Korach began a rebellion against Moses’ and Aharon’s leadership. He succeeded in recruiting to his ranks hundreds of men who joined him in his claim that since all Jewish people are holy it was unfair that Moses and Aharon should sanction the leadership for themselves. Korach’s claim was proven unacceptable to God when he and his clan were swallowed up in an incredible earthquake and the two-hundred and fifty men who joined him were miraculously incinerated together with their pans of incense. Nonetheless, the people continued to complain that Moses and Aharon had killed Korach and his congregation and the Almighty punished them by killing them in a plague, which ended as miraculously as it had begun when Aharon ran through the people with a pan of burning incense.
Following these tragic events, God commanded Moses to collect a staff from the head of each tribe and to inscribe each man’s name on his staff. The staff of the Levite’s would be Aharon’s staff. God told Moses, “The man who I choose, his staff will blossom.” Yet, Aharon’s staff did not only blossom; the verse states, “Behold, Aharon’s staff, of the tribe of Levi, blossomed and it bore flowers and sprouted buds and produced ripe almonds.”
After the fierce miraculous reactions that transpired previously, this three-fold miracle is stunning in its beauty. Aharon’s staff literally came to life: it blossomed, budded, and bore ripe fruit, while the staffs of the other tribal chieftains remained inanimate poles of wood.
In contradistinction to the miracles experienced by the Jewish people from the Exodus and on—miracles that completely broke nature’s laws—this miracle stands out. We are not told whether Aharon’s staff was made of almond wood. Nonetheless, whatever type of wood it was, it went through a natural process, from blossoms, to buds, to fruit. The miracle was in the speed with which the process occurred in a wooden staff that perhaps was not able to sprout. Of all the trees, the almond is considered the quickest to blossom and bear fruit—it is naturally quick. Here it just did so even faster, literally overnight.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that because this miracle did not break nature’s laws completely, but stimulated and accelerated the natural processes, it is in fact the greatest type of miracle. Had we filmed the staff as the miracle took effect and replayed the film in slow motion, it would appear to be a perfectly natural process!
The Rebbe explains that this type of miracle—in which nature and the supernatural unite as one—is the only type of miraculous phenomenon that can bear true fruit. This is because relative to one another nature and the supernatural are feminine and masculine, respectively. Only when their union is mutually cooperative can it be a truly fertile relationship that expresses both the natural and the supernatural in a fruitful process.
Such a blend of the natural and the supernatural is one of the signs of the true redemption that we pray for. During the Exodus from Egypt, the miracles broke the laws of nature. But, despite the magnitude of the miracles that swept through Egypt and the havoc they wreaked, this was not enough to enable a lasting process to begin, because nature itself was left out of the picture. In contrast, every natural process typically takes a very long time, and sometimes the length of each stage is so long that it seems that we may never reach the desired goal. How much longer can it take before Mashiach comes?!
Aharon’s miraculous staff teaches us a third option: miracles that unite the supernatural with nature, allowing the supernatural to appear in a natural guise. When Divine revelation penetrates nature entirely, it accelerates the natural processes so that one stage follows the other with amazing speed.
This is the meaning of the Rebbe’s famous cry that the redemption should come in the form of “chaotic lights within rectified vessels.” In this context “chaotic lights” represent the redemption’s supernatural speed as it enters nature—the “rectified vessels.” This is the messianic formula that we are all waiting for, speedily, fruitfully, and in our days.
Excerpted from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, 26th Sivan 5767