love peace, pursue peace, and bring peace between man and his fellow and between man and G-d.

    January 2009            
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Aaron the Priest


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Opinion & Society

The Zohar on Aaron the Priest

By Larry Fine

Aaron, who lived during the exodus from Egypt, was the brother of Moses and Miriam. He was chosen to be the first priest of the newly emerging Jewish nation. As a matter of fact Aaron's selection was more than an election, being selected as the priest was a function that is passed down from father to son, so in reality all of Aaron's descendants on the paternal side inherit the priesthood through their connection to Aaron. It was only the priest that was allowed to perform the services in the holy Temple; the common Jew was not allowed to do such.

The Zohar, the ancient source of Jewish mysticism, explains why it was that Aaron was chosen above all to be the priest. The Zohar (Kodshim pg. 88) explains why the children of Aaron and not the children of the tribe of Levi to whom Aaron was a part were selected for the priesthood. This was because Aaron was a person who was known for bringing peace between husbands and wives and between neighbors and friends. It was known that if Aaron saw two people arguing he would wait until later and then call on each one separately and tell them separately that their friend really feels bad that they quarreled and really only desires to make up and be friends again. In this manner when the two friends saw each other again, they would patch up their dispute and become friends again.

The Zohar states that since this was the way of Aaron in all of his dealings, that bringing peace between two parties meant very much to him, for this reason he was selected to be a priest for the function of the priest is to bring peace between the Jews and G-d.

Now we must realize that the Zohar generally reveals deep secrets that were for centuries hidden from the common man and was available only to scholars of the mystic teachings. These secrets were very difficult to understand and it was for many centuries were forbidden to be revealed to the average person. Yet in this teaching we do not see any deep mystical concepts; just the opposite, we see only a very simple explanation as to Aaron's qualifications.

But let us not be fooled by the simplicity of the Zohar's explanation – within it is a deep idea.

The most important thing in this world is that man, especially the Jew, should realize that G-d is the master of the world and desires that the man build a close relationship with Him. Yet, like with all relationships, misunderstandings and improper actions cause a distance between two friends. When this situation is left unto itself, it often degenerates and the warm friendship that had existed disappears. This happens between people and could just as easily happen between man and G-d.

Aaron realized the importance of good relationships between husband and wife, between a man and his friends and neighbors. Without a close friend, a man becomes a loner, an island, a dessert island. It is the friendships that bring out the human aspect in man. Man was not made to be a lone wolf, he was born to fit into the community and interact with them. This is for the benefit of both the man and the community.

It pained Aaron to see broken relationships and he, on his own, would do his best to repair any relationship that was on the verge of breaking. When he explained to one side of the argument that the other side regretted the misunderstanding and the argument, it caused that person to want to continue the relationship.

G-d also has relationships with people. He desires that each and every person have a close and personal relationship with Him. However, it is highly unlikely that a man can exist with out sinning. A sin is a break in the relationship between man and G-d. If the break in relationship was allowed to continue, the man would drift far away from G-d and eventually forget that G-d exists. Since this be the case, some mechanism was necessary to bring man back to his original warm and close relationship with G-d – that was the institution of the priest and his service in the holy Temple.

Since this character was embedded in the heart of Aaron and since Aaron was already known and respected by all, he was the natural selection for the 'job'.

Don't be misled into thinking peace is a small thing; peace is a very important foundation of society. With out peace between man and his neighbor, society could not exist. Without peace between nations, progress and individual welfare can not exist. This is the important principle that the Zohar wanted to share with us – that peace, whether between men or between G-d is of the paramount importance.

Be of the disciples of Aaron love peace, pursue peace, and bring peace between man and his fellow and between man and G-d.


from the Februrary 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine