In Parashat Masei, the Torah repeats the story of Aharon’s death first described in Parashat Chukat. The Pasuk states, “VaYaal Aharon HaKohen El Hor HaHar Al Pi Hashem VaYamot Sham BeShnat HaArba’im LeTzeit Bnei Yisrael MeiEretz Mitzrayim BaChodesh HaChamishi BeEchad LaChodesh,” “And Aharon the Kohen ascended Hor HaHar as per the word of Hashem and he died there in the fortieth year since the exodus from Egypt on the first day of the fifth month” (BeMidbar 33:38). The mention of Aharon’s date of death is unique. Many commentators note that in general we are not told the date of any of our great leaders’ deaths. Why are we told the date (Rosh Chodesh Av) of Aharon’s death?
Rav Yechiel Reuven Mandelbaum, in his Sefer Dudaei Reuven, suggests that Hashem is hinting to the future designation of Chodesh Av as the time of mourning for the destruction of the Batei Mikdash. The death of Aharon, the first Kohen Gadol, represents the cessation of the Avodah in the Beit HaMikdash. Just as our great spiritual leader who helped atone for our sins passed away during Chodesh Av, so too Av will mark the loss of atonement through the Avodah in the Beit HaMikdash.
On a positive note, we are told that in Chodesh Av we will one day celebrate the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash and the return of the Avodah therein. The Gemara in Perek Cheilek finds a reference to Techiyat HaMeitim in the Pasuk, “UNtatem Mimenu Et Terumat Hashem LeAharon HaKohen,” “And you shall give the Terumah of Hashem from it to Aharon the Kohen” (18:28). The Gemara wonders how Bnei Yisrael would ever give Terumah to Aharon; the command to give Terumah applies only in Eretz Yisrael, which Bnei Yisrael entered after Aharon’s death! The Gemara therefore explains that Aharon (as well as others) will one day be resurrected, whereupon Bnei Yisrael will give him Terumah. The third Beit HaMikdash will be built, and Aharon will resume his position as Kohen Gadol. May we merit seeing this Gemara fulfilled in our time.