Torah Weekly

For the week ending 8 June 2013 / 29 Sivan 5773

Parshat Korach

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Korach, Datan and Aviram and 250 leaders of Israel rebel against the authority of Moshe and Aharon. The rebellion results in their being swallowed by the earth. Many resent their death and blame Moshe. G-d's "anger" is manifest by a plague that besets the nation, and many thousands perish. Moshe intercedes once again for the people. He instructs Aharon to atone for them and the plague stops. Then G-d commands that staffs, each inscribed with the name of one of the tribes, be placed in the Mishkan. In the morning the staff of Levi, bearing Aharon's name, sprouts, buds, blossoms and yields ripe almonds. This provides Divine confirmation that Levi's tribe is chosen for priesthood and verifies Aharon's position as Kohen Gadol, High Priest. The specific duties of the Levi'im and Kohanim are stated. The Kohanim were not to be landowners, but were to receive their sustenance from the tithes and other mandated gifts brought by the people. Also taught in this week's Parsha are laws of the first fruits, redemption of the firstborn, and other offerings.


Men At Work

“...why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of G-d?” (16:3)

You’re driving home after a long week’s absence. On your way out of town there was a large hold-up where they were fixing the road. You wonder how long it will take to get through it. You turn the bend, and to your delight the traffic is flowing like money at a casino. The road repair crew has already finished their work. Sailing over the new tarmac you notice that it has already lost its pristine blackness. In a few short days it will be indistinguishable from the thousands of other dusty gray miles of tarmac.

In 1873, a holy Jew in Russia authored a work which changed the course of Judaism. The book was called The Chafetz Chaim - ‘The Desirer of Life’.

The subject matter of the book was the set of laws governing proper speech. In clear language the Chafetz Chaim led his readers through the sometimes tortuous laws of permitted and forbidden speech. The author of the Chafetz Chaim was famous for guarding his tongue with such care that his name became synonymous with that of his creation. He became known as the Chafetz Chaim.

One might have expected the Chafetz Chaim to be extremely taciturn, visibly standing guard over every syllable that left his lips. The opposite was, in fact, true.

A visitor came to the Chafetz Chaim and his son-in-law, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Levinson (the rosh yeshiva of Radin), and was struck by the difference between the two men. Rabbi Levinson was a man of few and measured words, obviously checked for kashrut prior to utterance. By comparison, the Chafetz Chaim was almost verbose, his conversation flowing with the ease.

In this week’s Torah portion it’s difficult to understand how Korach could have hoodwinked the whole of the Jewish People into suspecting Moshe of ‘lording it up’ over the congregation. Just a few chapters previously, the Torah testifies that Moshe was the ‘humblest of all men.’ How could there have existed even a suspicion that Moshe was pumped up with his own self-image?

When we master a certain character trait it becomes an indivisible part of who we are. However, when we are still doing ‘road work’ to perfect a part of our character, the signs of digging and construction are everywhere in evidence. It’s clear to all that there are still ‘men at work’.

To the untrained eye, Moshe might have seemed lofty and removed. He was, after all, the king of the Jewish People. And he behaved in the manner of a king. But in his heart, Moshe understood, as no man before or since, exactly how small he was compared to G-d. Moshe didn’t need to trumpet his humility. It was already integrated into his personality as seamlessly as the tarmac of last year’s road repair.

  • Source: Rabbi Mordechai Perlman

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