Death served three ways and the magic staff
Many years back, while still valgering in yeshiva, the Rebbe tried convincing the Oisvorfer and a few dozen others that he had a magic shteken (staff) if you chap, which nebech he did, ober in reality, magical shtekins appear only in the heylige Toirah: Moishe Rabaynu had one with which he performed miracles and this week’s special Parsha of Koirach which retells the story of a shtikel rebellion and mutiny against Moishe’s leadership, also features a magical shtekin. The one featured this week belonged to Aharoin the Koihain Godol. Soon we’ll check out the wood.
Givald (OMG)! Just last week the Yiddin witnessed how angry the RBSO became over some loshoin horo. Those who spoke it, namely the miraglim, were condemned to death and those who listened, were given a 40 year sentence in the Midbar. And did they learn their lesson? Seemingly not! And as we get ready to learn Parshas Koirach and its 95 pisukim this coming shabbis, yet another dark episode is about to unfold. Just last week, the heylige Oisvorfer was klerring that the Yiddin who left Mitzrayim and who were now wandering around the Midbar, were efsher not quite ready for prime time: this week more proof. They (some) are still causing all sorts of mischief and testing the RBSO who is in no mood for narishkeyt (silliness). It’s one shabbis later, and by the time you finish reading this short parsha, the RBSO will have flexed His muscles and wiped out kimat (nearly) another 15,000 Yiddin. What terrible crime was committed, what was so giferlich that the RBSO killed an initial 250 followed by another 14,700? Nu, soon we’ll see.
And as mentioned above, the parsha also contains a givaldige story about a magical wooden shteken (staff) that blossoms, not unlike the rebbe’s when he tried to chap, then flowers and grows nuts. Sounds mishuga? It’s emes, these are the words of the heylige Toirah mamish and soon we’ll learn more. Lommer unfangin (let’s begin) with a shtikel overview of the gantza parsha in one or more paragraphs, here we go.
Koirach, a nice Jewish fellow, with lots of money, frum and from good stock, assembled his cohorts, Doson (Datan), Aviram (they of movie fame: Exodus) , Oin ben Peles, along with 250 other men from sheyvet Reuven, and led a rebellion against Moishe’s leadership. Seemingly he was insanely jealous of Moishe. One Medrish (Yalkut) suggests that Koirach accused Moishe of stealing his wife, yikes. Though he’s doomed and will die in mid parsha, he did get to have a parsha named after himself: nu, efsher he bought it with his extraordinary wealth, ver veyst? Later we’ll learn that Oin’s eishes chayil talked him down, saving his life and for the second week in a row, women play a central role, though their involvement is only mentioned in the medrish. Seemingly they couldn’t make the Toirah mention cut. Nu, who knew better than the medrish? Avada you’ve heard many speeches over the years about Mrs. Peles and how a good wife can save her husband from many pitfalls, especially at the occasion of a sheva brochos. We’ve covered her story in years past (go to www.oisvorfer.com and check out the archives). To firmly establish his leadership and prove once and for all that he, Moishe, is the RBSO’s appointed leader, Moishe tells the rebels to make incense pans, to prepare incense on them. This exercise was designed to see who’s offering the RBSO would accept. Moishe summoned Koirach and tried to dissuade him from leading this revolt. He also summons Doson and Aviram, they refuse to attend the meeting. Moishe asks for the RBSO’s intervention. And in mamish dramatic fashion, the RBSO responds and, causes the first ever recorded earthquake; the bad guys are swallowed, so are their families and all that belonged to them.
The fate of the 250 followers? Nu, a flame descends from heaven and consumes them. Case closed, rebellion over. With its leader and followers all gone, they seem to have lost: Moishe’s leadership is confirmed, Veyter. Is that all that happened? Seemingly not! It appears that Aharoin’s role as the big kahuna is still not clear, some are still making noises. The RBSO commands Moishe to tell Elazar (Aaron’s son) to gather up the fire-pans. They are hammered out and made into a covering for the altar. This acts as a reminder to everyone else that only Aharoin and his descendants, the Koihanim, may offer incense before the RBSO.
Are the Yiddin tzifriddin (happy) now? Seemingly not! In yet another demonstration of arrogance, they complain that Moishe and Aharoin are killing off the nation. You hear this? Moishe and Aharoin are being accused of causing the death of the 250. The RBSO is again not happy; a plague erupts and people are dropping dead like flies. Moishe tells Aharoin to intercede by offering incense, this to appease the RBSO’s anger. Aharoin stands between the living and the dead, offers the incense and stops the plague ober not before over 14,700 die. Shoin, the thinning out of the male population continues and just like that, 14,950 Yiddin are dead!
The RBSO instructs Moishe to bring proof of Aharoin’s greatness. Each tribe should bring a shteken (staff) inscribed with the name of its leader. The leaderless levi’im’s staff should have Aharoin’s name on it. All the shtekins are placed in the Mishkan overnight. In the morning when Moishe enters, Aharoin’s shtekin has blossomed, brought forth buds, and miraculously sprouted almonds. Never heard of or seen a shtekin blossom? How about flower and grow nuts? Still not? The Oisvorfer won’t comment; too easy, if you chap. Nu, as stated above, only in the heylige Toirah can one find these things and that’s why Toirah is mamish gishmak. As you can only imagine, the Medrish and the heylige Gemora offer myriad interpretations on this magical shtekin. Next: following this great miracle performed by the RBSO on the shtekin, Moishe brings out the staffs, and each leader takes his. Aharoin’s shtekin is placed in the Holy of Holies and was kept as a safekeeping and a reminder to prevent any future claims against his leadership role.
Veyter. The RBSO reiterates the duties of the Kohanim and Leviyim along with a list of the Kohain’s share in the nations produce and livestock: They will not receive a share in the Land ober not to worry because the RBSO alone is their portion, gishmak. The Levi’im receive a tithe of ten percent from all produce in return for the service that they perform in the Temple. From this tithe the Levi’im must take ten percent and give that to the Kohanim. Done!
So what taka took place here? Didn’t the Yiddin see the ugly fate the meraglim met last parsha? Why were they still testing and challenging? Ober Raboyseyee, in Koirach, we have a new type of rebellion on our hands. Unlike the Miraglim (spies) who were attracted to the super-sized fruit of the land, or those Yiddin participating in the Eygel incident, or even the story of how the Yiddin lusted for a good piece of meat, if you chap, this rebellion targets Moishe and Aharoin directly. Seemingly, this time the Yiddin aren’t even upset with the RBSO. There’s no rejection of the desert conditions or wishing for a return to slavery in Mitzrayim (Egypt); this one’s a mutiny. The leader is Koirach, Moishe’s very wealthy first cousin and who else but mishpocho (family) to stir the pot and lead a revolt. How was it that he became wealthy? Was he developing the Midbar? Efsher trading in mun, sheep and other commodities or efsher he had the Tzitzis master franchise, the industry born in last week’s parsha; ver veyst? In any event, the heylige Gemora suggests that he was not just rich, but mamish a millionaire. Taka how? Seemingly he found some of the wealth and riches that Yoisef collected in Mitzrayim (during the hunger while he gouged the mitzrim, those dirty bastards, out of their money in exchange for food) while viceroy and which he had later hidden. Avada with money, especially in the Midbar where there wasn’t much to buy, he became a respected individual in his own eyes and in the eyes of others, as is often the case with wealthy people.
His wife, we are taught, is the one that eggs him on. Nu, many, including the heylige Zoihar (Behar 109,2) taka suggest that before a man gets married, he’s incomplete. Seemingly, after Koirach got married to Mrs. Koirach, he was finished, mamish! Koirach is somewhat charismatic, has money and before long, he has amassed a shtikel following. Nu, money zicher helps when campaigning for a leadership position. Efsher you recall hearing the expression ‘rach-vi-koirach’ (rich like Koirach) and that’s how European parents described wealthy people. In fact, when the Oisvorfer was but a little boy, Koirach was his hero: any surprises here? Avada it was easy to get 250 followers when a person has wealth to spread and the heylige Gemora tells us that Koirach did just that. He bribed his followers with food and wine; hec, these two items even get people to shul on shabbis. Though his 250 followers were taka leaders and good people, when it came to food, money and spirits, even the good guys succumb quickly, nebech. Where he got food in the midbar when all they ate was Mun for 40 years, well, this is not exactly addressed; ver veyst?
Says the Medrish Tanchuma azoy: two exceptionally wealthy individuals came to this world — one from Israel and one from the Goyim: Koirach from the Yiddin and Homon, the minuvil, from the goyim. Both of them met a terrible end. Nu, money isn’t everthing though some say- it’s the only thing.
Bikitzur (in short), Koirach the imfaginner (insanely jealous person), incited a mutiny challenging Moishe’s leadership. He wasn’t at all too pleased with the fact that Aharoin (Moishe’s brother) was granted the role of being the big Kehuna; epes he smelled a shtikel nepotism. Next: He enlisted another two protagonists, Moishe’s inveterate foes from way back (Shemois) by the names of Dosson and Avirom and together they are joined by another 250 Yiddin. Forgot them? They are the two fellows who earlier in Moishe’s career, after having slain the Egyptian taskmaster, confronted Moishe with the words, “who made you an important personage to be a minister and judge over us.” (Shemois 2:14, Rashi). To no one’s surprise, all 250 were avada distinguished members of the community, who else gets into trouble but people with power? You can smell the trouble brewing; in fact it really smelled because Moishe tells all 250 to offer the sacrosanct ketoires (incense) as a test of their worthiness for the priesthood. A few pisukim later, the earth opens up its mouth, swallows the mutineers, and a fire consumes the ketoires-offerers. Revolt over- they lose! Says the Gemora: not just were they and their families swallowed, their possessions went with them: who says you can’t take it with you.
Mistama (likely) you won’t be shocked to hear that there’s a machloikes (disagreement) as to the identity of these 250 individuals, but at least a number of Medroshim maintain that they included the leaders of each of the tribes. Oy vey! How is it possible that such righteous leaders stumbled and fell so far as to take part in Koirach’s rebellion against Moishe and Aharoin? Taka an excellent kasha, especially so, after they witnessed what happened to the Miraglim last week, also avada leaders of their tribes. Seemingly, the leadership wasn’t up to the job, a syndrome we find nebech at times in our own communities, if you chap.
Another machloikes rages as to whether they were consumed by fire and then swallowed or just swallowed and also if Koirach and his family got one form of punishment, the other or both. Whatever the case, a good day they didn’t have. In this case, being swallowed was taka not such a good thing, if you chap. Also as an aside: somewhere in this story, Koirach’s children switch sides, do tshuva and are spared as we will later learn.
And just when you thought the Yiddin would come to their senses and realize that only the RBSO is in charge, nu, a nechtiger tug (fugettttabout it)- a few pisukim later- they’re in trouble again. Another group starts complaining against Moishe and Aharoin the Koihen Godol and again the RBSO metes out swift punishment. No leprosy, no warnings, no being saved by Moishe’s davening on their behalf, but sudden death through a plague. To stop the plague, Moishe tells Aharoin to hurry and offer more ketories (incense) to appease the RBSO. Seemingly the RBSO likes incense; incest on the other hand, He doesn’t like at all, if you chap . Aharoin complies, the plague is stopped but not before it wipes out another 14,700 Yiddin.
Following this story, we read about Aharoin’s shteken (stick/staff) which is placed in the Oihel (tent) along with other sticks and miraculously only his blossoms and brings forth flowers, then almonds to prove that his designation as the koihen godol (big kehuna) is mamish divinely ordained. Sounds nuts! How are we to chap this shtekin myseh (event)?
You’ve never seen a stick blossom? What about a stick with nuts? Or a flowering nut producing stick? Neither has the heylige Oisvorfer ober zicher you’ve encountered a deflowering stick, if you chap. Let’s together try to make sense of this amazing story, one that gets a lot of play from the medrish and from speakers each year during this time. What’s pshat with a flowering stick and what’s it doing here in the parsha immediately following the rebellion?
So here we are. Koirach, his wife and some of his mishpocho and his rabble rousers are gone but the Yiddin are still restless, still in the mood to test the RBSO. They’ve just witnessed a miracle: the earth opened its mouth so wide (think rogue rebbe) that it swallowed 250 people at one time. You would think that the BNY would be so amazed that they’d all run to shul, daven quietly, stop speaking loshoin horo and stop testing the RBSO. Wouldn’t you? But you’d be thinking wrong! Instead … as the possik says: “The next day, the community of the children of Israel protested against Moishe and Aharoin: You have killed the people of God!” – and mamish blamed Moishe for killing the 250 people.
Nu what to do? So the RBSO came up with some more magic. As the possik states: “God spoke to Moishe: Speak to the Israelite people and take from them – from the Chieftain of each of their ancestral houses – one staff for each Chieftain … The staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout, and I will rid Myself of their incessant mutterings of the Israelites against you…The staff of Aharoin of the house of Levi sprouted, it had brought forth sprouts, produced blossoms, and borne almonds.”
Does everyone agree that the stick blossomed, fruit developed and that it grew almonds? Seemingly they do but not as to the order. Says Rashi: fruit began to develop only after the flowers fell off. Ober Says the Rashbam: If Moishe found the staff after it had already sprouted almonds, then nobody would have witnessed the flowering and early growth stages. Thus it appears that Moishe found the staff when it was in the flowering stage, and he took it out to the Yiddin to witness it produce and develop fruit. Ober says the Da’as Zekeinim: Apparently, there were two types of flowers. Some which fell off and developed into almonds, and other flowers which remained attached to the staff. And says the Abarbanel: Normally, when almonds grow, the flowers fall off first. But here a miracle occurred and the flowers, unripened fruit, and almonds all were present at the same time. And they remained there throughout summer and winter. Shoin!
Ober says the heylige Toirah (possik 23): Moishe discovered the miraculous blossoming of Aharoin’s staff, “Moishe came to the Tent of Testimony, and—look!—Aharoin’s staff…had blossomed! It had blossomed, started to produce fruit, and developed ripe almonds.” Which came first and what difference does it make, ver veyst? Ober argue they did; seemingly that’s what’s most important.
Believe it or not, even this miracle was followed by further criticism and cynicism; however, this act essentially brought an end to the revolution, with its enormous death toll, and with this act, the camp apparently returned to a state of normality. How are we to understand this magical, flowering and nut producing staff? Whose was it, where did it come from and why is the stick so important? The Midrash Rabba provides three choices; pick the one you like best.
Some say that this staff was originally in the hands of Yehuda, remember him from Sefer Bereishis? There’s no question he had a magical stick as we avada we all recall learning. If you remember the story of Yehuda and Tamar and of course you do because you’re a chazir who only remembers stories that involve illicit relations, Yehuda while traveling, stopped roadside for a little R&R with the local zoina (whore) or so he thought. Following the myseh (act), she insisted that he leave her with his “seal, his cord and the staff that he carries”. Thinking she was just the local prostitute, he does just that. Now she had both of his sticks, if you chap.
A few pisukim later, this staff is one of the items that save her life. Tamar, his own daughter-in-law, presented these symbols to Yehuda, thereby proving that he is the father of her child. Seemingly, Yehuda did some fine stick-work, when he chapped. In this story, the staff functions as a sign of identification. Seemingly, both of Yehuda’s sticks got him into some trouble, oy vey!!
How did Yehuda’s stick make it over to the Midbar? When the Medrish suggests that Aharoin’s staff has its origins with Yehuda, maybe we are saying that this staff was designed as a method of personal identity, like bringing up their Social Security number- the shteken is a precise mode of identification – like an ID card. Sounds plausible but let’s try another approach.
Some say that it’s the shteken Moishe held and used as the instrument when he performed miracles for the Yiddin as we all remember from the movie. Moishe taka held the stick when he performed miracles, including incidents during negotiations with Paroy the minuvil, during the Makois, splitting of the Red Sea, the war on Amolake and nebech when he hit the rock. Seemingly, he too used it one too many times. We should all taka learn a lesson here. A shtekin must be used strategically.
Anyway, this magic staff flowered on its own, grew nuts as it says “And behold Aharoin’s staff flowered.” (Bamidbar 17:23). How could it be Aharoin’s stick when it was Moishe’s stick? Says the Medrish: this is not really a question because they shared the stick (as do many). Here it’s called Aharoin’s staff (not Moishe’s), but this is probably a result of its association with Aharoin in this chapter. Says the Medrash: When Aharoin performed miracles, it was called by his name and when Moishe performed miracles, it was called Moishe’s stick and in the future when the RBSO will use it to perform miracles, it will be called His stick. Givaldig and a healthy case of stick sharing!
Some take issue with this pshat because it would appear that Aharoin’s stick would then have come into the contest (see above) with magical powers and an unfair advantage giving the Yiddin something else to complain about.
And others say: Moishe took a single piece of wood and cut it into twelve planks. He said to them: You are all from a single beam of wood, take your sticks. Why did he act in this manner? …so that they not say: His (Aharoin’s) stick was moist, and hence it flowered. No further illumination needed. According to this pshat, the contest was fair and balanced. All the staffs were extracted from a single tree trunk and now, during the staff meet, each tribe had an equal level chance. This is an objective test method and when he won, Aharoin did so objectively. Nobody can dispute this contest. Gishmak.
Whose stick it was originally, we avada don’t know but the heylige Toirah tells us that after the Yiddin saw an ordinary stick bud, flower, and grow nuts, all were quiet. Shoin!
Back to Koirach, and his eishes chayil. The heylige Gemora questions what caused Koirach to become so insanely jealous of Moishe that he would initiate an insurrection? Says the heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 109b) that it was all his wife’s fault, isn’t everything in life? Said she: “See what Moishe has done. He himself has become king; his brother he appointed High Priest; his brother’s sons he has made the vice High Priests. If terumah is brought, he decrees: Let it be for the priest. If the tithe is brought, which belongs to you [since you are a Levie], he orders: Give a tenth part thereof to the Koihen.
Moreover, he has had your hair cut off and makes sport of you as though you were dirt… for he was jealous of your hair.” Nu, this part many men can zicher understand. Going back to parshas Behaloischo, the RBSO commanded the Leviyim to purify themselves by shaving their complete body. When Koirach returned to his tent, his wife saw him shaven and taunted him saying that Moishe hated him and imposed the law about shaving just to disgrace him. Koirach tried to placate her by pointing out that Moishe shaved his own children. Said he to her, “but he has done likewise!” She wouldn’t relent, nu- you know how obstinate women can be and replied that Moishe only shaved his own children so he could embarrass Koirach. Thus it is written, “A wise woman builds her house” (Proverbs, 14:1) — this refers to the wife of Oin the son of Peles; “but the foolish woman destroys it with her hands” (ibid.) — this refers to Koirach’s wife.
Says the Medrish: Koirach, to his detriment took his wife’s advice- always a dangerous thing to do- and proves this from the first words of the parsha. “V’Yikach Koirach”. What did Koirach take? The Medrash tells us that Koirach took “eytzas ishto,” (suggestions of his wife), idiot that he was! And the machloikes was all her idea. She told him that Moishe is taking everything for himself and his family and leaving nothing over for the rest of the Sheyvet. Women!!
Back to the Peles family. One of the great mysteries of the world is what ever happened to Oin Ben Peles. In the first possik Oin is clearly front and center, efsher a coconspirator of the gantze mutiny. We know what happened to the others, what about Oin? How did he escape the big swallow? He’s gone without a trace, never again mentioned in the heylige Toirah; where did he go?
Says the heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 109b): Oin was saved by his wife, even though there is no mention of her at all in the text. What went down? Oin came home and told his wife that he was joining Koirach in the rebellion. Said she: “Mai nafkah lach minei, what are you going to get out of this?” Either way, you’re a loser and a peon. If Koirach wins, you’re a peon and if Moishe wins the leadership battle, you’re also a loser. Said he: “What can I do, as I have already sworn allegiance to Koirach?” Said she: “Leave it to me.”
Sly fox that she was, she hatched a plan. That night she fed him wine and got him drunk, oldest trick in the book. Early in the morning, she sat at the tent’s opening, and let her hair down. What this means the Oisvorfer never really chapped; seemingly it did the trick. When Koirach and his followers came to collect Oin for the morning showdown with Moishe, they were embarrassed to walk into the tent as she was grooming herself. Tzadikkim that they avada were, seeing a woman in that state could arouse the Yetzer Hora and the staff, if you chap. In the meantime, Oin still in a drunken stupor overslept and missed the gantza revolution. His life saved by the eishes chayil and some good booze. Mamish a fantastic lesson for our teens!?
Nu the codifiers of the heylige Gemora who avada had a love hate relationship with women, contrasts Mrs. Oin with Mrs. Korach blaming the latter for baiting Koirach, ultimately causing his demise (along with all his money) to Mrs. Oin who used her head and body, also a fine bottle, to outwit the protestors. And what do these two wives have in common? They both told their husbands that they are good for nothing idiots; a model women all over the world use to describe their husbands to their girlfriends ad hayoim hazeh (till today). Some cut out the middle person and tell their husbands directly.
A gitten shabbis and choidesh-
The Oisvorfer Ruv