Dysfunctional family dynamics tend to repeat themselves generation after generation—until someone kicks the cycle. The Torah repeats the story of sibling rivalry time and again. It begins with an older brother who’s jealous of a younger brother’s advantage; drama ensues, and things turn ugly. Cain was rabidly envious of Abel. Ishmael boasted and taunted Isaac. Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers—nice families torn apart by jealousy.

Aaron kicks the pandemic of sibling rivalry.1 His younger brother, Moses, is extraordinary from birth. Then G‑d chose him to be the redeemer of the Jewish people. The Torah describes Moses’ return to Egypt from Midian after G‑d empowered him with the mission of redeeming the Jewish people. Aaron went out to meet him and he kissed him. Without the slightest tinge of envy, Aaron embraces his role as Moses’ assistant and mouthpiece.

More than a thousand years later, Aaron was still viewed as the paradigm of love and peaceIf you want to learn about love and peace, watch Aaron. Love was his modus operandi. Later, after Aaron passed away, the Torah tells us that “the entire nation of Israel mourned for thirty days”—both the men and the women, explains Rashi. Contrast this with the Torah’s description of Moses’ passing: “The children of Israel wept for him”—the men only. Rashi quotes the Midrash and explains: “Because Aaron had pursued peace; he promoted love between disputing parties, and between man and his wife.” Aaron’s death left everyone feeling lonely.

More than a thousand years later, Aaron was still viewed as the paradigm of love and peace. Hillel, the great sage of Israel, puts out the following advice in the Mishnah: “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving the created beings and bringing them close to the Torah.”2

There were three key miracles that ensured the survival of the Jews in the desert: the manna, the traveling well of water, and the “clouds of glory” that shielded them from assault. When Aaron died, the clouds of glory disappeared (temporarily). It became apparent that Aaron’s merit had been fueling them. The clouds represented everything that Aaron stood for—millions of people can be shielded by the same cloud, unlike food or water, which can’t be shared by even two people simultaneously. Like the clouds, Aaron protected and cherished everyone equally. He adored the most simple person in the same way as the most sophisticated. “Love the created beings,” says Hillel—even if their only virtue was the fact that they were G‑d’s creations, Aaron loved them.

It is interesting to note that Aaron’s yahrtzeit (anniversary of passing) is the only one mentioned in the entire Torah: “He died there . . . on the first day of the fifth month.”3 Although Aaron’s passing is described earlier in the book of Numbers,4 the date is mentioned later, in the Torah reading of Massei, which is always read within the week of his yahrtzeit, the first day of Av.

To understand Aaron’s yahrtzeit is to understand Aaron’s unconditional love for others.

Aaron saw through personal distinction and social placement to the place where we are all one“The first day of the fifth month.” Five is the number of transcendence. It took four rungs of evolutionary descent for G‑d’s infinite light to become a world of limitations and distinct differences. First G‑d contracted his light to create the World of Emanation. Still much too refined to contain physical matter, G‑d’s light contracted once again to create the World of Creation, then the World of Formation and finally the world as we know it—the World of Action (for more on the topic of the “Four Worlds,” click here). Climb back up those four rungs and reach the fifth rung, and you’re back in the space where there is no division—you’re back to the one light. From the perspective of five, there is not yet a hierarchy of creation; everything is equally close to G‑d.

Day one of the fifth month. “One” embodies simple, harmonious unity. There are no separate factions from the vantage point of one; it floats above any division.

So Aaron’s passing exposed his life’s work. (On the day of a person’s yahrtzeit, his cumulative actions and learning shine on earth.) When he looked at you, he saw through personal distinction and social placement to the place where we are all one, working together as one unit and equally precious.5

Perhaps that’s why he wasn’t envious of his younger brother for stealing the limelight. To Aaron they were one unit, working together towards a greater end. When we’re on the same team, your triumph is my victory.

When we buy into the apparent differences that exist between us, it’s hard to treat everyone with the same respect. And it’s difficult not to be envious!

In 1991, in the wake of the Crown Heights riots, New York City mayor David Dinkins visited the Rebbe on Sunday afternoon to receive a dollar and a blessing. The Rebbe said that he hoped the mayor would be able to bring peace to the city.

“Both sides,” Mr. Dinkins said.

“We are not two sides,” the Rebbe replied. “We are one side. We are one people, living in one city, under one administration and under one G‑d.”