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Aaron

by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis
The brother of Moses and Miriam, Aaron was both a prophet and the first High Priest. Along side Moses he performed various miraculous deeds and signs before Pharaoh and his court. Aaron transformed his rod into a serpent, which consumed the serpents created by Egyptian magicians (Ex. 7). The first three of the ten plagues (blood, frogs and lice) were initiated by Aaron at God's command (Ex. 7-8).

In his role as High Priest of the new sacrificial cult of God, Aaron enjoyed supernatural protection. He survived a trial by ordeal when his authority was challenged by Korach and his kinsmen. His status as High Priest immunized him from Divine punishment (Ex. 34; Num. 8) and he was instrumental in checking a plague sent by God among the Israelites by performing a rite with incense from the altar (Num. 17:1-15). According to the Bible, Aaron died by the will of God before entering the Land of Israel.

Rabbinic literature describes miraculous events surrounding the death of Aaron. God placed one mountain on top of another to mark where Aaron would be buried, which is why the Bible calls his burial place Hor ha-Har ("Mount of the Mountain"). Aaron was laid to rest on a couch in a luminous cave on Mount Hor by angels. He was enveloped by a Cloud of Glory and he died by the Kiss of God.

In the mystical theosophy of the Sefirot, Aaron symbolizes the emanation of Hod, divine glory. He is also one of the ushpizin, the spiritual ancestors invited to sit in the sukkah with the living during the holiday of Sukkot.

It is interesting to note that despite the many magico-religious elements in the Biblical accounts of him and the magical attributes of his rod, unlike Moses, Aaron is not widely portrayed as a magician in non-Jewish circles. (Midrash Tanhuma, Yalkut, Hukkat 764; Lev. R. 10; Mid. Tehillim, 83.1).

Article copyright 2004 Geoffrey Dennis.


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