Chukas The Covered-Up Sin
Chananya Weissman

חקת

 

החטא הכסוי

 

[כא:ד] וַיִּסְעוּ מֵהֹר הָהָר דֶּרֶךְ יַם סוּף לִסְבֹּב אֶת אֶרֶץ אֱדוֹם וַתִּקְצַר נֶפֶשׁ הָעָם בַּדָּרֶךְ :

 

רש"י (כו:יג)

 

. . . ומצאתי בתלמוד ירושלמי (יומא פרק א הלכה ב) שכשמת אהרן נסתלקו ענני כבוד ובאו הכנענים להלחם בישראל, ונתנו לב לחזור למצרים, וחזרו לאחוריהם שמונה מסעות מהר ההר למוסרה, שנאמר (דברים י:ו) "ובני ישראל נסעו מבארות בני יעקן מוסרה שם מת אהרן", והלא בהר ההר מת? וממוסרה עד הר ההר שמונה מסעות יש למפרע! אלא, שחזרו לאחוריהם, ורדפו בני לוי אחריהם להחזירם, והרגו מהם שבע משפחות, ומבני לוי נפלו ארבע משפחות . . .:

 

רש"י (כא:ד ד"ה דרך ים סוף)

 

. . . שם חזרו והתאבלו עליו [על אהרן] והספידוהו כאלו הוא מת בפניהם . . .:

 

Rashi 26:13

And I found in the Jerusalem Talmud that when Aharon died the clouds of glory departed, and the Canaanites came to fight against Israel, and [some of] the Jews decided to return to Egypt, and they went backwards eight journeys from Hor Hahar to Moseira,as it says (Devarim 10:6) “And the Children of Israel traveled Be'eiros Bnei Yaakan to Moseira. There Aharon died.” But didn't he die in Hor Hahar? And from Moseira to Hor Hahar were eight journeys in the opposite direction! We see from here that they returned back, and the sons of Levi chased after them to bring them back, and killed from them seven families, and from the sons of Levi four families fell.

Rashi 21:4

There they returned and mourned over Aharon and eulogized him as if he had died there before them.

 
Q: Why does the Torah only allude to this unfortunate incident, when so many other sins of the dor hamidbar are spelled out?  In fact, the very next few pesukim detail the sin of the Bnei Yisrael maligning the man, which brought about the plague of the fiery serpents!    
 
A: Although this sin – attempting to return to Egypt and engaging in a devastating civil war –  rivals any sin of the dor hamidbar, this one had one key difference.  Unlike all the other sins, the impetus for this one was not rebellion or lack of faith in Hashem, but emotional turmoil.  The Bnei Yisrael were demoralized after the death of Aharon and the resulting attack by Amalek.
 
Therefore, despite the incredible ramifications of this incident, Hashem did not publicize it, in line with the principle "אין אדם נתפס על צערו" (God doesn't play "gotcha" with how a person reacts under pain).  Indeed, when shortly thereafter the Bnei Yisrael maligned the man, the impetus was annoyance with the difficulties of travel.  Inappropriate actions committed through pain can be easily excused (though they still require teshuva), but tircha (general difficulty) is not a similarly valid excuse.