Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Chukas (Numbers 19:1-22:1)
How to Become a Peacemaker in 2 Easy Steps
And the entire congregation saw that Aaron had died and they wept for Aaron 30 days–all the house of Israel. (20:29)
“ALL the house of Israel” refers to both men and woman. When Moses dies the verse doesn’t mention “all the house of Israel,” it merely says the Children (lit. “sons”) of Israel cried (Deuteronomy 34:8). What unique trait did Aaron possess that made it so both men and women greatly mourned his loss? Since Aaron pursued peace and caused love to prevail among the Jewish nation, the entire nation mourned for him.
In some relationships, people are committed to living in peace but they’re not necessarily committed to loving one another. We enjoy the benefits of not being at war—even war with our spouses—but that doesn’t mean we are willing to put in the sweat and sometimes drudgery necessary to actually pursue love. It might mean not responding to an insult, doing a job that you didn’t sign up for or listening to someone’s problems when you are exhausted and have enough of your own.
Aaron facilitated love among the feuding parties, whether it was husband and wife, friends, acquaintances, or anyone else. When he heard two people quarreling, he went over privately to each one and said, “I spoke to the other person and they are besides themselves with grief and wonder how they can possibly face you again.” Afterwards, Aaron went to the other person and used the same script. When the feuding parties would subsequently meet, they would reunite in friendship.
Aaron understood that people don’t really want to argue. Even when they climb up the proverbial tree from which they cannot descend, they would like help coming down. Arrogance and embarrassment are two prominent reasons we don’t reconcile even though we know it would be the right thing to do. Talk to any couple who is at odds with their teenage child or spouses who are constantly bickering and they will tell you that they would like things to be as they used to be—a peaceful and loving relationship.
How can we help someone who is stuck but really would rather reconcile? Although there isn’t one solution to every conflict, Aaron’s methodology of talking to each side— even having to lie, saying the other person feels bad, in order to restore peace—serves as instruction. Most people forgive when the person who wronged them admits their mistake and some of us even melt and feel foolish that we let things escalate to that point, especially when the other person is an old and trusted friend. We can’t always get people to apologize but if we can convince both sides to believe the other side feels remorse, we will have cooled some of the fire of contention.
Aaron gave us two gifts: a methodology for how to make peace and a role model for how we should be spending (at least some of) our time. The hassle of living causes us to get so involved with our lives that we forget how we can help others. Although writing out charity checks and participating in communal activities are important, without peace we won’t have organizations or communities to whom we can give. Looking for a mission in life? Try helping to restore love to a relationship and/ or peace in a community and let Aaron be your role model and not just another interesting figure in Jewish history.