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The Midrash Tanchuma Chukas (18) records the episode when Moshe descended the mountain following Aaron's death

אִם אַתֶּם מְבִיאִין אוֹתוֹ, מוּטָב. וְאִם לָאו, נִסְקֹל אֶתְכֶם - If you bring him to us [Aaron's body], then good. If not, then we will stone you.

What did Moshe do to warrant stoning? (If they thought Moshe killed Aaron, there were no valid witnesses to allow for the death sentence)

  • Perhaps stronger: if it was because they thought Moshe killed him, how does bringing the body establish his innocence? – msh210 Jun 22 '18 at 5:56
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    @ms the OP's insertion notwithstanding, it seems pretty clear contextually that they were asking for his return alive. – Loewian Jun 22 '18 at 14:40
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The (linked) Midrash Tanchumah says as follows:

אמְרוּ לָהֶם, הֵיכָן אַהֲרֹן. אָמְרוּ לָהֶם, מֵת. אָמְרוּ לָהֶם, הֵיאַךְ מַלְאַךְ הַמָּוֶת יָכֹל לִפְגֹּעַ בּוֹ, אָדָם שֶׁעָמַד בְּמַלְאַךְ הַמָּוֶת וַעֲצָרוֹ, דִּכְתִיב: וַיַּעֲמֹד בֵּין הַמֵּתִים וּבֵין הַחַיִּים וַתֵּעָצֵר הַמַּגֵּפָה (במדבר יז, יג). אִם אַתֶּם מְבִיאִין אוֹתוֹ, מוּטָב. וְאִם לָאו, נִסְקֹל אֶתְכֶם

When they [Moshe and Elazar] descended from the mountain, they said to them, "Where is Aharon?", They said "He died", They said to them "How can The angel of death have touched him?!!, He is the person who stopped the angel of Death, as it states "And he [Aharon] stood between the live and the dead, and the plauge stopped, (Bamidbar 17:13), If you bring him good, if not we will stone you!"

We see from the context, that they did not suspect that Moshe killed Aharon, but rather that Aharon was still alive, and that Moshe had "kidnapped" him.

It may be that the "stoning" which they threatened Moshe with, was not necesarrily by any halachic law of Moshe being deserving of the death penalty of stoning, but in their rage and fury, they threatened him with stoning.

  • Alternatively, according to the Midrash, they believed Aaron was invulnerable to natural death, but not murder. – Loewian Jun 22 '18 at 14:43
  • @Loewian Are you insinuating that when one is murdered, the angle of death is not involved??? – RibbisRabbiAndMore Jun 23 '18 at 20:59
  • @RibbisRabbiAndMore - That actually seems to be the opinion of Rashi תענית יא. ד"ה מיתה משונה) Tosfos (חולין לח: ד"ה אלא) and clearly the opinion of the Avnei Nezer (יו"ד סי' תס"ט) based on the Zohar. Although the Toras Chaim (חולין כז.) says the angle is always involved. – פרי זהב Jun 24 '18 at 4:14
  • @פריזהב Wow! Very interesting information. Thank you for the מראהה מקומות. I did't get to see them yet but I'm looking forward to it. Bur after all its still a huge פלא to say that they were חושד that Moshe killed Aharon! – RibbisRabbiAndMore Jun 24 '18 at 5:02
  • @פריזהב You might be interested in sharing those sources over here - that could be a valid answer to that question. – DonielF Aug 21 '18 at 15:18

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