Parshat No’ach 5784: Aaron HaKohen — Gilgul of Haran?

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Parshat No’ach 5784: Aaron HaKohen — Gilgul of Haran?

by Moshe Burt

Sefer Shem Mishmuel, authored by Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein (Rebbe of Sochaczev), translated by Rabbi Zvi Belovski, renders to English Sefer Breish’t, Perek 11, posukim 27-28 (page 11) :

“These are the generations of Terach: Terach fathered Avram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran fathered Lot. (posuk 27) Haran died in the lifetime of Terach, his father, in the land of his birth, in Ur Kasdim.” (posuk 28)

The Artscroll Stone Chumash provides a Rashi on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 11, posuk 28 (page 51) :

Midrashically… the phrase signifies that Haran died because of Terach. Terach, who manufactured and sold idols, complained to Nimrod that Avraham [then possessor of the name Avram] had smashed his wares [the idols], so that Nimrod had Avraham thrown into a fiery furnace. Haran was challenged to choose between Avraham and Nimrod. He [Haran] did not know with whom to side, and decided to join whoever emerged victorious. When Avraham was miraculously saved from the fire, Haran sided with him, whereupon Haran was thrown into the furnace.

Since Haran was willing to defy Nimrod not because of his belief but because he expected a miracle, he was unworthy of one, thus he died in Ur Kasdim, literally the fire of the land of Kasdim [apparently also known as Chaldea].

Shem Mishmuel provides two possible citings regarding Haran’s death by fire (Sefer Shem Mishmuel, page 12 – 13):

Haran vacillated [verb: to waver in mind or opinion; be indecisive or irresolute] as to whom to support. When Nimrod demanded that Haran pledge his allegiance, he [Haran] said that he supported his brother. They threw Haran into the furnace, and he was burned to death. (Shem Mishmuel citing Breish’t Rabbah 38:23)

When the people saw that Avram was unharmed by the fire, they reckoned that Haran must be a great wizard, and it must have been his presence that had saved Avram. A flash of fire come down from Shemayim and killed Haran. (Shem Mishmuel citing Targum Yonasan ben Uziel on Sefer Breish’t Perek11, posuk 28)

So, what does Haran or his death by Nimrod’s fiery furnace have to do with Aaron HaKohen? What is it about Haran that his neshama could be Gilgul of Aaron HaKohen?

Firstly, a few years ago, this author cited the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash on Parshat Bamidbar, posuk 2 (Sheimot — page 727) which, in turn, cited both Ramban and Sforno regarding the significance of “Names” and added personal commentary :

It was a great honor for each person that he gave his name, as an individual, to Moshe and Aaron (Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash Ramban). At that point in history, a person’s name was Divinely inspired to indicate his personal virtues. In the census before the nation crossed the Jordan, thirty-nine years later, this was no longer the case, and there was no mention of names. (Sforno)

[Personal commentary] We learn that Adam HaRishon named each animal for its characteristics and attributes, and that Adam and Chava, post-Eitz Hadas, named one of their sons “Hevel”, which has been translated as “vanity” [in the context of “Aleinu”: “It is Our Duty”, by Rabbi Asher Baruch Wegbreit], the name was given apparently with the hope and desire that this son be able to distinguish Tov” from “Rah”, good from evil. So, too, we attach importance to naming our offspring for those of our family who came before us, or for great Rabbanim or Talmidei Chachamim in the hope and desire that the offspring will strive to emulate the ways and attributes of their namesake

Commentators are split as to the existence of Gilgulim — reincarnation of souls over generations. Some commentators agree as to the existence Gilgulim, while others do not.

Shem Mishmuel cites The Maharal of Prague who offers a fascinating insight into the nature of Aaron HaKohen [Aharon] (Shem Mishmuel, pages 11-14)

In the name of Aaron [Aharon] there are four letters — alef, hei, reish and nun. (Maharal, Tiferes Yisrael, ch. 22)

This Maharal reveals the true nature of Aaron [Aharon]. His name (which expressed his true nature) indicates that he was a man who focused on… the internal, spiritual facets of existence rather than the more external, visible ones.

Although the Maharal suggests a reason for the alef at the beginning of Aaron’s name, we can suggest… [an] explanation. The alef is the first letter of the alef-bet and has a numerical value of one. It is the chief of all letters; its very name means “chief.” It also hints at the Alef of the world — Hashem himself. The alef at the start of Aaron’s name indicates that Aaron’s whole aim in life — indeed, all of the spiritual development implied by the rest of his name — was focused on drawing close to Hashem.

We may observe that the name Aaron [Aharon] and Haran are very similar. Haran merely lacks the alef at the start of Aaron. We say “merely” for therein lies all the difference between them. Haran had all the correct aims in life, concentrating on the spiritual, internal aspects of life, as the letters of his name, hei, reish and nun suggest. However, one crucial factor was absent: he wasn’t able to direct his aims toward the service of Hashem and to closeness to Him, as was Aaron [Aharon]. Hence, there is no alef at the start of Haran. There is no question, however, that Haran was basically a good person; he was the progenitor of Rachel, Leah and ultimately David HaMelech, descendants with outstanding spiritual qualities. The qualities must have been latent within Haran even though they were not fully developed.

Many Midrashim point out the rejection of Hashem’s control of the world and rebellion against it that was prevalent at that time. (Shem Mishmuel citing Breish’t Rabbah 38:6, 9) A tremendous display of Kiddush Hashem was needed to overturn the atmosphere of denial and rejection. Rabbi Yosef Karo describes the best way in which this can be achieved:

It is good if one can merit in this world to give up one’s life for Kiddush Hashem, particularly one who is burned to death… for one who dies by fire is comparable to an elevated offering, which is totally consumed and goes up to Heaven; his body goes to a great and holy place. (Shem Mishmuel citing Maggid Meisharim on Sefer Vayikra — Maggid Meisharim is a sefer of Kabbalah, written by the author of the Shulchan Aruch, detailing his regular communications with an angel)

Haran achieved the best possible rectification for his soul and for his generation. For his generation, he brought a desperately needed manifestation of the Divine.

…Haran himself lacked the capability to focus his great qualities toward the service of Hashem. To correct this, he died for Kiddush Hashem by fire. This helped him gain the highest level of connection to Hashem, as explained by Rabbi Yosef Karo. As such, the defect present in his soul, which had manifested itself in life, was rectified. It could now be reincarnated in its full glory as Aaron [Aharon] HaKohen, a man with all the qualities of Haran, as well as the ability to remain in constant contact with Hashem.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, as well as the buildings of Yishuv Elchanan, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is in his third year at home in Eretz Yisrael and has embarked on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of nine years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we see, in 5784, the REAL Jews, via matrilineal descent, from the Ukraine and Russia make Aliyah enmass — via thorough review by Misrad HaPanim. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese Wuhan Lab corona virus pandemic and all like viruses and variants. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.