In the 40th year of Israel's wandering in the wilderness, Aaron the high priest died. He had the privilege of seeing his son Elazar dressed up in the clothes of the high priest and thus succeed him in his lifetime. Moshe also wanted to die like Aaron his brother and see one of his son's succeed him, but this was not to be.
Moshe and Aaron had different leadership roles. Aaron was the parent, the father figure and Moshe was the teacher of the whole of Israel, lovingly known as Moshe Rabeinu – Moses our teacher. Moshe and Aaron's different roles - parent and teacher gives us a clue why Aaron's son succeeded him and Moshe's son did not.
Parents are also teachers; kids call their fathers – my father, my teacher –אבי מורי. And teachers are advised to love their students as a father loves a son in order to be successful. But their roles are essentially different.
Let's look at Aaron's role. Aaron's family lived by their mission statement of serving the nation as priests. He had the pleasure of seeing Elazar conduct the red heifer – parah adumah ritual as the deputy high priest. Aaron's sons were already involved in the family business and so it was natural that they would succeed their father. The same goes with the involvement with charity institutions. Kids that join their parents will continue the charity work after their parents are no longer alive.
Aaron's personality as a father created a strong bond and relationship between Aaron and his son's. In order for a child to learn from a parent's example and want to follow in his footsteps there needs to be a good relationship.If there is not a good relationship between a father and a child , the kid will not learn from a father's personal example. Aaron was a father to all of Israel. The clouds of glory which protected Israel in the wilderness were in his merit. The pillar of cloud which had protected and guided the nation in the wilderness temporarily left them when Aaron died, and was then restored in the merit of Moshe. Aaron was a holy man of peace. He made peace between man and man, man and his wife and his children. When there is peace the Divine presence rests on each family and the nation. When he died, he was mourned by the whole nation – men and women alike, because he made efforts to bring reconciliation, peace and harmony to peoples ' lives. He would always greet people with a broad smile, warm words and respect even if the person was a sinner. People asked themselves – Why did Aaron the high priest greet me and relate to me in such an honorable way. He must think I am a fine and righteous person. Aaron helped the person to think of himself as a good person at his core. Embarrassed that his actions did not conform to the image perceived by Aaron, the person decided to try and better his ways. Aaron knew how to emotionally connect with people, share in the burden of others, feel and empathize with the pain of each person and the nation as a whole as if it was his personal plight. He also was incredibly happy with the successes and happiness of others, as if it was his own and even when it came at his expense as it did when Moshe was appointed to be the leader of Israel ahead of him. For this reason it was only fitting that the breast plate with the Urim and Tumim was to be placed on Aaron's large heart. In order that the Urim and Tumim would give the right answer, it needed to rest on a heart that embraced, felt and understood the questioner and the nation.
Aaron had the family business of Kehuna – priesthood, a personality and a supportive relationship with his children that would ensure that they would identify with his values and goals and continue his mission in this world. When parents accept children for who they are and not for what they do, kids then are more accepting of them and see themselves as basically good people. Parents then need to able to see their kids world through their kids own eyes and then try and support their kids' needs for autonomy and respect – the need to be self-directed and connected to one's inner core – not independence-, their need for competence , relatedness and other emotional needs. When kids screw and mess up, parents are usually the last ones to know, but when problems are solved in a collaborative way and kids are helped to make amends and do Te'shuvah - repent – kids will turn to parents for help to get them back on track. Also having a family business, whether it is just being involved in charity or being of service to others as a family or doing things together as a family will ensure that children will continue with this family tradition with their own children. In this way we can be successful parents like Aaron where our children will really succeed us.