Classic Questions

Why was Aharon's name inscribed on Levi's staff? (v. 17:18)

Rashi: Although I have divided them into two families, the priestly family being separate from the Levite family, it remains one tribe.

The Rebbe's Teachings

"Inscribe Aharon's Name" (v. 18)

In the current passage we read the account of how staffs were taken from each of the tribal leaders and placed in the Tent of Meeting, upon which the staff of the tribe of Levi, inscribed with Aharon's name, miraculously blossomed almonds (v. 16-24). G‑d's purpose in performing this miracle was to "rid Myself of the complaints of the Children of Israel, which they are directing at you" (v. 20). The staff was then preserved, "as a remembrance that I have chosen Aharon to be priest, so they will no longer complain about the priesthood" (Rashi to v. 25).

However, this begs the question: Korach was a member of the tribe of Levi, and thus his rebellion against Moshe and Aharon was largely an internal matter within the tribe of Levi itself. So how would Aharon's right to the priesthood be established by taking only one staff from the tribe of Levi, with his name written on it (see Rashi to v. 18)? Surely, to disprove the validity of Korach's claim, two staffs should have been taken: one for the priesthood, with Aharon's name on it, and one staff for the leader of the other Levites? Thus, when Aharon's staff would flower, it would prove decisively that he had been chosen by G‑d  as priest from the whole tribe of Levi.

The Explanation

The "sign of the staffs" was intended to prove two points: a.) That the priesthood belonged exclusively to the tribe of Levi. b.) That within the tribe of Levi, the priesthood belonged exclusively to Aharon.

To prove point "a" it was necessary to take staffs from all the other tribes, and not merely to take one staff from Aharon and another from the rest of the Levites.

And to prove point "b," it would not help to take two staffs, one for Aharon and one for the rest of the Levites, for this would not add any additional clarification:

If both staffs blossomed, it would not indicate the choice of Aharon over the rest of the Levites. And if Aharon's staff alone blossomed, one would be missing a sign that the priesthood belonged to the tribe of Levi. Perhaps it would be a sign of Aharon's personal qualities, independent of his tribal affiliation?

Thus, the only option was to take one staff for the entire tribe of Levi, and to write Aharon's name on it, which would indicate G‑d's choice of the tribe of Levi in general, and Aharon in particular.

As for the fact that the blossoming of the stick did not prove conclusively that there could not be a second High Priest from the tribe of Levi—this was unnecessary, for it had already been proven by the miracle of the firepans (16:16ff.), which demonstrated graphically that "we only have one High Priest" (Rashi to 16:6).

(Based on Sichas Shabbos Parshas Korach 5744