Korach II - STAFF AND MANNA
IN ORDER to prove to the people that Aaron was the true kohen gadol of Israel, Moses ordered the following test. The staff belonging to Aaron together with the staffs of the leaders of the other tribes were placed overnight in the sacred Ark. When examined the next morning, it was discovered that the staff of Aaron blossomed and produced fruit, while the others remained sterile. This was testimony to all that Aaron was the rightful High Priest of his people. "And the Lord said unto Moses: carry back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a token against the rebellious children, that there may be an end of their murmuring from around Me, and they die not" (Numbers 17:25).
In a previous sidrah we are told that a jar containing manna was also placed before the Ark of God as a remembrance for the future. "And Moses said to Aaron: take a jar, and put therein an omer- full of manna, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for generations" (Exod. 16:33).
What happened to these two "tokens of remembrance?" The sages inform us, "When the Ark was hidden, so were the jars of manna and the staff of Aaron" (Yoma 52b).
The staff of Aaron symbolizes the human craving for peace. Aaron, we are told, was the ohev shalom ve-rodef shalom--the lover of peace and pursuer after peace-par excellence (Abot 1:12). Manna, on the other hand, represents economic security, when the dream for sufficient nourishment for all will be fulfilled. Thus the sages convey to us the thought that the staff of Aaron and the jar of manna go together with the Ark of God; that there can be no economic security or enduring peace in the world without the moral and ethical standards of the Torah. \Vhen the Ark is "lost" when its sacred influence is eliminated from the arena of life, the staff of Aaron and the jar of manna--and all that they represent-disappear. All the deliberations and plans for economic security and enduring peace come to naught because they are neither enshrined in the Ark nor guided by the teachings of the Tablets of the Torah that it contains.
One may compare the Ark to a foundation and the jar and the staff to structures that are built upon it. Symbolically, economic security and peace are the superstructures that are based on the foundation of ethical and moral law.
A builder knows that he cannot erect a sturdy edifice without an adequate foundation. He digs deep into the ground in order to make the structure safe and strong. When the Twin Towers that constitute the World Trade Center in New York were built, it was necessary to dig more than ten stories deep into the bowels of the earth to enable the huge buildings to withstand the pressure of the wind and the storm. So it is with the twin edifices of economic security and enduring peace. The deeper the foundations of integrity, loyalty and faith are entrenched in the heart and soul of man, the brighter is the prospect for success.
The psalmist put it well when he warned, "When the foundations are destroyed, what hath the righteous wrought!" (Ps. 11:3). This verse offers a true portrayal of our present dilemma. There are a number of well-intentioned individuals who would like to build a better world and who extend themselves to create a better life for all. They frequently fail because they do not find sufficient good will and moral fiber in the hearts of the multitudes to support their efforts.
The Great Wall of China, we are told, was a gigantic and powerful structure built at an immense cost of human labor and material. When it was finished it seemed as though it would provide security to China forever. But within a few years of its completion, it was breached three times by the enemy. The irony of it was that the invaders did not accomplish their entrance by breaching the Great Wall, but by bribing the gatekeepers. The structure was not at fault; the human element failed. The collapse was not in the Wall itself, but in the character of those who were entrusted with its safety and care.
The United Nations in our time could work successfully if it emulated the ideals of the staff of Aaron and the jar of manna. The structure is good; the Charter is fine. The sad fact is that the U.N. is rendered impotent by the inadequacy of the ethical and spiritual foundations of its keepers. And we cry with the psalmist, "When the foundations are destroyed, what hath the righteous wrought!"
Let us hope and pray for the rediscovery of the Ark of God that will surely rebound to the benefit of man.