After the Fear Factor/Survivor challenge between Korach and Aharon (or maybe The Apprentice is a better analogy) comes to a conclusion, Moshe, unbelievably, still finds doubters among the people. He goes back to the crowd and people say he was too harsh with Korach’s group, and they did not all need to die, and maybe Moshe sabotaged the challenge, etc.
Moshe comes up with another idea. He says the Nasi of each tribe should place his staff in the Holy Tent and the one that sprouts almonds would be a sign from God who is chosen for the job. They accept the idea, place the staffs, surprisingly Aharon’s staff sprouted almonds and everybody is calm and satisfied.
In 17:25 Hashem tells Moshe to place Aharon’s staff in the tabernacle as a reminder to the people, lest they should start complaining again. They would see the staff and remember all that happened.
Amazing that after all that happened, all they had seen and gone through, they would still need a stick and a pile of almonds to remind them. You would think the images of the ground swallowing the people would be seared in their minds. You would think seeing a stick sprout almonds would be unforgettable. Why is it necessary to keep the stick around as a reminder?
I think the answer is that until now also they had seen miracles of equal quality. The splitting of the sea. Water coming out of a rock. The daily Manna. The clouds and fire and daily protection form the elements. Yet despite all these miracles constantly flooding their experiences, they still keep finding reason to complain and to doubt Moshe. When you feel slighted, it does not matter how much your mind tells you that the other side is obviously correct – sometimes the only thing that can stop you in your tracks is a visual, physical reminder of what happened. Not just a memory, but something physical that forces you to remember honestly. That was the purpose of keeping the stick.