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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 the aftermath of Korach’s rebellion Hashem commanded Moshe to take a staff from each tribe’s leader and put them in the sanctuary together with the staff of Aaron. On the next day it was discovered that the staff of Aaron miraculously sprouted a flower, a bud and almonds. This was in contrast to the other leaders whose staves remained unchanged. This miracle made it clear to all that it was Hashem who selected Aaron to serve as the kohen gadol in the mishkan and not Moshe.
The commentators note that in the development of almonds there are three stages. First a flower develops; next, a bud develops. At this stage the flower falls off. Finally the bud turns into an almond. The only thing that should have been discovered the next day is the almond. The flower should have fallen off and the bud by now has turned into an almond. Why then does the posuk mention all three? The commentators derive from this that miraculously all three steps of development of the almond remained on the staff. What was the significance of this?
Part of Korach’s rebellion was his complaint as to why Moshe chose Aaron to serve as kohen gadol and not someone else. Korach claimed that the entire nation is equally holy (Bamidbar 16:3). Hashem did reveal Himself to the entire Jewish people at Sinai and elevated them all to an exalted degree of holiness.
Hashem responded to this complaint with the miraculous budding of Aaron’s staff. The focus point of the miracle was not so much the almonds but rather the addition of the flower and bud. It may be true that the entire nation is holy. Yes, the entire nation bears spiritual fruit like an almond. However, the only one that had a complete and natural development with flowers and buds was Aaron. The exalted sanctity of the Jewish people at this time was due to a relatively short but intense exposure to Hashem. However, Aaron’s faith and relationship with Hashem had been established much before this. It was Aaron who led the Jewish people before Moshe returned from Midyan and who served as their leader in some of their most difficult times. Aaron’s exalted degree of spirituality developed naturally. He developed flowers and buds. He arrived at his position without skipping any steps.
Indeed, the posuk concludes the mention of the almonds with the words “vayigmal shekaidim” which has been translated above as “developed almonds.” Rashi here notes that this word is related to the development of a child as the posuk says “the child grew and was weaned” (Bereishis 21:8). The development of the almonds alludes to the natural development of a human being starting with childhood. The message here is that Aaron’s degree of holiness was a product of a long natural development without any shortcuts. He thus deserved to serve as the kohen gadol.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5763/2003