We should cherish the different levels of closeness in our relationships and not let them be a source of competition or jealousy.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion in Israel is “Chukat” (Numbers 19:1–22:1), which includes the deaths of Moshe’s brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam.
The Torah tells us that after Aaron died, “he was mourned by the entire House of Israel for 30 days.” With regard to Moses’ death, however, the Torah simply says that “he was mourned by the people for 30 days”.
There is no mention of “the entire House of Israel”! Why did Moses get less of a “send-off” than Aaron? Was the mourning for Moses really less intense than for Aaron?
We are told that the expression “the entire House of Israel” refers to both the men and the women. Hence, we can derive from here that the women were mourning and crying when Aaron died. When Moses died, however, only the men mourned. Why is this?
It is explained that there was more sadness among the people when Aaron died because he was a peacemaker. Aaron went out of his way to make peace between people who were fighting with one another, and this was especially true with regard to conflict between husbands and wives.
Since women benefited from Aaron’s efforts, they also joined in the mourning upon his passing. Moses interacted primarily with the men, so his passing was not overly painful for the women.
Some commentators take issue with this interpretation and ask if it is really possible that the women did not feel a sense of mourning with the passing of Moses. How could it be? He was their leader and rabbi for the 40-plus years! He took care of all their needs. He saved them every time God thought of annihilating them. He did so much for them! It can’t be that the women didn’t join in the mourning!
Based on these considerations, it is suggested that when Moses died everyone did indeed join in the mourning, even the women. However, the intensity of the morning was different between the men and the women. In other words, the mourning one feels for a great leader is there, and it is of one type, but it is simply not the same as the mourning one feels for a closer adviser, counselor or friend, one who saved a marriage. And often more than once!
Aaron’s interactions with the women were far more personal than those of Moses. Aaron sat with them one-on-one. Spoke to them. Comforted them. Quite a different relationship than that one has with a rabbi or teacher.
There is an important lesson here in respecting and acknowledging the different types of relationships that exist. You should not feel down or left out because your friend has a “best friend” who is not you. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you, it doesn’t mean you’re not a great person, it just means that there is a connection with another person that is deeper, more personal, and yes, possibly more valuable.
Everyone offers different aspects of themselves to others, and this is what binds us together on different levels and capacities. We should cherish these differences and relationships and not let them be a source of competition or jealousy.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.