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It was the next day, Moshe came to the tent of the testimony and behold the staff of Aaron of the house of Levi had blossomed; it brought forth a flower sprouted a bud and developed almonds. (Bamidbar 17:23)
In this week’s parsha we learn that Hashem ordered Moshe to take a staff from the leaders of each tribe and place them in the Tent of Meeting together with the staff of Aaron. The staff of Aaron miraculously brought forth a flower, sprouted a bud and developed almonds. This Divine sign made it clear to all that Hashem had chosen Aaron to serve as the Kohen Gadol and that he had not taken the position unjustly. We may ask what is the symbolic significance of the bringing forth of a flower, the sprouting of a bud and the development of almonds? Why was this particular sign used to prove Aaron’s worthiness for the position of Kohen Gadol? Further what exactly was the complaint of the leaders of the tribes that prompted this Divine sign?
With regard to the menorah the posuk describes the three different types of ornaments it had. They are the goblets, knobs and flowers. Beneath each lamp was a flower, knob and three goblets. The Torah also instructs us that they be “mishukadim.” This word is simply translated as decorated. Rashi on this posuk comments that it is not clear if the decoration was applied only to the goblets or to the flowers and knobs as well. The Rambam writes that in practice all three were decorated. Rashbam explains that the decoration of “mishukadim” is the image of almonds. The root of this word is the same as the Hebrew word for almonds which leads to the interpretation that the decoration was the image of almonds. Thus the menorah has three separate items that were decorated with the image of almonds.
In our parsha we learn that the development of the almonds on the staff of Aaron took place in three stages. The first was the flower, the intermediate step was the bud and the final step was the actual almonds.
We may now suggest that the three ornaments on the menorah correspond to these three steps. The decorated almond flower of the menorah corresponds to the almond flower of the staff of Aaron. The decorated almond knob of the menorah corresponds to the almond bud of the staff of Aaron and the decorated almonds goblets of the menorah corresponds to the actual almonds of the staff of Aaron. To an observer the menorah it had the appearance of the blossoming of almonds in their various stages as did the staff of Aaron.
Chazal teach us that the almond is the first fruit to blossom. Chazal also teach us that the menorah corresponds to the Oral Torah. We may suggest that the symbolic significance of the development of almonds on the menorah is that the study of the Oral Torah brings swift spiritual growth.
In the beginning of parshas Beha’aloscha, Rashi tells us that during the inauguration of the mishkan all the leaders of the tribes brought inaugural sacrifices. Aaron who was not chosen to offer an inaugural sacrifice felt badly. Hashem told him that he need not feel bad for he was chosen to light the menorah which was more precious to Hashem than the sacrifices of the other leaders. Perhaps it was this honor that made the other leaders jealous. They also wished to participate in this chosen service. Hashem then publicly displayed that it was only Aaron who was worthy of lighting the menorah. The sign was the blossoming of a flowers, bud and almonds. This was the same decorations that were part of the menorah. Hashem displayed that Aaron had excelled in the quality of spiritual growth and it was befitting for him to light the menorah that also possessed the decoration of the blossoming of almonds that symbolize swift spiritual growth to those who are occupied with it.
Alternatively we may suggest as follows: One of the honors that Aaron performed in his role as Kohen Gadol was the wearing of the breastplate. The breastplate was sacred for it contained the name of Hashem. It is important to note that the breastplate was placed on the heart. Indeed, the posuk says that they shall be on Aaron’s heart (Shemos 28:30). Further, Aaron was commanded to wear the tziz. The tziz was a head plate that had the name of Hashem embossed upon it. The posuk says it shall be on Aaron’s forehead (Shemos 28:38). Finally Aaron was selected to light the menorah. The menorah has an exalted degree of holiness because it was fashioned by Hashem. Chazal tell us that Moshe was perplexed as to the details of the Menorah. Hashem then instructed him to deposit the block of gold into the fire and Hashem fashioned the menorah.
The common denominator of the above three is unique sanctity. The wearing of breastplate and the tziz contained the name of Hashem and the menorah was the creation of Hashem. Perhaps it was this closeness to Hashem that aroused the jealousy of the leaders of the tribes.
In response, Hashem had the staff of Aaron produce a flower, bud and almonds. It is noteworthy that the targum translates the word flower as lavlavin which is closely related to the word le’ev which is translated as heart. Chazal teach us that the targum is sacred. It was given at Sinai together with the Torah and contains many secrets and interpretations of the Torah. We may suggest that the blossoming of the flowers symbolized that Aaron’s heart was pure and was therefore worthy to wear the breastplate and carry the name of Hashem upon his heart.
The staff then sprouted a bud. The Hebrew word for buds is tziz. This is the same word used by the Torah for the head plate. This symbolized that Aaron’s mind was sacred and worthy of carrying the name of Hashem that was embossed on the tziz.
Finally the staff developed almonds. As explained above this corresponds to the menorah that was decorated with the image of almonds. This symbolized that Aaron was worthy to light the menorah as well.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5762/2002