The Enigma of Aharon’s Stick

Parshas Korach

Korach brought an accusation of nepotism against Moshe, arguing that Moshe appointed Aharon as High Priest with no divine directive. His choice, according to Korach was due only to their brotherly connection. Korach thought he was better suited to the position. He coveted this high status for himself, and he convinced his friends and neighbors of the justice of his claim. Hashem Himself disproved Korach’s logic. Korach’s close followers, Dasan and Aviram, were swallowed into the earth, the people of Reuvain who had joined him burned, and a plague overcame the people. Aharon victorious, case closed.

Or is it? We see Aharon’s defense revisited. Hashem told Moshe to place the stick of each of the tribes in the Mishkan. The name of each tribal leader was inscribed on its staff. Aharon’s name was written on the stick of the tribe of Levi. On retrieving the staffs the next day, they found that Levi’s staff – alone of all the sticks – had sprouted buds, blossoms, and almonds! Why was it necessary for this further demonstration that Aharon was Divinely chosen, not by Moshe, but by Hashem? The Passuk tells us that this sign was orchestrated to quiet the murmurings in the camp. All that befell his detractors was convincing evidence that Hashem did not accept them as representatives of the nation.


What grumbling could there possibly be in light of the overwhelming Heavenly opposition to Korach?


The case of the Suspected Adulterous Woman, the Sotah, bears similarities to this Parsha. There we see a woman who is suspected by her husband of unfaithfulness. Her husband warns her not to seclude herself with the man he supposes her of having relations with. This wife acts in defiance of her husbands wishes. The husband brings his wife to the Bais Hamikdash, where she drinks the Bitter Waters. If she is actually guilty of infidelity,she and the man with whom she sinned die terrible deaths. On the other hand, should the wife be innocent, she does not merely survive, rather she is showered with blessings. Previously she may have been barren, now she will bear children, previously she may have had difficulties in childbirth, now she will give birth in ease and comfort. In fact her life is improved in comparison to its standard before this incident. Her innocence is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt: not by inactivity, the lack of penalty, but by the active provision of additional blessings.

When Korach and his supporters were punished for challenging Aharon’s position, this only proved that they were not fit for the job of Kohen Gadol. It did nothing to prove who did fit the position. The miracle of the sticks proved conclusively that Aharon’s family was the one to represent us before Hashem. Reminders of this double decision -rejection of all others and selection of Aharon – remained in the Tabernacle, and later in the Bais Hamikdash. The fire pans used by Korach’s assembly, reminiscent of the denial of Korach’s claim to Kehuna Gedola, were melted down to plate the Mizbeach. The stick with almonds, pointing to Hashem’s preference of Aharon and his family, was stored in the Mishkan and Bais Hamikdash.

We are each actors on the stage set by Hashem. Each is cast lovingly into the role he must play. We are not chosen to our task by default, for shortage of others who are Korachs. We are selected because we are the best equipped to fill our particular responsibility, we are the Aharon in our lives.


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