Torah Weekly

For the week ending 29 June 2019 / 26 Sivan 5779

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.


Never Enough Goldfish

“And Korach took…” (15:1)

In 1820, the ratio between the income of the top and bottom 20 percent of the world's population was three to one. By 1991, it was eighty-six to one.A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research at United Nations University reports that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000. The three richest people in the world possess more financial assets than the lowest 48 nations combined.

Never in the field of human history has so much been owned by so few. The increasing problem for the mega-rich has been: Where in this world can you get a bang for your mega-dollars?

There’s an old story about a super-rich father who wanted to make the glitziest Bar Mitzvah of all time. He called up NASA in Houston and asked how much it would cost to make a Bar Mitzvah on the moon. “No problem,” said the indulgent father. “The sky is not the limit!” And so it was that a select party of 25 invitees was ferried to the moon for the most exclusive Bar Mitzvah in history. On his return, one of the lucky invitees was asked by a friend what it was like to go to a Bar Mitzvah on the moon. He replied: “It was okay, but somehow there was no atmosphere.”

I have a friend whose job is to ‘concierge’ parties for the fantablulously rich. He told me that once he booked Stevie Wonder to play at a private party of no more than six people. His fee? One and a quarter million dollars. But that was just Stevie’s take-home stipend. In addition to that there was private jet transport, super luxury housing for Stevie and the band, and, of course, food. The total? Somewhere between five and six million dollars.

There was an Arab Sheikh my friend ‘concierged’ who had an obsession with gold. When he came to New York everything had to be gold. The limousine had to be gold. The faucets in the bathroom had to be gold. The bath tub had to be gold. The crowning lunacy was the Sheikh’s fantasy to fish with a golden fishing rod for goldfish in the Hudson River. I’m not sure when the last time was that a goldfish was sighted in the murky Hudson, but it was probably when little Jimmy got fed up with the prize he won at the fair and flushed it down the toilet. Undeterred, my friend the concierge secured a large 75 ft. yacht, painted it gold (of course), and had a couple thousand live goldfish shipped down from Maine. As the yacht made its stately progress up the waters of the Hudson, a team of scuba divers swimming underneath the yacht released the little fishies.

It seems that madness has no limits. And the more money you have, the madder you become.

“And Korach took….” This sentence from the beginning of this week’s Torah portion has no object. It doesn’t say what Korach took. Rather, Korach was completely invested in the desire to take. And so, despite his enormous wisdom, status and wealth, he staged a totally self-seeking rebellion against Moshe. How apt that Korach’s voracious desire to engulf led to the earth opening up and devouring him!

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