The Morning After
Following the deaths of Korah and his followers, Aaron stands between the Angel of Death and the Israelites, protecting the Israelites from a plague.
Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, known by the acronym the "Netziv," on his famous super-commentary on Rashi and the Torah said that the people found the slaughter of the 250 excessive. Moshe and Aharon could have limited the trial to Korah, Dotan and Aviram, and once the earth had swallowed them up, the others would have repented. The Netziv points out that Moshe and Aharon were not the ultimate designers of the trial, but it was Moshe acting on the Divine Spirit.
Rashi understands that when the verse says, "Now he stood between the dead and the living," Aharon was literally standing between the Angel of Death and those whom the angel wished to destroy. He holds the angel back with the incense that protected Moshe from being swallowed up as Korah's minions were destroyed. The angel wants Aharon to leave so he can finish his job, but Aharon convinces the angel to return to the tent with him and the plague is stopped.
Just as lack of fear and belief in God's power brings destruction, so does belief in God's instruments and reverence for God's might bring healing and mercy. The people were not worthy, but Aharon, the worthy advocate, stopped death in its tracks and brought yet another reprieve on a recalcitrant people. Even after he had been compromised by the Golden Calf, Aharon is willing to look death straight in the eye to save a community who would most probably not return the favor.
Did you like this article? MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.