Updated: Jul 18
Moshiach will be a descendant of King David, from the tribe of Judah. But some sources indicate that he will also have a connection to the tribe of Levi, the tribe of priests. * What is the secret behind this mysterious lineage? And what does it mean for us today? * The 6th portion of Korach.
by Bing AI
This week we read Parshat Korach, which tells the story of the rebellion of Korach and his followers against Moses and Aaron. They challenged the authority and legitimacy of Moses and Aaron as leaders of the Israelites, and demanded a share in the priesthood. G-d responded by punishing the rebels with a series of miraculous events: the earth opened its mouth and swallowed Korach and his associates, a fire consumed 250 men who offered incense, and a plague broke out among the people.
But G-d also performed another miracle to prove that He had chosen Aaron and his descendants as priests. He instructed Moses to take a staff from each of the twelve tribes of Israel and place them in the Tent of Meeting, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. The next day, Moses entered the Tent and saw that Aaron's staff had not only budded, but also produced blossoms and ripe almonds. This was a clear sign that G-d had favored Aaron over the other tribes, and that his priesthood was divinely ordained.
THE STAFF THAT SPROUTED What is the meaning of this miracle? Why did Aaron's staff produce almonds? What can we learn from this episode?
The classic commentaries offer various insights into this miracle. Rashi explains that the staffs were placed in front of the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the tablets of the law. He suggests that the staffs were influenced by the power of the Torah, which is compared to a tree of life (Proverbs 3:18), and therefore they produced life and fruit (Rashi on Numbers 17:23). Ibn Ezra notes that the miracle was not only a sign of G-d's choice of Aaron, but also a demonstration of G-d's mastery over nature. He says that G-d can make a dry stick produce fruit, and also make a fruitful tree dry up (Ibn Ezra on Numbers 17:23). Ramban observes that the miracle was a reversal of the curse that G-d had placed on the earth after Adam's sin, which caused it to produce thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18). He says that by making Aaron's staff produce almonds, G-d showed that He can restore the original blessing of the earth (Ramban on Numbers 17:23). Sforno comments that the miracle was a lesson for the Israelites to trust in G-d's providence and not to rebel against His will. He says that just as G-d made Aaron's staff produce almonds, which are a nutritious and satisfying food, so He can provide for all their needs in the wilderness (Sforno on Numbers 17:23).
THE STAFF THAT REVEALED From a Kabbalistic perspective, the miracle of Aaron's staff also has deeper meanings. The Zohar explains that the staff represents leadership, and that Aaron's leadership was based on his quality of kindness (chesed), which is associated with the right side. The miracle showed that Aaron's kindness could subdue and transform all those who derive from the left side (gevurah), which is associated with severity and judgment (Zohar III, p. 176a). The Baal HaTurim points out that Aaron's name was inscribed on his staff, producing the miracle of its blossoming. The numerical value of Aaron is 256, which is 16 squared. The numerical value of the staff (מטה) is 54, which is 6 squared plus 6. 16 plus 6 equals 22 (the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet) squared. This indicates that Aaron's staff embodied all aspects of Torah and actualized it in reality (Baal HaTurim on Numbers 17:23). The Malbim notes that the almond (שקד) is related to the word for watchful (שקד), implying that Aaron's staff manifested G-d's watchfulness over His people (Malbim on Numbers 17:23).
THE STAFF THAT FORESHADOWED The miracle of Aaron's staff also has a connection with the concept of Moshiach, the anointed one who will bring redemption to Israel and the world. There are different opinions among the Jewish sages about the origin of Moshiach. Some say that he will be from shevet Judah, as it is written: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah... until Shiloh comes" (Genesis 49:10). This implies that Moshiach will be a king from the royal line of David, who was from Judah. Others say that he will be from shevet Levi, as it is written: "Behold I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of G-d" (Malachi 3:23). This implies that Moshiach will be a prophet from the priestly line of Aaron, who was from Levi.
Some reconcile these opinions by saying that there will be two Moshiachs: one from Judah and one from Levi. The one from Judah will be called Moshiach ben David (the son of David), and he will be a king who will restore the sovereignty of Israel and rebuild the Temple. The one from Levi will be called Moshiach ben Yosef (the son of Joseph), and he will be a leader who will gather the exiles of Israel and fight their enemies. They will work together to bring about the final redemption.
Others reconcile these opinions by saying that there will be only one Moshiach, but he will have both royal and priestly qualities. He will be a descendant of both David and Aaron, through a special lineage that combines both tribes. He will be both a king and a prophet, who will rule with justice and teach with wisdom. He will be both a warrior and a priest, who will fight for G-d's cause and serve in His sanctuary.
How can Moshiach ben Yosef come from shevet Levi? One possible explanation is based on the midrash that says that Joseph married Osnat, the daughter of Dinah and Shechem. According to this midrash, Osnat was adopted by Potiphar, the Egyptian official who bought Joseph as a slave. When Joseph became the viceroy of Egypt, he married Osnat, who was his niece. Thus, their children Ephraim and Manasseh had both Joseph's and Dinah's genes. Dinah was the daughter of Jacob and Leah, and the sister of Levi. Therefore, Ephraim and Manasseh had a connection to shevet Levi through their maternal grandmother. This connection could be inherited by their descendants, including Moshiach ben Yosef (Midrash Aggadah on Genesis 41:45).
Another possible explanation is based on the fact that some members of shevet Levi joined shevet Ephraim when they left Egypt. According to the book of Chronicles, some Levites did not receive their allotted cities in the land of Israel, because the children of Israel did not drive out the Canaanites as G-d commanded them. Therefore, some Levites left their inheritance and went to live among shevet Ephraim, where they found pasture for their flocks. Thus, some Levites became part of shevet Ephraim, and their descendants could also be considered as belonging to both tribes (1 Chronicles 6:54-66).
THE STAFF THAT ANTICIPATED In any case, we believe that Moshiach is already born, and that he is waiting for the right time to reveal himself. We also believe that we can hasten his coming by doing good deeds, studying Torah, praying for his arrival, and spreading awareness about him.
One of the signs that Moshiach will perform is related to Aaron's staff. According to a midrash, when King Solomon built the first Temple, he hid the Ark of the Covenant and Aaron's staff in a secret chamber, fearing that they might be captured by the enemies. He also hid other sacred objects, such as the jar of manna and the anointing oil. The midrash says that these objects will be revealed by Moshiach in the future, and that he will use Aaron's staff to prove his identity and authority. He will show that his staff is identical to Aaron's staff, which has the name of G-d engraved on it, and which can produce almonds at any time. He will also use the staff to perform other miracles, such as splitting the Mount of Olives and bringing water out of it (Zohar I, p. 6b; Yalkut Shimoni on Isaiah 60:1).
We can derive many lessons from this miracle. We can learn to appreciate the Torah as a source of life and blessing, and to study it with joy and enthusiasm. We can learn to recognize G-d's sovereignty over nature, and to marvel at His wonders. We can learn to hope for the redemption of creation, when all curses will be removed and all fruits will be sweet. We can learn to trust in G-d's care and guidance, and to follow His will with gratitude and obedience. We can learn to emulate Aaron's kindness and humility, and to seek peace and harmony with others. We can learn to connect with G-d's essence and holiness, and to express them in our actions.
May we merit to see Moshiach soon in our days, and may we be worthy of serving G-d as priests in His holy Temple.