Rabbi Yakov (Jake) Vidomlanski
Former Shaliach in Cleveland (1998-1999),
Currently Ram at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah and Sgan Rosh Moshava IO

After the rebellion of Korach and his clan, Hashem wanted to establish aharon as his appointed servant to serve in the mishkan.  He commanded Moshe to bring forth the heads of each tribe.  Moshe was to cut a large tree trunk into 12, and assign each chieftain a staff.  On each staff, Moshe was to write the name of each chieftain, and the staff that would sprout would determine which head and which shevet God has chosen to be His servant.   Thus, Hashem says to Moshe “I will rid myself of the incessant mutterings of the Israelites against you (Bamidbar chap. 17 vs. 20).”  Indeed all the staffs had been placed in Ohel Moed, Moshe entered the tent and found Aharon’s Staff had sprouted, produced blossoms, and bore almonds.  Aharon and Shevet Levi were chosen.
After bringing out all the staffs from Ohel Moed, the torah tells us that each chieftain identified and recovered his staff.  Rav Zalman Sorotzkin asks why it was necessary for the head of each shevet to reclaim the staff Moshe had assigned him.  Why would each chieftain be interested in a constant reminder of not being chosen?  It seems that would be the equivalent of holding on to a losing lottery ticket!  Rav Sortzkin explains, that indeed one could have assumed that being chosen was not necessarily a desired outcome.  After all, to be a Cohen or Levi meant to be the poorest of all tribes.  It meant not owning property.  It meant being supported by the people’s Trumot and Ma’asrot, and a few other handouts.  Financially, being a Cohen or Levi did not offer a great prospect for economic security.   Yet, every tribe and their head wanted it.  They were willing to sacrifice their financial security, they were willing to endure a difficult life in order to serve Hashem.  They were willing to do this because they recognized being chosen and serving Hashem is a magnificent privilege.   It was a privilege worth more than any amount of money and property.
When the other shvatim “lost,” the chieftains didn’t toss away their staffs.  They brought it home and proudly displayed it.  They told their families, “see this staff? I was willing to sacrifice it all to become a servant in the Mishkan.  Our house, our possessions, I would have given it all for a chance to serve Hashem.”  The staff declares unequivocally what is important and what is trivial.  The staff declares nothing in the world is worth more than the opportunity to serve Hashem.
Today again there is a call to serve Hashem, a call that entails sacrifice on many levels.  This time the call is not restricted to a particular shevet.  The call is meant for everyone במלחמת מצוה הכל יוצאין.  Each person, wherever he or she may be, is called upon to go out and contribute to the war effort in whatever way he or she can.  Answering the call requires sacrificing on so many levels, sometimes even the ultimate sacrifice of life itself.  Remembering that serving Am Yisrael B’Eretz Yisrael is a magnificent privilege will hopefully spur us and rouse us to answer the call.  May Hashem watch over all of our chayalim and over all those that are answering the call in whatever capacity they can serve.

For comments:  jvlanski@gmail.com