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Embracing Our Roles

Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the LORD’s presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each of the leaders took his own staff. — Numbers 17:9

The Torah portion for this week is Korach, which means “Korah,” from Numbers 16:1–18:32, and the Haftorah is from 1 Samuel 11:14–12:22.

Have you ever looked at another person and wished that you were him or her? Sometimes it feels like when God handed out roles for the play of life, we might have been given our part last. All the good roles were already taken! But as we learn in this week’s Torah portion, God casts His ensemble perfectly.

Two miracles occurred in this week’s reading, both intended to quiet the rebellion led by Korah. The first came when Korah and the other rebellious leaders were swallowed by the ground while 250 of his followers were consumed by fire. In contrast, Aaron’s offering was accepted by God, proving that he alone was God’s chosen priest.

Then, God commanded the Israelites to conduct another “test” to prove Aaron’s status. This demonstration wasn’t merely done to confirm Aaron’s position – it would teach the people something new and something that they desperately needed to learn.

God told Moses to take 12 staffs, one for each tribe of Israel. On each staff, the name of a tribe leader was inscribed, including Aaron’s name on the staff belonging to the tribe of Levi. Then God told the Israelites they would know His chosen leader by the staff that had sprouted the following morning.

As we might expect, the next morning only Aaron’s staff had changed. Not only had Aaron’s staff sprouted buds, it also produced flowers and fruit. Not only had his staff blossomed miraculously, but each step of the growing process still was evident on the staff. Normally, once flowers emerge, there are no longer buds; once fruit appears, the flowers are gone. However, in this case, buds, flowers, and fruit all co-existed – beautifully and harmoniously.

According to the Jewish sages, the message that the staff imparted was that while Aaron and Moses were the chosen leaders, all of Israel was part of one team. Just as it takes buds to blossom into flowers and flowers to bring about fruit, each Israelite had an important role to play in order for the nation to thrive. Each role was equally as important and equally as necessary for the final product to emerge. It’s as if God were telling the people “Don’t be jealous, you are all beautiful and important to Me!”

Next, Scriptures tells us that “ . . . each of the leaders took his own staff.” In the end, they each had embraced their own roles.

Friends, we need to take the lesson of Aaron’s staff into our hearts. We need to know that whatever role we were given to play in life is equally as valuable and beautiful as any other. What is your God-given role? Celebrate all that you are and all that you can become. Embrace the amazing person that God created you to be.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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