Friday, July 8, 2016

Parshas Korach: First Aliyah in-depth:

This Week’s Parsha – Korach:

This week’s parsha is Korach, and a descent amount of it talks about ‘the Korach revolt’. Along with Korach, were Dathan, Aviram, and 250 men that Korach gathered. Now, you might think that Korach was just a terrible person, but he actually was a good person, however, he made a very, very wrong turn, and became a bad person. We all have to watch out for this, as our Yetzer hara/Evil inclination will always keep working to try to mess us up, and make us do bad things. In other words, we have to always be on guard, moving forward in our service of Hashem, because, as many discuss, if we are not moving forward in serving Hashem, then we are moving backward. This is very important to remember. Even if we are a very good person, like Korach was, if we are not careful, we might slip up like Korach also did, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid. Korach made a very easy mistake to make – that is, as Rashi brings down, quoting from the Midrash, he was upset that Elitzaphan ben Uzziel was head of the Kohathim, instead of him. (He was also upset about the fact that he was not the Kohen Gadol, I believe). How is this, an easy mistake to make? Well, if we look at it, Korach was mad that somebody had been given a special thing, or position which he didn’t get, and then it just grew from there. Unfortunately, I am sure that many people don’t get something, and it is given to another person, and they get very upset about this. However, most people do not gravitate to the sins of Korach (Baruch Hashem). On the outside, it would seem that getting upset that somebody got something that you wanted would seem fine and logical. But go a little deeper: We must realize that Hashem controls the entire world, and whatever He makes happen is for the best. If something is given to somebody else, it was obviously supposed to be! Hashem’s Judgement is always perfect, and we can never question it. Every Jew must try to protect themselves from the feelings that started Korach on his downfall, and may Hashem help us all to do this, Amein. Unfortunately, Korach got a bad idea in his head, and actually went through with it. That is very dangerous. And, the thing is, Korach went from being upset that he wasn’t given something that somebody else was given, to, in reality, questioning the perfect Judgement of Hashem. We must try never to do anything like this, even on a more minor level, and in this merit, may Hashem send Mashiach very, very speedily in every Jew’s days, Amein, so may it be His Will.
We could spend so much time discussing this, but we must get on to the parsha, so, now on to the parsha: The first passuk/verse is: ‘Vayikach Korach ben Yitzhar, ben Kohath, ben Levi, vi’Dathan va’Aviram b’nei Eliav, vi’On ben Peles b’nei Reuven/And Korach, son of Yitzhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, took, and Dathan and Aviram the sons of Eliav, and On son of Peles, the sons of Reuven.’ We might ask though, what did Korach ‘take’? Rashi quotes from Midrash Tanchuma, which explains that one possibility of the meaning of ‘Korach took’, is that he ‘took’ leaders of the Sanhedrin with words, to try to attract them to join him. Unfortunately, sometimes, somebody who is trying to lead a bad movement, speaks with words that get people interested, and then sometimes, others might even join them, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid. They make it sound like a good thing, when, in reality, it a very bad thing! I will tell you a story in line with this: The Russian Government once decreed that all Rabbis had to have a secular education – not just a Torah one. This was a terrible decree. The Rabbis gathered in the Old Russian Capital City of St. Petersburg, to decide what to do about it. One of the people, who attended, was a maskil (a Jew who thought that we should fit into the gentile society) who was a gifted speaker. He rose, and urged acceptance of the decree, arguing that it was good for Jewry. Many Rabbis were actually won over by his speech, as he was a very good speaker. The time of voting was approaching, and there was a danger that the vote of the Rabbis might go in favor of this horrible decree. HaRav Itzele Peterburger zt"l was one of those present, and he decided to take action. He knew that this maskil had a weakness; he reacted strangely to whistling. As the maskil stood before the audience of Rabbis, praising the benefit of the evil decree, Reb Itzele began to whistle. The maskil turned aside, and started to blink and make strange faces. The Rabbis now realized that they had been listening to the words of a fool, and they voted vehemently against the decree.1 As we see in this story, the person who was arguing for a bad thing, won people over by his talented speaking (at first), even though he was in the wrong.
Now back to the parsha: There are different explanations on the first passuk/verse, why the Torah lists Korach’s genealogy back to Levi, but not back to Yaakov; however, I will list specifically the explanation of the Nikolsburger Rebbe shlita (Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits shlita):

He explains that the name ‘Yitzhar’ can come from the root word ‘Tzohar’ which means ‘light’, the name ‘Kohath’ can mean to gather people, and Levi can mean ‘accompanying’, thus implying a strong connection with Hashem. Korach was great person, he says, who achieved many lofty levels in serving Hashem. He achieved ‘light’, i.e. he was like a great and holy light, he achieved leadership, i.e. he was very great, and could ‘gather’ people together, and lead them, and he achieved connection with Hashem. However, he did not achieve humility. The root word of ‘Yaakov’ is ‘Eikev’, which means heel, meaning that a person feels that they are lowly like a heel, and not high. This is humility. Says the Nikolsburger Rebbe shlita beautifully, one of the reasons why Korach’s genealogy was not listed back to Yaakov, was because he had achieved the good traits which the other people’s names meant, but he didn’t reach humility, which is what Yaakov’s name implies.2 This a very beautiful thought.
Now back to the parsha: Korach and his assembly gathered against Moshe and Aharon, and complained that they had taken too much for themselves (according to Rashi), and they shouldn’t make themselves higher than the other Jews, because every Jew is holy, and Hashem is in their midst. First, Korach was denying one of the foundations of Judaism – that Hashem chose Moshe to lead the Jews. Obviously, Hashem chose that Aharon would be the Kohen Gadol, and that Moshe would lead the Jews, so really, Korach had nothing to complain about, because Moshe and Aharon had not raised themselves above other Jews, Hashem had raised them!! Now, there are some very nice Mefarshim/commentaries on this passuk/verse which I will quote: 1) HaRav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik zt"l explains beautifully, that Korach forgot a very important thing here: Every Jew is, yes, naturally holy, but each person has the ability to become more and more holy, and Moshe and Aharon did so. So, true, we are all holy, but it is up to us how individually holy we want to be, and we can only become very holy through serving Hashem properly.3 This is very important. 2) The Chassidishe Masters like to "chop", so to speak, words out of verses, and derive wonderful lessons from them. And they do just that on this verse: They explain that the term that Korach used ‘U’vi’socham Hashem/And Hashem is in their midst’, teaches us a great lesson: They explain beautifully that our good deeds are like our own ‘G-dliness’, so to speak (this is a very deep concept). And we are supposed to act with ‘Hashem in our midst’, that is, we should never brag about them, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid. We do not need to show off our good things, they say, rather, we should keep them ‘in our midst’, and be humble about them. If we do a good deed, not everybody has to know about it.4 This is very important to remember.
Back to the parsha: Moshe heard what they said, and fell on his face.  There are some very nice commentaries on this verse as well, which I will quote: 1) Rashi quotes from Midrash Tanchuma, and Bamidbar Rabbah, which explains that one of the reasons maybe, why Moshe fell on his face, was because he felt like he could not pray for forgiveness for Korach and his assembly, as he had already had to ask Hashem for forgiveness for the Jews three times before this (at the Cheit ha’eigel/Sin of the golden calf in Parshas Ki Sisa, with the Jew who were complaining in Parshas Behaaloscha, and with the Spies in last Parsha - Shelach). 2) There is a story about two Chassidishe Masters that ties in with this: Once, when Rebbe Zusia of Anipole zt"l was visiting Rebbe Shmelke of Nikolsburg zt"l, he asked Reb Shmelke to learn with him. Reb Shmelke replied that he would teach him something of the revealed wisdom, and then he (Reb Zusia) would have to teach him something from the secret wisdom. Reb Zusia agreed to this condition, and humbly, he asked Reb Shmelke to teach him a Mishnah, and translate it into Yiddish. Reb Shmelke began from Berachos, and taught him the first Mishnah, which starts with ‘Mai’aimasai korin es haShema?..../From when do we read the Shema?... etc.’ Suddenly, the holy Reb Zusia threw himself to the ground in fear and trembling, and asked "How do you know that ‘Mai’aimasai’ means ‘From when’? Maybe it comes from the word ‘eimah’ which means fear! Thus the Mishnah would be read ‘From my fear [of Hashem] I read the Shema’! At this, Reb Shmelke said "You be the teacher!"5 3) Rebbe Moshe of Kozhnitz zt"l used to use this story to explain a possible reason for why Moshe fell on his face; when Korach mentioned Hashem’s Name (when he said ‘and Hashem is in their midst’), Moshe fell on his face, to show that one must not say Hashem’s Name without thinking, or just to make a point, but rather you should only say it for a good reason, and with awe and trepidation at its holiness.6
Back to the parsha: Moshe told Korach and his assembly that in the morning [of the next day], Hashem would make known who was His, and who was holy, and would bring them near to Him. Yet again, there are some nice commentaries on this which I will quote: 1) Rashi explains that ‘who is His’ is the person for the Levi services, and ‘who is holy’ can refer to the person for the Kahuna, i.e. the Kohen. 2) The Chassidishe Masters explain that this verse teaches us a message, if we translate it a different way: They explain that this verse, if translated differently, can mean ‘Hashem knows who is for himself (i.e. who cares too much about themselves, and does things really only for themselves), and who is [truly] holy, and [the truly holy person] He will bring close to Himself.’ Some people look like they are holy people; but really, they might be doing the good things for themselves, not Hashem (Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid). However, Hashem always knows who is doing things for themselves, and who is actually holy.7

Back to the parsha: Moshe told them to take fire pans, put upon them incense, and bring them up to Hashem the next day, and the person who Hashem would choose, they are the holy one. Basically, Moshe kept trying to dissuade Korach and his assembly from what they were doing, but they refused to listen. However, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 109a) explains that On ben Peles’ righteous wife convinced him to leave Korach’s assembly. In the end, Hashem opened up the ground and it swallowed Korach, Dathan, and Aviram up, and all of their possessions, and their families. And Hashem killed the other two-hundred-and-fifty men through a fire. However, we are told that Korach’s sons did Teshuva/repentance, and stayed alive.

This Shabbos – the third of Tammuz – will be the yartzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l (Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt"l). He was a very great person – the leader of the Lubavitch movement for a while. He was respected and looked up to, for the Gadol/great person which he was. May Hashem place his Neshama/Soul in a high place in Shamayim/Heaven.

There are 95 Passukim/verses in this parsha.

Have a great Shabbos everyone!

1  Sparks of Mussar, pages 95-96. By HaRav Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt"l.  Feldheim Publications©
2©, 'Accepting Torah Leadership'. The Nikolsburger Rebbe shlita, on Parshas Korach.
Stone Edition Chumash, Parshas Korach. Artscroll Publications©
4©.  From the shiur 'Chassidic Gems on Parshas Korach'.  Given by HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita.
5  Parshas Korach.  From 'Menoras Zahav, Parshas Korach'.
6  Parshas Korach.  From 'Toras Moshe'. 
7©.  From the shiur 'Chassidic Gems on Parshas Korach'.  Given by HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita.

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