How I Really Feel About You

June 29, 2017 at 1:29 AM , , ,

“…The entire house of Israel wept for Aharon for thirty days…” – Bamidbar 20:29

וַיִּבְכּוּ אֶת אַהֲרֹן שְׁלשִׁים יוֹם כֹּל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל – במדבר כ, כט

The Torah emphasizes that Aharon’s passing was mourned by the entire Jewish nation. The Midrash (Avos d’Rabbi Nosson 12:3) explains that Aharon was particularly beloved upon the people because he was active in restoring peace between disputing parties and quarreling families.

How did Aharon bring peace between parties in a dispute? He would separately approach each of the parties and say, “Have you seen how your friend is berating himself, saying how ashamed he is to see you after what he’s done to you?” He would thereby instill feelings of reconciliation in each of them. When the two would later meet, they would overlook their disagreements and reestablish their friendship.

How I Really Feel About You

Aharon’s conduct is often cited as an example of the Talmudic teaching (Yevamos 65b) that one may modify the truth in the interests of peace. Notably, the Talmud says that one may modify the truth but not that one may speak falsely, for the Torah prohibits saying something inherently false even for the sake of peace. This raises the question on Aharon, however, who told each party that the other was remorseful and seeking reconciliation, when in fact they were not!

The answer is that although Aharon’s words may have seemed like a misrepresentation of the facts, they were not inherently untrue.

Proof for this can be found in the Rambam’s ruling in Hilchos Gerushin (2:20) that, in certain instances, a court may use physical force to prevail upon an uncooperative husband to agree to give a get, a bill of divorce, even though a get must be given willingly. As the Rambam explains, this is because the genuine desire of every Jew is to observe all the mitzvos and to refrain from the prohibitions. Therefore, when he agrees under pressure to do a mitzvah, he is actually just admitting his true will and desire.

If this is true with regard to any mitzvah, then it is certainly so concerning the mitzvah to love your fellow Jew, “the great principle of the Torah” (Rashi on Vayikra 19:18). Therefore, when Aharon spoke of the love between two Jews as an obvious reality though outwardly they behaved otherwise, it was perhaps an embellishment of the truth, but it certainly was not false.


—Sichos Kodesh 5741, vol. 4, p. 439-440


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