Speak to the Children of Israel and take from them one staff for each father’s house…twelve staffs; each man’s name you shall inscribe on his staff. And the name of Aharon you shall inscribe on the staff of Levi…It shall be that man whom I shall choose — his staff will blossom.
Ramban (earlier, 17:6) explains that although the Jews were convinced that Aharon was chosen by Hashem to be the Kohen Gadol, they still questioned and protested the removal of the rights of the firstborn to do the avodah, which was given over to the entire tribe of Levi. Levi was split into two branches — Kohenim and Leviim, who together performed all the services of the Mikdash. The rest of the Jews wanted all the tribes to have at least some representation in the Beis HaMikdash. In answer to this request, Hashem showed them the miracle of Aharon’s staff. The staff belonged to the entire tribe of Levi, and its blossoming indicated that specifically the tribe of Levi had been chosen by Hashem to displace the firstborn of His servants.
There is possibly Rashi’s intent as well in verse 18, when he comments “for there shall be one staff.” That is, Hashem was saying: Although I divided them into two families — the family of Kohanim and the family of Leviim, nonetheless it is a single tribe.
-from “A Torah Thought for the Day,” p.32
Thursday’s commentary on Parashas Korach
A Daily Dose of Torah
This is sort of a part 2 of my blog post Are Messianic Gentiles Korach in that it addresses a similar theme: how roles can be different among diverse populations and yet all of the different groups are contained in a single body.
I wish there was an “almond staff test” for Jews and non-Jews in Messianic Judaism or the wider world of Hebrew Roots. I wish there was a visible, physical way to demonstrate to anyone who may doubt, that there is a fundamental difference between the duties and responsibilities of the Jewish people and those assigned to what I call “Messianic Gentiles,” or those non-Jews somehow associated with Messianic Judaism within the much wider body of the ekklesia of Messiah.
It would make things so simple. See! There’s the Jewish staff sprouting blossoms. None of the Gentile staffs blossomed. So God is showing us all the He has assigned specific duties and responsibilities to the Jews that we Gentiles cannot share.
If you’re at all egalitarian, that may rub you the wrong way. After all, doesn’t this mean God isn’t playing fair with most of the human race? Isn’t He giving all the “cool stuff” to the Jews and saying the Gentiles can’t have any of it?
According to the midrash I quoted above, most of the Children of Israel, or at least the firstborn of the tribes, may have felt the same way. Why should the Kohanim and the Leviim have all the fun in the services in the Mikdash? Aren’t the firstborn of all the tribes just as worthy, just as much children of Hashem?
God settled the matter. God doesn’t have to be egalitarian. God is God. Deal with it.
Although we mentioned a difference between the gifts that the Kohanim receive and those of the Leviim (see “A Torah Thought for the Day”), there is a common denominator when it comes to their obligation to feel and express gratitude and appreciation to Hashem, Who graciously gave them these appointments and rewards.
-from “A Mussar Thought for the Day,” p.45
Friday’s commentary on Parashas Korach
A Daily Dose of Torah
But even as God differentiates, He also unites, providing a common denominator, so to speak, between the two diverse groups within the ekklesia of Messiah.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
–Galatians 3:28-28 (NASB)
For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace…
Just as the Children of Israel are one people, they were also twelve different and unique tribes. Just as the tribe of Levi was one tribe, they were comprised of two different families, the Kohanim and the Leviim, and both of these groups had different rights and responsibilities in their service in the Mikdash. Even among the Leviim, there were clans that each had separate and non-transferable responsibilities and duties in the Mikdash.
Just as the ekkelesia of Messiah is one in faith and devotion, it is composed of two peoples, the Jewish people or Israel, and the Gentiles who have come to faith in Messiah, representing the nations.
Each group, although having a common denominator of being a “new man” metaphorically speaking, retains specific duties and responsibilities that cannot be transferred to the other group.
I know, it doesn’t follow the spirit of egalitarianism. It’s not “fair”.
But it is the Word of God.
The Mussar Thought for Friday states that we must respect those who have been privileged to achieve something special in their avodas Hashem that the rest of us have not, for this isn’t just an honor bestowed upon them, but a responsibility…one with consequences.
Someone who does not add to his service of Hashem when he is blessed with unique blessings, says Chovos HaLevavos, will eventually fail to fulfill even the basic obligations that are required of all [Jewish] people. In the end, he will throw off the yoke of Torah from himself completely.
I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts why I think it’s important to encourage greater Torah observance among the Jewish people, but here we see one of those reasons is that if the Jewish people do not perform the mitzvot, they are dismissing God’s blessings upon them and falling away from God and the Torah.
There are so many secular people who are ethnically and culturally Jewish but that’s about it.
Even among those Jews who are observant, that observance may only be partial. There are Jews who only attend Shabbat services sometimes and who, on other Sabbaths, will work. There are Jews who keep only “Leviticus 11 kosher” but who do not separate diary and meat. There are Jews who daven with a minyan on Shabbos but not during the rest of the week.
Their staff has blossomed indicating that Hashem has something special for them. But only they can pick up their own staff and walk on the path it illuminates for the Jews. It’s their staff, not ours. Even if some don’t pick it up, that doesn’t mean we Gentiles get to.
The firstborns among the Israelites do not serve in the Mikdash. The Leviim and even the other Kohanim do not enter the most Holy of Holy places on Yom Kippur, only the Kohen Gadol.
And the Gentiles do not observe the Torah mitzvot in the manner assigned only to the Jewish people.
That staff belongs to them, not us.
3 thoughts on “The Blossoming Staff”
James, I don’t know if you have the cd’s for Torah Club volume 5, but Daniel Lancaster and Toby Janicki do a dramatization of the Korach story that is priceless. In a humorous way they take jabs at the one law idea, two-house theology, and one new man thinking that basically eliminates the distinctiveness of the Jewish people. I just thought it really fit with what you have been writing about.
Nope. Sure don’t. Sounds interesting, though.
“But only they can pick up their own staff and walk on the path it illuminates for the Jews. It’s their staff, not ours. Even if some don’t pick it up, that doesn’t mean we Gentiles get to.”
Something I’d never really comprehended before studying materials from Yad Vashem is that the non-Jewish world they were scattered into, almost 2000 years ago, has put up many formidable obstacles to their obedience to scripture. And, this is the reason for my comments on the previous post since “TO” Gentiles also have a discouraging effect on Jews who often refrain from drawing in to, or returning to, their traditional observance because they don’t want to look like (“crazy”) Gentiles trying to appropriate Jewish identity.
It is also how I “do the math” regarding how we should understand our role in the plan of redemption. Certainly, it isn’t to cause them to stumble.
This isn’t to say that they are without their own sin in neglecting God’s requirements, nor is it about how much of the Torah is even applicable outside of the land, with no temple or Sanhedrin. Anyhow, given scripture and history, t’s difficult to argue that gentile “best case scenario” is to take on rabbinic Judaism.