Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller
In the aftermath of Korach’s insurrection against Moshe Rabeinu, the Jewish people struggled with its outcome. Initially, they blamed Moshe and Aaron for having “killed the nation of Hashem.” Rav Shamshon R. Hirsch explains that they misunderstood Hashem’s reason for destroying Korach. They believed that Moshe and Aaron had invoked Hashem’s retribution on Korach for personal motives. They believed that Moshe and Aaron had been personally affronted by Korach and his assembly. This was not the correct understanding.
Hashem had destroyed Korach because he was challenging the authority of the kehuna and the system of leadership that Hashem had prescribed. Hashem made this point clear by punishing the people for leveling the charge of personal vendetta against Moshe and Aaron. The Jewish people finally realized that the issue was that they needed to accept Hashem’s system of religious leadership, and that they would have to abandon Korach’s populistic argument that “the whole congregation is (equally) holy.”
To drive this message home, Hashem instructed Moshe to invite each of the tribal princes and Aaron HaKohein to present a staff before the aron, the ark, where the staff submitted by Hashem’s chosen person would blossom immediately. When this was done, it was Aaron’s staff that produced almond blossom flowers and leaves overnight while the others did not. What is the symbolism of the almond branch and its characteristics that can serve a symbol of the special status of the kohanim?
Rav Hirsch explains that the almond is unique in the way it presents its fruit blossoms before the leaves are formed. All other trees first form leaves to collect and process the sunlight and nourish themselves. Once that is in place, they begin to form fruit to benefit others. The Kohanim were chosen because they put the community before themselves. This was demonstrated at the incident of the golden calf and during the episode of the meraglim, the spies.
Jewish leadership must be focused and unwavering. It needs to be held by people that truly have the community as a top priority. They have to resist the whims of the times and be able to inspire others with the eternal truths of the Torah.