's judgements,
lahvdil eleph havdalos, who didn't know how much those judgements were
tempered by mercy, don't be a "Sabbath breaker"