"All the House of Israel wept for Aaron for thirty days." Numbers
Aaron was to be 'gathered to his people' because of "defying My words at
the Waters of Meribah." (Numbers 20:24) Aaron's death was especially lamented because it was Moses, not Aaron, who thundered
at the grumbling second-generation of Israelites with "Listen you rebels". And it was Moses who struck the rock instead of
speaking to it. (Numbers 20:10-11) So why was Aaron's death connected with something he did not actually do?
Aaron's first appearance in the Torah is as Moses' communicator - both to
Pharaoh, and to the suffering Israelites. Moses declared that he 'was not a man of words' but "heavy of mouth and heavy of
speech" to which Yahveh replied, "your brother Aaron would speak on your behalf to the people." (Exodus 4:10,16)
Many debate the precise nature of Moses' claim of verbal shortcomings. Being
"heavy of mouth and heavy of speech" implies recognizing the need to be able to put one's case to the monarchy and to the
public in an attractive way and to employ the gift of persuasion and avoid confrontation. It can also imply not
to be verbally over zealous, thus driving away the very people you wish to win over.
Moses in his humility felt that it was not him: he said what had to be said
and that was it. Aaron, on the other hand, was a peacemaker who was able to bring harmony between quarreling parties and in
family disputes. Yet, when he saw that Moses struck the rock he kept quiet. (Numbers 20:10), He could have saved the entire
situation and the rock would never have been struck. Instead, his silence was left to be filled by the more confrontational
Moses and "Listen you rebels..."
"There is a time for everything... A time to be
silent and a time to speak." Ecclesiastes 3:1,7 Was it time for Aaron to speak but he missed the opportunity?