"ויבכו את אהרון שלושים יום כל בית ישראל" במדבר כ:כ"ט
The Jewish People cried for Aharon for thirty days. (BeMidbar 20:29)
As Rashi notes, the word כל (all) tells us that everyone wept for Aharon – women as well as men. Aharon was eulogized as an אוהב שלום ורודף שלום " " (a lover of peace and one who pursued peace) because he would constantly make peace between rivals and between husband and wife.
Hillel's famous teaching was inspired by Aharon's example. Be a disciple of Aharon: love peace and pursue peace; love people and bring them close to Torah (Avot 1:12). The Bartenurah describes how Aharon would go about making peace. He would first approach one of the two feuding parties, and tell him (or her) just how much the other party wholeheartedly regrets his offensive actions and the friction this caused. He is terribly embarrassed that the matter has gotten out of hand, and thus sent me to seek your forgiveness. This same approach would be taken by Aharon in confronting the other party to the dispute. All this was done by Aharon without witnessing regret by either person. Ultimately, when the two met up with one another, they quickly made peace.
The commentators take note of the title given to Aharon: רודף שלום – pursuer of peace (see Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner's Ruach Chaim and The Ben Ish Chai's Ben Yehoyada on Sanhedrin 10b). The word רודף , which means pursuer or chaser, commonly has negative connotations. Indeed, this is the term the Torah uses to describe someone who is chasing another person with intent to kill or cause serious harm. How, then, could this word be applied to the efforts of the great peacemaker, Aharon?
The answer given is that in order to attain peace, one must sometimes even take a step towards siding with one party in a dispute, and only then step forward towards peace. For example, imagine that in the time of Aharon, Reuven heard that Shimon has been spreading vicious rumors about him or even plotting against him. If Aharon would try to make peace by saying that he heard Shimon express regret, and was sent by Shimon to ask Reuven's forgiveness, this tactic might easily fail due to Reuven's suspicions about Shimon's true motives. Rather, Aharon would first win Shimon's trust by "chasing peace" and almost take sides in the dispute. He would say to Reuven that if the report about Shimon's plotting is actually true, then you should forcefully set things straight and not forgive him. Only then, after showing Reuven how important his feelings are in Aharon's eyes, and validating them, could Aharon find some way to resolve the conflict: maybe the rumors are false, maybe there is a misunderstanding that can be dealt with and clarified by talking openly. Once Reuven's negative feelings towards Shimon have been validated, he becomes capable of dealing with his anger and overcoming it.
The Mishnah about Aharon and his "life motto" continues: אוהב את הבריות ומקרבן לתורה (He loved people and brought them closer to Torah). Let us explore for a few moments the connection between this aspect of Ahraon's life and his technique of validating people's feelings and perspectives. Many people have a passion to engage in קירוב רחוקים (Jewish outreach), and offer our brethren better lives through the observance of Torah and Mitzvot. The approach to Kiruv that I have adopted and have found effective might be called "the osmosis approach." Judaism is so beautiful that it does not need to be forced on anyone. Those who are non-religious usually have never gotten the right taste or feeling for it. People's values are always affected by their surroundings. By building a relationship of friendship and love, even without forcing the discussion towards religious matters, we can help the non-religious pick up many things from Judasim that they can relate to on their level.
There are, of course, those who use the approach of "Join us," or "Change to our lifestyle." This approach is usually more effective in outlying areas where becoming religious does not mean having to leave one's current circle of friends or social group. In big cities, however, where the non-religious often live on the same block as the religious community, they frequently cannot see themselves leaving their circle and connecting themselves with a circle they always shied away from. Aharon's method of "playing on their court by their rules" can be effective even in a situation like this. In our terms, this involves our perceiving what Judaism could mean to our non-religious neighbors and talking about aspects of Torah they can relate to. It might even involve just inviting them for a good Shabbat meal. Just by showing care and love, and validating the good values of the irreligious neighbor, one can build a bridge to the most distant of hearts.
If we understand what Aharon was all about, we will realize that we do not need to look too hard for ignorant or alienated fellow Jews into whose lives we can bring Judaism. And if we have proper אהבת ישראל , it may even be the neighbor next door.