We have discussed many times the attributes of Aharon Hakohen and his children, and how they made them the perfect family to fill the position of the Kehunah. This parsha shows where it all began.
The main story in this week’s parsha is the argument of Korach and his followers against Moshe. The congregation railed against Moshe and Aharon, “רַב לָכֶם כִּי כָל הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדשִׁים” “You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire congregation is all holy” (Bamidbar 16:3). Rashi explains that they were upset Moshe had appointed Aharon as the Kohen Gadol, the representative of Bnei Yisrael in all holy things, when the entire nation had reached the highest levels of holiness at Har Sinai! They asked, ‘Aren’t we all holy? How come Aharon gets special treatment?’ Obviously, Aharon’s appointment had come from Hashem because of his personal greatness that he had had even before matan Torah. This group of people was punished because of the lack of faith they put in Hashem and Moshe, that they assumed Moshe was acting on his own, as well as the disrespect they showed Aharon by saying they were just as worthy of being the Kohen Gadol as he was.
After Korach and his followers were swallowed up into the ground, Hashem still wanted to silence the critics once and for all. He had the Nasi of each Shevet bring in a staff of dry wood to the Mishkan, inscribe their names on their staff, and place them together there overnight. In the morning, whichever staff would blossom, would be a sign that he was the one Hashem felt was worthy of being Kohen Gadol.
When they came back the following morning, the pasuk tells us, “וְהִנֵּה פָּרַח מַטֵּה אַהֲרֹן לְבֵית לֵוִי וַיֹּצֵא פֶרַח וַיָּצֵץ צִיץ וַיִּגְמֹל שְׁקֵדִים” “And behold, Aharon’s staff for the house of Levi had blossomed! It gave forth blossoms, sprouted buds, and produced ripe almonds.” (17:23). Miraculously, this dry stick gave forth fresh blossoms. Upon seeing this, the entire nation realized that Hashem had decided Aharon should be the Kohen Gadol; his appointment was not due to nepotism, but due to his own merit.
The Kli Yakar explains that each part of this miracle was a reference to Kohanim in the Beis Hamikdash. “וַיֹּצֵא פֶרַח”, the blossoms on the staff refer to the young Kohanim-in-training who were known as “the blossoms of Kehunah.” “וַיָּצֵץ צִיץ”, the buds on the staff, refer to the Kohen Gadol who wore the “צִיץ” on his head. “וַיִּגְמֹל שְׁקֵדִים”, the word “גמול” means reward; and the root of the word “שְׁקֵדִים” is “שקד”, which means to move quickly. The most famous attribute of Kohanim is that they moved quickly and with excitement whenever they did anything. This was most important when they were working in the Beis Hamikdash.
From what did Aharon merit to have all his descendants referred to in such beautiful terms? It all begins with the reward we mentioned at the end of the pasuk.
The reference to the reward concerns what happened after Korach’s followers were swallowed up. Hashem immediately brought a plague on the nation. Moshe told Aharon that by bringing an incense offering, he could stop the plague. As we see in 17:12, Aharon rushed to bring the Ketores in order to stop the plague as quickly as possible. Because of this rushing, which a classic trait of Aharon and his descendents, his children inherited all the other properties found in the pasuk; they became as beautiful as fresh blossoms and buds.
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