Staff Inflection: Korah 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What are some of the most enduring symbols in American life? What makes them so familiar? Why do they mean so much to some of us?

Moses’ walking staff means multiple things to the Israelites – a symbol of God’s power, an instrument of miracles, and, in our portion, a sign to encourage obedience:

The Pitch: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Put Aaron’s staff back before the Pact, to be kept as a lesson to rebels, so that their mutterings against Me may cease, lest they die.” – Numbers 17:25

Swing #1: “Some scholars insist that [Moses] calling the people ‘rebels’ [when hitting the rock for water] cannot be a sin, since God calls the people by that very name a mere three chapters earlier. And yet context is everything. An appropriate response in one situation may be totally unacceptable in another. Emotional wisdom and maturity depend on the capacity to distinguish between two experiences that may seem similar on the surface but are in fact quite different.” – Shai Held, The Heart of Torah, Volume 2: Essays on the Weekly Torah Portion: Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy

Swing #2: “The staff would be preserved as a symbol that the tribe of Levi was chosen [for the priesthood] instead of the firstborn [tribe of Reuben].” – Ramban

Swing #3: “God did not command Moses to take the staff in order to strike the rock as in Exodus 17:6. He only commanded Moses to display the staff to remind them that they had again been very obstinate.” – Rashbam

Late-Inning Questions: What does the staff mean to our respective commentators? Is it possible that Moses feels that the staff gives him God-like status? How does God disabuse him of that notion? Why do we sometimes confuse symbols for the entities they’re supposed to represent?

On-Deck at TBT: Join our Brotherhood at the ballpark (Sahlen Field) Sunday, July 10th. A Kosher BBQ starts at 11:30 am, with the Buffalo Bisons and Syracuse Mets squaring off at 1:05 pm. Contact Jonathan Epstein for more information.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of staffs, there are numerous fun anecdotes about the greatest hitters in baseball history and their knowledge of bats. It was said that Ted Williams was once given two bats whose respective weights differed by ⅛ of an ounce, and he could immediately tell the difference between them.

Shabbat Shalom!