In Parshat Chukat, details are provided of the sad passing of Aharon HaCohen – Aharon the High Priest.
But unusually, there is no date given for his death. In the second of this week’s parshiot -Ma’asei – reference is again made to his passing and this time we are told that Aharon died “בחודש החמישי באחד לחודש – on the first day of the fifth month”. Now, since Nissan is the first month of the year, the first day of the fifth month, is Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av, which will be on Wednesday of this week.
We know from here therefore, that every year we read about the Yartzeit of Aharon on the Shabbat which is closest to that date – and I cannot think of a better time in the year to contemplate on the life of Aharon and his teachings.
He died on Rosh Chodesh Av, the commencement of the saddest month of the year. As Chazal teach us in Mesechet Ta’anit “שמשנכנס אב ממעטין בשמחה – with the commencement of the month of Av, our joy decreases”. This is on account of the fact that so many tragedies befell our people at the time including the destruction of both of our temples.
Our Second Temple fell in the year 70 because of the sin of Sinat Chinam- causeless hatred. And when you think about it, the example that Aharon set provided the antidote to Sinat Chinam. Hillel, in Pirkei Avot, teaches us הֱוֵי מִתַּלְמִידָיו שֶׁל אַהֲרֹן – we should strive to be like the disciples of Aharon, אוֹהֵב שָׁלוֹם וְרוֹדֵף שָׁלוֹם – like him we should ‘love peace and pursue it’, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת וּמְקָרְבָן לַתּוֹרָה – and like him, we should ‘love all other people and bring them close to Torah’
Aharon taught through his personal example that we should love peace but that actually is not good enough. We need to ensure that there will be a peaceful environment wherever we are. We should love all other people and through our love for them, share with them the beauty of a life of Torah.
One thousand nine hundred and fifty years after the destruction of our temple, tragically, שנאת חנם – causeless hatred is still very much in our midst. As we commemorate the Yartzeit of Aharon we must transform שנאת חנם into אהבת חנם – causeless love.