| Parshah |

Parshas Korach: Stick Figures

Even if you outwardly look exactly like all your cohorts, there’s a unique character that makes you special


“Moshe brought out all the staffs from before Hashem to all Bnei Yisrael; they saw and each man took his staff.” (Bamidbar 17:24)

After Korach’s rebellion and miraculous disappearance, it was still necessary to establish the Divinity of Moshe’s leadership and Aharon’s priesthood for Bnei Yisrael. Thus, Hashem commanded Moshe to perform the ultimate demonstration. Each nasi from each shevet took his staff — his stick — and inscribed his name on it. Aharon’s name was inscribed on Shevet Levi’s stick. Hashem said, “The man whom I will choose — his staff will blossom.”
The next day, Moshe came to the Ohel Moed and behold, Aharon’s stick, the staff of Shevet Levi, had blossomed, sprouted a bud, and produced ripe almonds. Then, as the pasuk above states, each nasi took his stick back.
A question glares. Why was it necessary to tell us that the other nessi’im took their sticks back? Of what value to them were those plain sticks, each the same dry piece of wood? (Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky, Parsha Parables)

The chairs in the cheder hadn’t gotten any more comfortable since the last time I attended a Chumash party a few years ago. The difference was that then I was a mommy, kvelling in the nachas of my youngest having reached this milestone. This time, I was reaching a milestone of my own — this was my grandson’s Chumash party. And grandmothers certainly don’t squirm in kiddie chairs. As a matter of fact, in my memory, the grandmothers who attended these functions when I’d been the mother in the audience were stately matrons who knew all the answers to life’s questions. But hey, if I was now the grandmother here, why didn’t I feel that way?

When my wife, b’chasdei Hashem, gave birth to our latest addition, I followed our family ritual and brought all the other children to the hospital to visit. On the way out, we stopped to peer through the large glass window of the infant nursery. All the newborns were lined up in their bassinets. My older girls kept whispering, “How cute! Look at that one!”
“I wanna see!” came the muffled voice of my three-year-old, who was too small to reach the window. I picked him up and he looked curiously from wall to wall at all the cribs filled with newborns. “Hey, they’re all the same thing!” he declared.

A few minutes later, all thoughts of age, chairs, and wisdom flew out of my mind as the boys marched in with their crowns and sat down on the stage. There he was! My delicious einekel, so solemn, yet so proud. I waved as he caught my eye. Yes! He waved back. Was it my imagination, or was he glowing just a little bit brighter, his smile and shining eyes just a bit more sparkly than everyone else there? Did anyone else see the halo of a spotlight surrounding my precious little boy?

This was the message of the other nessi’im’s sticks. Even in defeat, in realizing that you aren’t endowed with more power than others, you must realize that you still have your own unique identity. Even if you outwardly look exactly like all your cohorts, there’s a unique character that makes you special. And you must seize those special attributes. True, Aharon’s stick bloomed, while the others didn’t. But that’s no reason to ignore them. Although they all may appear as the “same thing,” their owners knew that each one had a quality, a nuance, a growth pattern, or a certain form that was unique to them. They may not have been blooming sticks, they may not have sprouted almonds or yielded fruit, but to their owners they were special. Therefore, each nasi came back to reclaim what was his.

Of course no one noticed. Every person attending was busy drinking in the beauty of her own child or grandchild, convinced the spotlight was centered on him, and their child was the one who outshone all the others.

Sure, we each knew that our little tzaddikel wasn’t always a perfect malach. But at that moment, as he opened his mouth to sing, our hearts were full of love, nachas, and joy, spilling over, convinced that this one child was bright enough to illuminate the whole world.

See that little boy second from the left? Don’t you notice him shining? He’s mine.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 900)

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