THE CLOUDS OF GLORY DEPARTED
(2b) When Aaron died, Sichon [the Canaanite king] was still alive, for it says, (3a) “The Canaanite king of Arad heard” (Numbers 33: 40). What report did he hear? He heard that Aaron had died and the clouds of glory [that enveloped and protected the Jewish people on their wandering through the wilderness] had disappeared, [and now they were exposed to all enemies]. Sichon took this to be a sign from Heaven that he had permission to wage war against Israel. The above will help us understand the verse, “The people saw [vayiru] that Aaron had died” (ibid. 20: 29). Expounding this passage R. Abahu remarked: Don’t read vayiru, “they saw,” but vayeira’u, [“ they became visible,” because the clouds of glory had departed. But now it does not make sense to say, “They became visible ( ki) that Aaron had died.” To solve this problem he translates ki] in accordance with the linguistic rule of Resh Lakish who stated: The word ki [in addition to its usual translation of “that”] has four other meanings, namely: “if ,” “perhaps,”“but,” and “because” [in our case it means “because,” and the passage is rendered, “The people became visible because Aaron had died,” and the clouds of glory had disappeared]. [The Gemara asks :] How can you prove that Sichon was alive when Aaron died by citing a verse that says that a Canaanite king attacked Israel? [The Gemara answers:] We learned in a Baraita: Sichon, Arad, and Canaan are one and the same. He was named Sichon because he resembled a sa’yach, [a wild young horse ] of the desert, he was called Canaan after his kingdom, and his real name was Arad. Others say: He was called Arad because he acted like an arad [a wild donkey] of the desert, he was named Canaan after his kingdom, and his real name was Sichon.
DID DARIUS/ CYRUS HAVE A CHANGE OF HEART? [The Gemara derives from scriptural verses that the reigns of Jewish kings are counted as beginning from Nisan, and those of non-Jewish kings as beginning from Tishrei.] R. Abbahu said: Darius/ Cyrus was a virtuous king, and therefore they counted the years of his reign like those of the Jewish kings [beginning with Nisan]. R. Yosef challenges this statement. [He wants to prove that the years of the reign of Darius/ Cyrus are reckoned from Tishri.] First of all, [if we count his years from Nisan], then there would be a contradiction between two verses. For it says, “This Temple was completed by the third day of the month of Adar, during the sixth year of the reign of King Darius” (Ezra 6: 15), and in this context we learned: At that time, in the following year, [which would be Adar of the seventh year of Darius], Ezra went up from Babylonia accompanied by the exiles. Now it also says, “He arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of king [Darius]” (ibid. 7: 8), and if they reckoned the years of the non-Jewish kings from Nisan, [as you say,] it should be “in the eighth year” [because Nisan falls between Adar and Av, the fifth month]. Furthermore, there is no logical connection; [R. Abbahu] refers to Cyrus, and the text cited speaks of Darius! [The Gemara answers:] We learned in a Baraita: Cyrus, Darius, and Artachshasta [Artaxerxes] are one and the same person. He was called Cyrus [Koresh] because he was a virtuous [kosher] king [note the inversion of Koresh-kosher], Artachshasta after his kingdom, and Darius was his real name. [The Gemara asks:] The difficulty still remains, [for in Ezra 7: 8 his reign is counted from Tishrei, whereas in Haggai 1: 15 it is counted from Nisan]? R. Yitzchak answered: This is no difficulty. The verse [ in Haggai, which counts his years from Nisan, like the Jewish kings] refers to a time when he was a virtuous king, the other verse [Ezra 7: 8, which counts his years from the first of Tishrei, the fixed date for non-Jewish kings] refers to a year later, when [Cyrus’s (Darius’s)] attitude toward the Jewish people changed.
Finkel, Avraham Yaakov (1999-10-01). Ein Yaakov: The Ethical and Inspirational Teachings of the Talmud (p. 239). Jason Aronson, Inc.. Kindle Edition.