Torah Weekly

For the week ending 16 June 2018 / 3 Tammuz 5778

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 manifested 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.


A World of Ice Cream

“And Korach took… (16:1)

Car production has reached such a level of sophistication that there is really little difference between brands except their price and their aesthetics. Yet the car still has an Achilles’ heel that makes it as vulnerable as it was fifty years ago – the battery. With all the wizardry of computerized motoring, the battery is the last hold-out of the ancient world.

And so it was that after a tiring morning of teaching, I climbed aboard my trusty iron steed and turned the ignition key to a resounding clunk – a flat battery.

Into the parking lot turned a young fellow in a dark suit and a hat. “Can I have a charge from your battery?” I asked. “Shum baya!” (No problem!), he replied. And we went to work to give my car an intravenous injection of electricity. But to no avail. The starter motor still clunked like an ignorant hunk of metal. “Would you mind if you left your car running for a few moments to charge the battery up a bit?” I asked. “Shum baya!” came the cheerful reply. We waited a good few minutes. I was beginning to believe that this young fellow had nothing else on his schedule except to charge my battery. “Okay,” I said, “Let’s give it another try.” Clunk.

“Why don’t we wait a bit longer?” he suggested. At that moment, a van turned into the parking lot, and a guy in working clothes and a black kippa got out of the van. “One moment,” he said. He opened up the back of his van to reveal a cornucopia of technical gadgets. From deep within he extracted a slim metal box with cables coming out of it. “Try this.” We plugged it in and voila — techiat hametim! It roared backed to life.

“Thanks a lot” I said to him. Then I turned to the fellow with the car and said, “Thanks so much! I’m sorry I wasted your time.” He replied to me, “You think I came to this world to eat ice cream?” This loses something in translation from the Hebrew that he spoke, but the point is clear: A Jew comes to this world to fulfill the Will of the Creator. Nothing more nor less.

It’s difficult to understand how Korach could have rebelled against the prophecy of Moshe. One of the basic Thirteen Principles of Faith is that “Moshe is truth and his Torah is true.” True, Korach had a logical dynastic reason to believe that he should have been appointed the Kohanic prince, but Moshe’s prophecy decreed that Elitzaphan was the correct choice and not Korach. Why did Korach not accept this?

Jealousy and status-seeking go hand-in-hand. Why does a person seek celebrity? Because he sees himself as self-evidently worthy. If others are in positions more elevated than his, then his self-inflation dictates that he will be jealous of them. Such is the power of jealousy and status-seeking. However minute they may be in the psychological make-up, they have to power to corrupt the intellect and the virtue of even someone as great as Korach certainly was.

A Jew comes not to this world to eat ice cream, or the much more delectable delicacy of honor. We come here to do subjugate our selfishness and serve the Master of All.

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