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Parshas Chukas–Thinking is Not Enough

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By: Chaya Sora Jungreis-Gertzulin

Parsahas Chukas. The end of an era. Bnei Yisroel’s forty year journey through the desert is coming to a close. Forty years of travels, encampments, and life lessons. Forty years of dedicated guidance and leadership by Moshe and Aaron.

In this week’s parsha, Bnei Yisroel lose their beloved Kohein Gadol, Aaron. “Va’yivku ess Aaron shloshim yom, kol Bais Yisroel, The entire House of Israel wept for Aaron thirty days.” (Bamidbar 20:29)

In Sefer Devarim, the Torah tells us that upon Moshe’s death, “Va’yivku Bnei Yisroel ess Moshe shloshim yom, The children of Israel wept for Moshe for thirty days.” (Devarim 34:8)

We know every word, every little nuance in the Torah, is there for a reason. Why does it say “kol Bais Yisroel, the entire House of Israel” in connection with the passing of Aaron, but in recording Moshe’s death, the Chumash says only “Bnei Yisroel, the House of Israel”, without the “kol—all”?

The Midrash teaches that Moshe was “Rabbeinu” – our teacher, our leader, our guide, and our mentor. A position that at times required Moshe to judge and rebuke members of Am Yisroel… not always to everyone’s liking. There were some who may not have appreciated the mussar, the admonition or reprimanding that came with the job. Some, may not have grieved as they should have upon Moshe’s passing. Thus, the word “kol” is missing.

In Pirkei Avos, Hillel teaches “Hevei mi’talmidav shel Aaron, oheiv shalom, v’rodef sholom, oheiv ess habriyos u’meh’karvan laTorah, Be among the students of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to HaShem.” (Pirkei Avos 1:12)

The Mishna is exhorting us to learn from Aaron, the Kohein Gadol, who looked at every person b’ahavah, with love and understanding. To be a student, to be constantly working on oneself. Growing, developing and improving our ability to create an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.

Love peace, pursue peace. The Mishna in Avos uses the word rodef for pursuing peace. Rodef literally means to run after. It is not enough to be a lover of peace, but one must bring their thoughts and attention to action. To be a rodef, to literally live a life of bringing peace to others.

Aaron was the paradigm of a rodef shalom. He physically ran to create peace between people. The Midrash tells us that when Aaron saw two people who were in conflict with each other, he would make it his business to create shalom between them. He would run to one and say, “Your friend sent me to tell you that he feels terrible, he wants to make up with you.” H e would then run to the other person with the same message. “Your friend is sorry about the disagreement. He wants me to tell you that he really wants to get together with you.”

When the two sides would meet, they would run to each other, embrace each other, and once again shalom existed between them.

Under my mother’s guidance, Hineni would host singles get-togethers. Always the shadchan, the Rebbetzin would mingle amongst the crowd, introducing people to each other.

At one such singles Chanukah event, my mother noticed a new face, and went over to welcome her. “What’s your name?” my mother would asked. “Nikki… Nicole.” A short, terse response. Not satisfied with that answer, my mother asked Nikki for her Hebrew name. “Nechama, but I have no need for that name.”

My mother started to tell Nikki what a beautiful name Nechama is. That it means comfort, and surely, as one having that name, she has the power to bring comfort to others and to herself.

Nikki was quick to say that she knows the meaning of Nechama. In fact, she grew up in a religious home, but is now estranged from her parents. She is an aspiring actress, living in the city. My mother saw the tzelem Elokim, the image of G-d, within Nikki, and invited her to come to a Torah class at Hineni.

A week later Nikki was sitting in Hineni listening to a Chumash class. One never knows, and one should never give up. My mother’s intuition proved correct once again. Nechama was at a Torah class.

And she kept coming. Week after week. The more she studied, the more sensitive she became. Nechama became like a butterfly, and by the time Pesach arrived, she underwent a complete metamorphosis, ready to say goodbye to Nikki, and be Nechama once again.

My mother told Nechama that HaShem wants nothing more than to see His children come home. He is waiting for them. The Rebbetzin asked her where she was planning to spend Pesach.

The tears started to flow. Nechama said it wasn’t so simple. Her father knew of the lifestyle she lived; he wouldn’t want her home.

My mother would not be deterred. She had a plan, and immediately jumped into action. She called Nechama’s parents. Nechama’s father picked up the phone. “Hi, this is Rebbetzin Jungreis. I heard you and your family have an open home and are happy to do hachnossas orchim. Can you please help us. Some of our Hineni members are looking for places to have seder.”

“I’ll have to ask my wife. How many people?”

“One girl, twenty-five years old. Her name is Nechama.”

Dead silence on the other end. Nechama’s father was in shock, and then with a shaky voice he asked if this was a joke.

“Your Nechama is attending our Hineni Classes. She is a new person. She wants to come home.”

The following week, Nechama’s parents made their way to the Hineni building. They met Nechama in my mother’s office. A reunion laden with tears. A daughter who was no longer estranged. A family that was whole again just in time for Pesach.

Oheiv shalom v’rodeph shalom. It’s not enough just to think of peace. One must take action and pursue peace. To follow in the footsteps of Aaron. To see the tzelem Elokim in every person. Bringing peace to those around us.

Shabbat Shalom!

Chaya Sora

Chaya Sora can be reached at [email protected]

This article was written L’zecher Nishmas/In Memory Of HaRav Meshulem ben HaRav Osher Anshil HaLevi, zt”l and Rebbetzin Esther bas HaRav Avraham HaLevi, zt”l

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