The process leading to Aaron’s death, mentioned in this week’s sedra, is carried out with no reference to any human emotion until the final verse of the passage, in which an outburst of deep emotion is conveyed.
When the entire assembly saw Aaron had perished, they wept for 30 days.
The death of Moses is described similarly: “The Children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days” (Deut 34:8). However, there is a fundamental difference. The word “entire” appears only in the context of Aaron’s death, and not that of Moses.
This seemingly minor difference, between the entire nation weeping for Aaron and just the nation weeping for Moses, reflects an important difference between the two brothers. While Moses leads, Aaron unifies.
Although Moses was younger and never experienced slavery personally, Aaron did not resent his brother’s appointment, nor did he feel any entitlement to the senior leadership position.
On the contrary, Aaron rejoiced even in the hidden depths of his heart (Exod 4:14) and encouraged harmony, unity and peace, between people.
Hillel asks us to follow Aaron’s example. Moses, however, assumed a different type of leadership position.
These two models of leadership complement each other. When courageous leadership partners with a consolidating voice promoting peace and unity, a community thrives.
Boruch M Boudilovsky is rabbi of Young Israel of North Netanya