Torah Weekly

For the week ending 21 June 2014 / 23 Sivan 5774

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.


The G'shmak of Gossip

“And Korach took…” (15:1)

Why do people talk about a “juicy” piece of gossip?

What does gossip taste like?

Gossip is very low in nutrition. It contains neither vitamins nor minerals. It doesn’t do the consumer any good in this world (and certainly not in the next).

Quite recently there was a serious difference of opinion between two great Torah leaders. There is no doubt in my mind that their differences were totally for “the sake of Heaven” – altruistic and without personal interest of gain or prestige.

It amazed me, however, how every Tom, Dick, and Chaim suddenly started pontificating and vilifying the other side’s Torah leader based on his own righteous indignation.

Gossip is so delicious, so juicy, because it allows us to feel that we — the tiny foot-soldiers of Judaism — too are “players”. We’re also in the Big League. Suddenly we become world-arbiters of both halacha and hashkafa (Torah law and philosophy).

Isn’t that g’shmak? Isn’t that juicy?

“And Korach took…” Targum Onkelos translates this phrase as, “He removed himself.” “He removed himself from the rest of the congregation by sustaining a dispute.” (Rashi)

The Mishna in Avot (5:17) comments, “What is a dispute that is for the sake of Heaven? The dispute of Hillel and Shammai.”

Only the giants of each generation, like Hillel and Shammai, may allow themselves a dispute for the sake of Heaven. We, small beings that we are, must distance ourselves not only from selfish and sordid rows, but also from those disagreements that seem to us pure and altruistic.

For, without doubt, we will not be able to resist the g’shmak of gossip and slander.

  • Sources: Based on Rabbi Chaim M’Volozhin as quoted in Iturei Torah

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