In this week’s parsha, Korach led a revolt against Moshe Rabbeinu challenging him for granting leadership positions to himself and to his brother Aharon. Hashem performed great miracles displaying that Moshe had not acted on his own accord; rather everything was indeed from Him. This culminated with the earth opening up and swallowing Korach and all of his followers.
After this Hashem instructed Moshe Rabbeinu to tell the Nesi’im, the leaders of each tribe, to take their staffs, and Aharon to take his staff and to place them in the Ohel Moed. Hashem said that the stick of the one whom He has chosen would blossom with almonds. Aharon’s stick flowered and blossomed with almonds, while all the other staffs remained dry.
Hashem told Moshe that the miracle of the staffs would remove the complaint that Bnei Yisrael still had. However, what grievance did Bnei Yisrael still have after witnessing the miracles performed up to that point? It seems that at this point Bnei Yisrael already believed that it was from Hashem that Aharon should be the kohen gadol. The only possible complaint that anyone could have had at that point was that they may have felt that Hashem should not have given all the prestigious positions to one family. However, how would the miracle of the staffs solve that issue?
My rebbe, Rav Shmuel Berenbaum, zt”l, explained that we can learn from the beginning of the parshah when Korach and his assembly said, “Kol ha’eidah kulam kedoshim” what the root of their struggle was. Bnei Yisrael did not understand that Aharon was on a different level than the rest of Klal Yisrael. Therefore, they did not understand why he was chosen to be the kohen gadol. Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu to take dry sticks and see if they would flower and blossom. When they saw that Aharon’s dry staff flowered and sprouted almonds they understood that this was Aharon’s ability. Aharon had the ability to bring life to a dead situation, to bring shalom to a broken house, to take a dead relationship and bring it to life.
The Midrash tells us that thousands of children in the desert were named Aharon because Aharon brought peace to their homes. This is why Aharon was selected by Hashem to be the kohen gadol. This ability was symbolized by the miracle that almonds grew from Aharon’s dry stick; a nutritious food grew from nothing.
This explanation seems to contradict another commentary. The Baal Haturim (Bamidbar 17:24) points out that when writing that Moshe removed all of the sticks from the Ohel Moed the Torah writes the word “matos – staffs” without a vav. He explains that this is to highlight the fact that the other staffs were removed dry just as they were put in. This indicates that the miracle was the fact that the other staffs remained dry. The fact that Aharon’s staff sprouted almonds was the natural course for a dry stick that is placed in the Ohel Moed. The supernatural event was that the other staffs did not sprout almonds.
This is because kedusha produces and causes dry things to produce. The natural course of a dry object that comes in contact with kedusha is to come to life and produce.
However, if that is the case then how did Klal Yisrael understand what was unique about Aharon and why he was selected to be the kohen gadol?
I believe that the two commentaries complement each other. It is true that kedusha has the natural ability to cause dead things to come to life, however it is only if it is being done in the correct fashion. If one is doing something that he was not commanded to do or is not in line with the mesorah of accepted practices Hashem will ensure that it will not produce. Kedusha creates and produces, but only if it is used properly. In this parsha those who contested Aharon’s position were wrong. They didn’t believe in nevuas Moshe Rabbeinu. Putting their staffs in the Ohel Moed therefore could not produce, while the natural course for Aharon’s staff was to produce, which it did.
Additionally, each person’s abilities will manifest differently. Aharon’s unique power was to rejuvenate a lifeless situation. Thus, his special abilities established themselves by producing almonds from a dead dry staff, while the others remained dry. Each person in their own way using their unique set of abilities will realize their potential when using their skills for avodas Hashem.