Aaron, the High Priest

Moses's brother helped lead the Israelites to freedom.

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Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, Aaron was allowed to go into the Sacred Sanctuary, the holiest part of the Tent of Testimony, bringing his offering.

The Bible records one incident of friction between the brothers when Aaron sided with their sister, Miriam, against Moses' preeminence, using as a pretext Moses' Cushite wife. God punished Miriam by making her skin leprous, white as snow. She was shut out of the camp for seven days, until her skin healed. Aaron, again, was not punished.

Aaron and Moses were the target of a serious revolt led by their cousin, the Levite Korah, who claimed that all the members of the congregation were equally holy. The earth split open and swallowed Korah and his followers.

To demonstrate the special status of the priesthood and the Levites, Moses placed a stick from each of the tribes in the Tent of Testimony and left them there overnight; the following day, the stick representing the tribe of Levi, which had Aaron's name inscribed on it, was the only one sprouting blossoms and almonds.

Stopped from Entering the Promised Land

On one occasion, the people complained that there was no water and that they would die of thirst. God told Moses to take the stick that was in front of the Ark; assemble the community; and, in front of them, speak to a rock. Water would flow from it.

Moses and Aaron assembled the whole community in front of the rock. But this time, Moses could not control his anger and his frustration with the constantly complaining Israelites. He lost his patience and shouted, "Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock (Numbers 20:10)?" Then, he raised the stick and struck the rock twice with it. Out came a great stream of water, and the people and the animals drank their fill.

God reproved Moses and Aaron, saying, "Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Israelite people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land which I have given them (Numbers 20:12)."

Thus Aaron never lived to see the Promised Land. He died on Mount Hor, near the southern end of the Dead Sea when he was 123 years old. The Israelites mourned him for 30 days, the same number of days that they mourned when, some time later, Moses died. Aaron was succeeded as High Priest by his son Eleazar.

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David Mandel studied at the University of Pennsylvania under Bible scholar Moshe Greenberg, and moved to Israel in 1970, where he founded Computronic Corporation, an Israeli software development company that specializes in biblical software.