This week's Torah reading1 tells us of the passing of Aaron, brother of Moses and High Priest of the Jewish people for forty years.

The Tanya2 relates that when a tzaddik, a righteous person, passes from this world, all his or her spiritual achievements continue to have an effect in the realm of the living. They become a powerful source of blessing for all those "who follow in his way."

This means that if we study what Aaron stood for and emulate him to the best of our ability, becoming his devoted disciples, we will benefit from Divine blessing in his merit. And a blessing from G‑d is always a good thing...

What was Aaron's teaching?

We find this clearly expressed in the first chapter of Ethics of the Fathers: "Be amongst the disciples of Aaron—loving peace, pursuing peace, loving ordinary folk and bringing them near to Torah."

The Sages tell us that Aaron devoted himself to carrying out the command "love your fellow" to the highest degree. The Midrash relates how he attracted people to the teachings of the Torah. He never got angry if people failed to meet the expectations of Jewish law. He would meet a person who was somewhat lacking in his observance of Judaism and greet him with a smile and a warm reception. On leaving, the man would think to himself: "If Aaron the High Priest greets me so warmly he must think I am a very worthy person. I must improve myself!"

In this way, simply through pleasantness and warmth, Aaron encouraged the Jews of his generation to feel close to the ideals of the Torah.

The word used in Ethics of the Fathers for "ordinary folk" is beriot, meaning "creatures." This is explained as meaning that Aaron's example was to love everyone including "creatures," that means, people with very negative behaviour, as if their only redeeming feature is that he or she was created by G‑d. Yet the path of Aaron is to find the hidden good that exists within all.3

The Sages tell us that Aaron worked to bring peace between people in general, and especially between husband and wife. He found ways to patch up quarrels, sometimes by subterfuge: if A and B were in conflict, he would tell A how much B likes him, and tell B that he heard A singing his praises...

We can imagine Aaron—a man of infinite sincerity, who stood for peace and love and succeeded in engendering these ideals in the lives of other people. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose yahrtzeit, the 3rd of Tammuz, is always observed in proximity to this week's Torah reading, had similar goals. Through his teachings and personal example he taught a path of recognizing the inherent potential for good in each person. The Rebbe taught that this wholesome perspective itself strengthens that person's power for good and for positive action.4

The Sages tell us it is through love of one's fellow that the Temple will be restored. By striving to be disciples of the Rebbe in our generation, and of the chain of Sages reaching back to Aaron and Moses in the past, we will bring the Redemption.