Brotherly Love

In Parshat Chukat (Bamidbar 20:22-29), we read about the death of Moshe’s brother, Aharon. God informs Moshe that Aharon is about to die. Moshe is instructed to take Aharon and his son Elazar to the top of Hor HaHar. At that point, Moshe takes off Aharon’s vestments and dresses Elazar in them. Aharon dies there.

This must have been a traumatic moment for Moshe as he was very close to Aharon.

Moshe and Aharon’s relationship is described in Midrash Tanchuma, Shmot 27 to be very different from the other sets of brothers in the Torah:

In the Torah, you find that all sets of brothers hated each other. Kayin hated Hevel, as it is said: And Kayin rose up against Hevel his brother and he killed him (Breisheet 4:8). Yishmael hated Yitzchak, as is said: And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne unto Avraham, making sport (Breisheet 21:9). Making sport implies, in this instance, that he wanted to kill him, as it is said: Let the young men, I pray thee, arise and make sport before us (II Shmuel 2:14). Esav hated Yaacov, as is said: And Esav said in his heart, “The mourning days for my father are approaching. I will then kill my brother, Yaakov” (Breisheet 27:41). And the tribes hated Joseph, as it is said: His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, and they hated him. They could not speak to him peaceably (Breisheet 37:4).

Moshe and Aharon were different. Like it says: Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity (Tehilim 133:1). They loved and cherished each other. At the time that Moshe took the kingship and Aharon the kehuna (priesthood), they bore no resentment toward each other. In fact, they rejoiced in each other’s exalted role.

The midrash continues:

A proof of this is that when the Holy One, blessed be He, told Moshe to go to Pharaoh as His messenger, he replied: O Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom You will send (Shmot 4:13). Put out of your mind the thought that Moshe was distressed because he was not willing to go. That is not so. He actually was concerned about Aharon’s prestige. Moshe said: Before I was designated (to go), my brother Aharon prophesied in Egypt for eighty years, as it is written: And I made known to them in the land of Egypt (Shmot 20:5). How do we know that Aharon prophesied for them in Egypt? We know this from the verse: And there came a man of God unto Eli and said unto him: “Thus says the Lord: Did I reveal Myself unto the house of your father, when they were in Egypt?” (I Shmuel 2:27). It was for this reason that Moshe said: Throughout all these years my brother prophesied, and if I should now intrude into his area (of service) he will be deeply distressed. That is why Moshe did not wish to go. The Holy One, blessed be He, replied to Moshe: Aharon will not be offended. In fact, not only will he not be displeased, but he will rejoice. You know this is so, for He said to him: And also, behold, he comes forth to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart (Shmot 4:14). It does not say “he will be glad with his mouth” or simply “he will be glad,” but rather, he will glad to see him, in his heart.

The midrash concludes:

Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai said: The heart that rejoices in the importance of his brother will ultimately rejoice in his own role, and as it is said: And you shall put on the breastplate of judgment, the Urim and Tummin; and they shall be put upon Aharon’s heart (ibid. 28:13). Therefore, Behold, he comes forth to meet you implies that when he told him that (Aharon would be glad) he agreed to go. Immediately the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself to Aharon and said to him: Go into the wilderness to meet Moshe. Hence, O that you were as my brother (Shir HaShirim 8:1) refers to the kind of brothers Moshe and Aharon were to each other. When I would find you without, I would kiss you (ibid) indicates that he met him at the mountain of the Holy One, blessed be He, and kissed him.

We see from here that Moshe and Aharon had a special relationship as they actually got along! Neither brother wanted to step on the other brother’s toes. Unfortunately, their relationship was the exception as most of the biblical brothers were jealous of each other and worried about losing out on their role as leader or inheritor.

May we learn humility from Moshe and Aharon and the deep respect that they had for one another.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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