6/13/2013

Shabbat Hukat

Candles June 14th at 8:10pm
Havdalah June 15th at 9:05pm

Aaron died in the fortieth year after coming out of Egypt and he was buried on the mountain called Hor. But not long later when Moshe dies the Torah specifies “ Moshe the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-Peor; but no man knows his grave till this day.”

What was the difference between Aaron’s burial place and Moshe’s? We don’t know where either was buried. On the other hand the Cave of Machpela where Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov were buried is recorded and we believe we know where it is even now. What is the difference? One answer is that because Moshe and Aaron were buried outside the Land of Israel God did want us to go on pilgrimages beyond our borders.

But there’s another lesson. Our tradition says that God did not want people to know where Moshe was buried so that people would not worship him or his grave. How different from nowadays when we seem to have a very fetish of going to the graves of dead rabbis. If we were not supposed to go to Moshe’s grave how much more so should we not go to lesser beings?

So is the difference that Moshe was so much greater or is the difference that in Moshe’s case it was Torah he brought to us that was the crucial issue and nothing should detract from our reverence for Torah rather than the human vehicle who brought it to us? That would also explain the difference between Aaron and Moshe. We don’t know where Aaron was buried either. Sure it was up a specific mountain but that’s a huge area and very difficult to get to. But Aaron was not associated with giving the Torah to the same degree as Moshe. We do not call it the Torah of Aaron. Moshe on the other hand was buried in a valley. Easily accessible. That’s why we were not told where it was , so as not to go looking.

So really the Torah gives us two different ways of relating to the dead. Some prefer to visit the graves of their loved ones and some do not. Some know where to go or how to find where their parents are buried. And some nowadays would be unable to go because their parents graves are in hostile territory.

What matters is not the grave but whether and how we keep the memory alive within ourselves and in the way we honor our parents and follow the good examples they gave us as human beings and as Jews.