When all the congregation saw that Aaron had died, all the house of Israel wept for Aaron thirty days. (Numbers 20:29)
Why did Israel weep for Aaron thirty days? Aaron was 123 years old when he died, a ripe old age, full of years, yet all Israel wept for Aaron thirty days. Thirty days is the customary term of mourning for a close relative, and Aaron, as high priest over the congregation, was like a close relative to all Israel. According to Jewish tradition, Aaron was especially beloved by all Israel because he was known as a peacemaker. He was like a family member to each person because he had made peace within their families. Rabbi Hillel used to say, “Be one of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace.” (m.Avot 1:12.) To be a disciple of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, is to be a disciple of Yeshua, the Prince of Peace. Rabbi Yeshua said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
One traditional teaching about Aaron says that when husbands and wives quarreled, they would seek out Aaron. He would counsel them with words of peace and bring reconciliation to their relationship. He was so adept at making peace between husbands and wives that he had many children named after him:
There were thousands in Israel who were called by the name of Aaron, for if not for Aaron, they would not have come into the world. Aaron made peace between husband and wife so that they came together, and they named the child that was born after him. (Avot d’Rabbi Nattan)
Another popular folktale about Aaron says that when two men were fighting, Aaron would go to the first one and say to him, “Reuben, I was talking with Simon, and he was saying he’s feeling really bad about this fight you are having, and he wants to make peace.” Then Aaron would go to Simon and say, “I ran into Reuben, and he was telling me that he’s feeling really bad about this fight you are having, and he wants to make peace with you.” When the two men encountered each other, they would each assume the other wanted to make peace. They would embrace and set their argument aside.
Perhaps this is why the psalmist says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes” (Psalm 133:1-2).
These stories about Aaron remind us that we are called not only to be peaceful people but also to be peacemakers, a people proactively making peace. Being a peacemaker is one of the things that characterize us as disciples of Yeshua.