Last week’s Portion concluded with the third paragraph of the Shema prayer, which speaks of the Mitzvah of Tzitzis/Talis. This week’s Parsha describes the quarrel that Korach had with our leader Moshe.

Rashi tells us that Korach was personally incensed that his younger cousin was appointed by Moshe to be a prince while he felt he was capable of filling that position. Korach felt that Moshe was guilty of nepotism by choosing his brother Aaron as the single Kohain Gadol/High Priest and forgetting about him.

In response, Korach led a rebellion against Moshe. He convinced leaders from his neighboring tribe, Reuven, to join him as he disputed the divinely appointed leadership of Moshe. However, he knew that he could not out rightly deny Moshe’s Divine leadership because everyone witnessed his divinely inspired leadership in Egypt, at the splitting of the sea, at Mount Sinai and during their travels. Therefore, Korach cleverly used Talmudic logic to sway his constituents in his rebellious intentions to undercut Moshe’s authority.

In the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, the Torah tells us that there should be within the tassels a string dyed with Techailes, a type of blue, which is extracted from a unique snail.

Our Sages teach us that the color blue is in the Tzitzis to remind the person wearing them of the blue of the sea, which reflects the sky and will direct his attention to G-d sitting on His Throne.

Korach presented his cohorts with four cornered garments like a Talis that were completely dyed blue but they were lacking the tassels that are normally attached at the corners. Korach reasoned, “If just a small string on each tassel will remind us of G-d’s Throne, certainly, if the entire garment is dyed blue it will remind us of G-d’s Throne and there is no need for the tassels on the corners of the garment.

Now, this type of logical thinking is used throughout the Talmud – if a law exists about something small, certainly it applies to something bigger. However, in the case of Korach’s argument it was absurd, since the Torah specifically instructs us to have the blue in the strings of the tassel. Yet, Korach was successful in convincing the 250 leaders to don these blue dyed garments and present their question to Moshe.

When Moshe responded that they indeed needed the tassels, Korach immediately ridiculed and poked fun at Moshe’s position and was able to sway the minds of the leaders to join him to undermine Moshe. As a result, Korach was able to assert his own agenda that he too be a Kohain Godol like Aaron.

The Rokeach o.b.m. focuses further on Tzitzis being the motivation for Korach to stand his ground to be a Kohain Godol. Tzitzis have four corners and the regular Kohain wears four garments when doing the service in the Temple. Each of the four tassels of Tzitzis have eight strings and the Kohain Godol wore eight garments. In the portion of Tzitzis the Torah tells us to be holy, and at Mount Sinai G-d called us a Holy nation. Korach argued against Moshe, “The entire nation is holy. Why do you assert yourself and your brother Aaron to leadership positions to the exclusion of others? We are all holy!”

Korach kept on arguing even claiming that he is just as fit as Aaron’s son Elozar to be a Kohain because the Gematria – numerical equivalent – of the Hebrew letters of Korach and Elozar both equal 308. Korach continued, Elozar was anointed with just a bit of holy oil to fill his position. I am even better than him, for my father’s name is Yitzhar, which means oil, so my whole existence came about through a person called Yitzhar – oil.

Our Sages tell us that as ridiculous as Korach’s arguments were, he was able to convince others to join him because he employed mockery, cynicism and scorn. When one pokes fun and belittles another –even our leader Moshe – the negativity will spread without logic and sense.

This led to a total disrespect towards Moshe, so that when Moshe approached the rebels for discussion they refused to meet him.

The Parsha describes a showdown between Moshe and Korach and his followers. They presented incense offerings which are reserved for the Kohain, and they were killed by a Heavenly fire. Korach and his cohorts were swallowed into the ground. This was Heavenly proof that Aaron and his sons were the ones appointed as Kohanim, and since then, this has never been contested.

The Torah relates another proof of Aaron’s appointment as Kohain. The twelve staffs of the tribal leaders were placed in the Holies and only Aaron’s staff budded and sprouted almonds. Aaron’s staff always remained in the Holy of Holies as proof of his appointment.

Why almonds? Rashi tells us that almonds are the first of fruit trees to bud.

I came across the following idea. There are two types of almonds, one type begins sweet and when they develop they turn bitter; the other type begins bitter and when they develop they turn sweet.

These two types of almonds represent two approaches to conflicts. When a Machlokes/argument is brewing it can begin sweet, with fervor and enthusiasm, but if it is not worked on with a focus on Shalom – it turns and remains bitter.

However, when a Machlokes/issues develops between two sides and their focus is on maintaining a conciliatory posture, then it is likened to the almond that begins bitter – at first it is tough to swallow –but as time goes on one will sense and recognize the sweet effects and benefits of approaching the disagreement with a peaceful, well-balanced and harmonious approach and conduct!