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Parsha Korach

06/15/2018 12:00:28 PM


After destroying Korach and his followers, God called for a new test to remove any lingering doubts the nation had in accepting Aron as the right choice for Kohen Gadol.  Each tribe presented one staff, upon which was written the name of its leader, and miraculously, Aron's staff blossomed, sprouted a bud, and almonds ripened on it.  The staff became a demonstrable expression of God's choice in Aron, and it was left in the Aron Hakodesh as an essential testimony to Aron's greatness.  In passing mention of this staff, the Gemara in Yoma (daf 52) implies that it retained its buds and flowers together with its almonds.  Although usual botanical rules govern that the buds and flowers fall away as fruit emerges, Aron's miraculous staff kept all three.  What significance did this add?

Based on the wording of the Pasuk in Parshas Bereishis, "Eitz Pri," the Midrash explains that the intended plan in Creation was that the bark of trees would share the wonderful taste of the fruit, but the trees "disobeyed" God and did not produce flavor in their bark.  The trees were concerned that edible bark would tempt Mankind to selfishly eat trees instead of letting them grow, and therefore only the fruits were given taste.  R' Kook famously explains this Midrash to be representative of the struggle between the ideal and pragmatic sides of life.  Fruits are the expression of results and achievements in life, while the tree itself is the essence of Man- character, values, and efforts.  The perfect perspective of life does not judge solely based on outcome, but rather sees the "tree" as tasteful as the fruit to incorporate effort and core essence in the bigger picture of judgment.  Obsessed with results, the pragmatic side of life sees the "dog eat dog" realities of life, is willing to justify the means with the ends, and is overly concerned with the bottom line.  Despite these necessities for the great productivity of the world which the trees quite accurately portrayed, God's original plan is meant to represent the ideal idea which cannot be realized but should be remembered.  It was not that God's intention was rejected by the trees, but rather that God's plan was beautiful yet impractical for the trees to implement.  


R' Moshe Feinstein explains the point of Aron's staff keeping its buds and flowers in an almost startlingly identical way to R' Kook's idea about the flavor in trees.  The almonds are again the fruit, and given that almonds grow very quickly, perhaps the theme is crystallized here as representative of quick results in life.  Normally, we eat the almonds  without seeing the process that brought them, because the buds and flowers fade before the glory of achievement, but God is once again alluding that the ideal perspective is to take note of the process, struggles, and efforts as well.  The quick fix versus the long road, cheating versus earning, or imitation versus originality- these may go unnoticed to the pragmatic sides of life, but the there is a perfect God who sees it differently.  Perhaps this lesson is taught in the aftermath of Korach's rebellion specifically because these ideals can save a person from jealousy of higher positions  and titles.  Encapsulating the trees practical arguments, titles and positions are really just necessary hierarchies that ensure organization and societal norms but in no way speak to the true essence of a person.  Not everyone can be the President, and there can only be one, but who says he "made it further" just because he bears the title?  Balancing Aron's staff of flowers and almonds against the bitter bark of the trees is the formidable challenge of balancing ideals with pragmatics, a balance that both motivate us to achieve and reminds us that achievements aren't everything. 

Thu, May 28 2020 5 Sivan 5780