Parshas Korach-Likkutei Torah-The power of the Kohanim and the reason for daily prayer

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Parshas Korach


“Vihinei Parach Mateh Aharon … Veyigmol Shekeidim”

[Likkutei Torah p. 55b]

This Parsha discusses the major dispute that transpired between Korach and the priests. Hashem had commanded that the priesthood be given to Aharon and his descendants, but Korach made a jealous attempt to usurp the priesthood for himself, dragging many elite members of the Jewish people into a futile dispute against Moshe and Aharon in the process. This dispute eventually led to the death of Korach and his followers, leaving a stain on the trust the people had in Moshe to appoint their leaders and causing them to blame him and Aharon for the rebels’ demise.  As a result, Hashem commanded each tribe to donate a staff to be placed in the Mishkan, avowing that the owner of the staff that would sprout fruit would be the one chosen by Hashem to lead the priesthood. The verse quoted above thus describes how the staff of Aharon, which was placed together with all the other staffs, was the one to grow fruit, miraculously confirming that he was the chosen one for the Kehuna. But of all fruits, which fruit did Hashem sprout on the staff? Almonds! In this Mamar, the Alter Rebbe delves into the meaning of almonds, their significance to the staff of Aharon, and the connection between them and the choosing of Aharon for the priesthood. This interesting but simple question leads to a discussion on the great paradox found in Jewish thought regarding the power of prayer and its capacity to change decrees made on Rosh Hashanah. This in turn reveals a new understanding of the power of prayer, its effect and accomplishments, the uniqueness of the blessing of the Kohanim, and the special quality found in Aharon and his descendants that allows them to be the conduits through which the blessing is channeled.     


Explorations of the Mamar:

1.      The spiritual difference between the Kohanim and the other members of Klal Yisrael.

2.      The root of blessing and good occurrences in the upper worlds and how they descend below.

3.      The meaning of Birchas Kohanim and the blessing that it brings about.

4.      The need to pray every day despite the annual decree on Rosh Hashanah.



The Question:

The verse states: “Vihinei Parcha Mateh Aharon Vayigmol Shekeidim/And behold, the staff of Aharon bore almonds.” These almonds signified the choosing of Aharon and his descendants by Hashem for the priesthood over any of the other tribes, thereby concluding the terrible quarrel that Korach and his camp initiated. The question, however, is what significance do almonds contain that made them Hashem’s choice in this situation? Certainly, any fruit could have sprouted on the staff, so the growth of almonds specifically must have some symbolic connection and relation to Aharon and the Kehuna.


The uniqueness of the almond:

The almond is the quickest growing fruit or produce that exists. It grows faster than grains, olives, figs, and any other fruits and vegetation. The Midrash[1] states that almonds take only 21 days to grow. It is for this reason that it is called a Shaked, which means “quicken”, as the verse states, “Shaked Ani Al Dvaray Laasoso/I am hasty to fulfill my word.” The hastiness represented by the almonds is a hint to the greatness of the Kehuna.


The position of Aharon Hakohen:

The name Aharon comes from the word Nireh, which means “to reveal.” The function of Aharon Hakohen in his relationship with Klal Yisrael on a deeper level is to draw down a revelation of all the supernal Divine levels into the lower worlds. This revelation and Hamshacha below was accomplished by Aharon through a very rapid method and without any interference. The revelation caused by Aharon descended from the supernal worlds down to the lower worlds very swiftly, without any setbacks.


The normal stages of divine descent versus the descent affected by Aharon:

All the blessing in this world derives from G-d’s level of supernal Chesed, Chesed of Atzilus. In order for this Divine level of Chesed to enter and affect our world below, it must descend through many intermediate levels of worlds and stages. This is a necessary process in order for the Chesed to don a material form, allowing it to be receivable in our physical world. Aharon, however, has the unique ability to manifest Chesed’s earthly realization in a very rapid manner, bypassing the normal cause-and-effect chain of events at all the intermediate levels. As such, he achieves immediate actualized blessings. However, the idea of Chesed being delayed in the intermediate levels remains to be understood. What is this delay? Why is it delayed along the way, and how does Aharon specifically remove the hindrances that cause it to happen? To understand this, we must first examine the paradox we find between Rosh Hashanah and the daily prayers.


Why do we Daven every day if all is decreed on Rosh Hashanah?

There is a famous question raised in classical Talmudic commentators[2] regarding the entire concept of daily prayer. We all know that all of our future occurrences are decreed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. What purpose then is there in praying daily for matters that have already been decided? This brings us into a fascinating exploration of what the decree of Rosh Hashanah really affects and how it still leaves room for daily prayer on those matters that were decreed.


Understanding how G-dly blessing descends to this world:

As stated above, all blessings that reach this world in general, and an individual person in particular, are rooted in G-dliness, Or Ein Sof. It is the G-dliness that descends which eventually becomes the blessing that we experience. However, this G-dliness, when still in the world of Atzilus, is very sublime and abstract, and on this level it cannot manifest any tangible form of blessing that mortals of our world can experience or understand. In order for this Divine revelation of G-dly blessing to be transformed into tangible physical blessing, the revelation must descend many levels through the chambers of the worlds of Beriyah, Yetzira, and Assiyah. This descent causes the G-dly revelation to become coarse enough to be expressed as kindness in the physical realm: healing the sick, providing sustenance, etc. Based on this, one can understand the decree of Rosh Hashanah and the necessity for daily prayer.


Rosh Hashanah-A sublime blessing; Daily prayer-Transforms the sublime into physical blessing:[3]

On Rosh Hashanah, each individual is allotted a certain amount of G-dly blessing. However, the revelation of this blessing takes place only in the world of Atzilus, where it remains in a spiritual state. Every day, there is a particular judgment placed on the person as to whether or not he  merits to have this Divine blessing physically expressed to him in this world. Is he worthy enough today to have the Divine blessing, which was allotted to his soul on Rosh Hashanah, make its descent through each world until it transforms into physical blessing below? Or perhaps he is not befitting of such, and thus the Divine revelation of blessing will remain above in Atzilus and will be received by him only as Divine pleasure in Gan Eden. This then is the reason for daily prayer; it asks G-d to send us our allotted blessing so that we should see its fruition in the physical world.


A parable:

The above difference between Rosh Hashanah and daily prayer can be explained using the following parable: Every government contains an annual budget that is allocated to the different ministries that it runs. Take the military, for example. Once the government’s budget is set, a certain amount of money from within that budget is destined for the military. Now let’s take a look at how that money eventually reaches its final destination. For example, Chaplain Miller desires a synagogue to be built at his base and he requests funding from his unit’s commander. For that money from the budget to finally reach Chaplain Miller, it must pass through many levels of bureaucracy. The government must first channel the money to the military. The military then has to channel the money to the chaplaincy. The chaplaincy must then channel the money to the specific brigade that the chaplain works under, until finally the synagogue is built. Each level will need to judge whether the request for the synagogue is justified in order for the money to come into actual fruition. The decree on Rosh Hashanah is the Divine blessing of an individual person as to how much he will receive for that year in health, wealth, and children. This is similar to the government’s transfer of money to the military. However, for the spiritual blessing to see fruition in the physical world, it must pass through the many preceding worlds, and it is for this purpose that the person prays daily. This is similar to the chaplain requesting the funds from the military for the building of his synagogue.


Another parable:

Someone has money transferred to his bank. But in order to withdraw the money from the bank, he requires a debit card. “The bank of money” in this analogy is the spiritual blessing that every soul is allocated on Rosh Hashanah. Daily prayer is the “debit card” that allows one to withdraw the funds and use them for physical sustenance.



Understanding the opinions in the Gemara:[4]

Based on the above, the following Talmudic dispute can be understood. The Gemara [Rosh Hashanah 8a] states that there is a dispute between the Chachamim and Rebbe Yossi with regard to when man is judged. The Chachamim say man is judged once a year, on Rosh Hashanah. Rebbe Yossi holds that man is judged daily. Now, one must say that both opinions concur that there is yearly as well as daily judgment, as even Rebbe Yossi agrees that Rosh Hashanah is the annual Day of Judgment, and even the Chachamim agree there is a need to pray daily. Based on the above, their opinions are understood. The spiritual blessing is drawn down on Rosh Hashanah, and this what the Chachamim emphasize in their opinion. The transformation of this blessing into physical terms, however, occurs through the daily judgment and this is what is emphasized by Rebbe Yossi. Thus in truth, there is no dispute between them at all.


The setbacks and hindrances of the descent of the Divine blessing from Atzilus to this world:

The Chesed that is in the world of Atzilus is held back and delayed until it reaches this world, for upon its arrival at each world, from Heichal to Heichal, there is a judgment – a judgment regarding whether the Chesed should be drawn down below. The courts above look into his case, and there are many prosecutors that claim that he has sinned and is hence not befitting to receive the Chesed.


The Kohanim in Birchas Kohanim cause a swift descent, avoiding the judgment of each world:

When the Chesed is drawn down through Aharon and through his descendents, the Kohanim, who lift their hands and bless the Jewish people with Birchas Kohanim, then the Chesed descends swiftly through all the worlds without any hindrances or setbacks, and any preventive state of affairs is completely overlooked.


The meaning of Birchas Kohanim:

This is the meaning of Birchas Kohanim:

Yivarechicha Hashem Veyishirecha.” “Yivarechicha” refers to Hashem sending us a swift blessing in each of the three channels of blessing, 1)Parnasa, 2)health, and 3)children. “Veyishmerecha” blesses us that we should be guarded from any damaging forces.

Yaer Hashem Panav– Hashem shines his countenance upon the Jewish people.

Vichuneka– The Chesed reaches all the way down to this world.


The reason the Kohen accomplishes a bypass of the judgments in each world:

There are two types of Chesed. One is a Chesed that relates to the ways of the world and follows the order of society and civilization. This is called Chesed Olam [or Chesed of Atzilus]. It follows the normal bureaucracy of Chesed in this world, in which prior to its appearance one judges whether the receiver is befitting to receive it. The Chesed that one is allocated on Rosh Hashanah is a Chesed that contains this limitation, and hence there are various judgments traversed prior to him receiving it. There exists, however, a higher form of Chesed, a Chesed that is beyond the dictates of the world and is not limited to a recipient fulfilling certain criteria. This is called Rav Chesed [or Chesed of Arich]. The Kohanim are rooted in Rav Chesed and can thus enable the blessing that each individual received on Rosh Hashanah to plow through any criteria required for them to receive it.


A river with a strong current:

The above is similar to a river with a strong current versus a river with a weak current. If the river has a very strong current, it will overcome any obstacles in its way and no rocks, wood, or other interferences will be successful in stopping its flow. If it has a weak current, however, the presence of a mere log can divert or stop it altogether. The level of the Kohanim, Rav Chesed, is similar to the river with the strong current. It causes the blessing to descend into the worlds at such a strong and rapid pace that it drowns all the prosecuting angels that stand in its way, completely annulling them.


The lessons of the Mamar:

·         Understand the necessity for daily Avodas Hashem and daily prayer and how with it one draws his daily Divine blessing from his annual budget of blessing. Concentrate on this matter the next time you pray.

·         Understand the greatness of Birchas Kohanim and how it draws down one’s Divine blessing in a way that bypasses all judgment. Use this to add in concentration the next time you hear Birchas Kohanim.



Q&A on the Mamar for further research


How can one say that on Rosh Hashanah, one is merely allocated spiritual blessing and is not at all judged in how much physical blessing he will receive that year? Doesn’t the judgment of Rosh Hashanah cover every aspect of all the worlds?

See the Mamar Vihenei Parech Mateh Aharon of Parshas Korach 1973 [Edited] for a full discussion on this matter.

If one did not receive a large amount of spiritual blessing on Rosh Hashanah, is there any purpose in his daily prayer, as he has no resource to draw from?

The Rebbe Rashab explains in a letter that in truth the prayer and service of G-d that one performs during the year was taken into account during the initial judgment on the previous Rosh Hashanah [i.e. if he does such and such during the year then his “budget” will be larger]. Thus the Avoda of each day can actually affect the judgment of Rosh Hashanah itself.


Do all the communities outside of Jerusalem that do not hear Birchas Kohanim daily forfeit the great advantage received from Birchas Kohanim?

The Rebbe[5] explains that the Jews in the Diaspora receive the blessings of the Kohanim through the daily blessing of the Kohanim in Jerusalem.




[1] Midrash Koheles 115b

[2] Tosafus Shabbos 12b; R”H 16a

[3] For further details on this subject see Kuntrus Umayan 17/25

[4] For further details on this subject see Likkutei Sichos 9/375

[5] Sichas Erev Yom Kippur, 1991

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