Weekly Torah - old

Korach

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Most people remember the Korach story for the earth opening up and swallowing up the protesters. The “grave” consumed them, and I guess this must be one of the origins of the notion of Hell being a place down in the pit of the earth where bad people end up.

But there is another amazing event associated with the rebellion. One of the objections was that Moshe had given the best jobs to members of his closest family. So Divine instructions were given. Every prince of each tribe was given a wooden staff and the name of each tribe was written on the staff. Aharon presented the staff on behalf of the tribe of Levi. The staffs were placed in the Tent of Assembly overnight. The following day only the staff of Aharon had sprouted blossoms and almonds. The idea of the supposedly dry and “dead” wood coming alive, so to speak, was confirmation that Aharon’s appointment had a higher authority than Moshe. Of course this would not have completely satisfied Korach, because he too was from the tribe of Levi. Nevertheless it was a pretty impressive confirmation.

This image of the “shoot” sprouting is used much later on in the Bible by Isaiah in Chapter 11: “And a branch shall sprout from the stock of Yishai and blossom from its roots.” Here of course he is referring to the House of David whose father was Yishai. He is looking forward to a new king emerging who will impose justice and fair government. The quote goes on with the famous phrase, “And the wolf will live with the sheep and a leopard will play with a kid.”

Jewish commentators always assumed this was a reference to King Hezekiah, who brought about a religious revival not, as Christians suggested, to someone coming six hundred years later. Virtually all prophetic predictions were relatively short-term. The wolf and the lion are symbols of aggression, and the sheep of a passive or quieter person. No one was expected to believe that lions would actually change their eating habits to consume straw. But, differences apart, the flowering staff became a symbol of Divinely approved leadership. Perhaps this where scepters originated.

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