Torah Weekly - Parshat Korach

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Parshat Korach

Outside Israel for the week ending July 8, 2000 / 5 Tammuz 5760
In Israel for the week ending July 1, 2000 / 28 Sivan 5760

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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. Hashem's "anger" is manifest by a plague which 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 Hashem 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.




    "And Korach took..." (16:1)

    "$500 for a pair of tefillin! You must be joking! For a couple of leather boxes with some Hebrew writing in them? Why, for a fraction of the price I could get something almost identical. If the whole point of tefillin is to be a reminder, what do I need all this crazy quasi-scientific precision for? What does it matter if there's a hairline crack in one letter? It's so small you can hardly see it!"

    "Open up your computer. What would happen if I took an X-acto razor blade and cut one of the wires here in the modem?"

    "Well of course, it wouldn't work�the modem won't receive anything."

    "It's exactly the same regarding tefillin -- if there's the tiniest break in a letter, then the spiritual modem called tefillin won't receive anything."

    Korach asked Moshe if a house full of Torah scrolls still needs a mezuza on the doorframe. "Yes," said Moshe. Korach started to mock him by saying, "If a single mezuza scroll affixed to the doorframe of a house is enough to remind us of Hashem, surely a house full of Torah scrolls will do the job!"

    In a way, Korach was the first proponent of "Kosher Style Glatt Treif." "As long as it looks Jewish from the outside, it's fine." According to Korach, the mitzvot are only symbolic, devoid of absolute performance parameters. Moshe's answer was that the Torah's mitzvot function within strict operational criteria: One mezuza on the door is what the Torah requires, no more and no less, even if a house full of Sifrei Torah may look more Jewish...

    Midrash, Rabbi Mordechai Perlman


    "Because the entire congregation is holy" (16:3)

    Korach's rebellion is the first movement in the history of our people to attempt to reform the Torah of Moshe. Korach and his followers did not deny that the Torah was Divine. How could they?! They also had stood at Sinai! Instead, they tried to cripple Moshe's authority by claiming that "since the entire nation heard Hashem speak at Sinai, we are all holy and capable of interpreting the Torah ourselves." Korach's view that each individual has the ability to determine how the Torah should apply to him became the precedent for attack by many groups that deviated from the Torah throughout history.

    This is a grave error. We need to follow the path of Torah as transmitted from Sage to Sage in each generation. The Torah is so complex that those who are not fully immersed in its teachings can easily distort it. We must always rely on the Sages in each generation to explain and apply the Torah in our era.

    Adapted from Rav Moshe Feinstein


    "They gathered together against Moshe and against Aharon and said to them...'Why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem' " (16:3)

    "You know our Rabbi? Boy, does he love to talk! He talks and talks! Talk! Talk! Talk! He must've been vaccinated with a phonograph needle. Why, he'd rather talk than eat! He loves hearing the sound of his voice. If he says something once, he'll say it again. He repeats himself over and�Are you listening to me? I said, he repeats himself�."

    Ironically, when criticizing a tzadik (righteous person), his enemies will pick on the area of the tzadik's greatest perfection, and the area in which they themselves are the most lacking. Thus, Korach accuses Moshe: "Why do you exalt yourselves," even though the Torah testifies that Moshe was "the humblest of all people on the face of the earth."

    Moshe's humility was genuine, emanating from his very essence. Thus, he made no attempt to appear humble, and in fact did not appear to be particularly humble.

    Korach, however, whose whole essence was based on external appearance, seemed to the people to be tremendously righteous, while in fact he was the one who sought greatness for himself.

    Sfat Emet and The Pschiske Rav


    Shmuel I 11:14 - 12:22


    This haftara contains Shmuel's chastisement, "Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken..." (12:3-4), echoing Moshe's words in parshat Korach, "Not one donkey have I taken from them." (Bamidbar16:15)

    Another connection between this haftara and the parsha is Shmuel's lineage: Shmuel was a scion from the house of Korach, and his prominence was compared to both that of Moshe and Aharon (Tractate Rosh Hashana 25b).

    The haftara begins with the nation's gathering at Gilgal to anoint King Saul and proclaim him King. However, Shmuel chastises the people for requesting a king, as it might indicate deterioration of the unique spiritual level of the nation that needed no king to live in harmony. His rebuke ends with a miracle where he calls out to G-d for rain in a mid-summer day, and a rainstorm begins.


    To demonstrate G-d's "displeasure" at their desire for a king, Shmuel performs a miracle, bringing a thunderstorm in the middle of the wheat harvest. Why this particular sign?

    The people didn't see anything wrong in requesting a king, as the Torah itself commands the appointing of a monarch (Deuteronomy 17:15). Yet, the Torah commands appointing a king because a king has power to enforce law and order and to maintain observance of Jewish law. Shmuel reproached them as they were then on a very high spiritual plane, and thus they didn't need a king. On the contrary, appointing a king now might bring the secular influence of neighboring nations, as it would change Israel's unique legislative and social structure to be like that of any regular nation in the land. Appointing a king should be put off until Torah observance is lax and needs enforcement; then it is acceptable despite its negative ramifications. Shmuel demonstrated this by the rainstorm, as rain is a blessing only when it falls in season; but not in the middle of the harvest.

    Love of the Land
    Selections from classical Torah sources
    which express the special relationship between
    the People of Israel and Eretz Yisrael


    The name chosen for this neighborhood, "Dwelling of Tranquility," was intended to convey a sense of security to the brave souls prepared to move outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and face the danger of Arab bandits.

    It was founded in 1860 by the English Jewish philanthropist, Sir Moses Montefiore, thirteen years before the building of Meah Shearim, and had few takers for its free apartments. Its pioneering produced results, however, and by 1888 there were ten Jewish neighborhoods west and northwest of the Old City of Jerusalem.

    Love of the Land Archives

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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