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 Parshas Korach - Vol. 7, Issue 35
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Vayikach Korach ben Yitzhar ben Kehas ben Levi (16:1)

Parshas Korach revolves around Korach’s challenge to the authority and leadership of Moshe and Aharon. Korach ultimately leads a full-fledged rebellion against them, one which ends in disastrous and tragic results. The Torah refers to Korach as the son of Yitzhar, who was the son of Kehas, who was the son of Levi. Rashi explains that the Torah doesn’t continue the family tree by stating that Levi was the son of Yaakov because Yaakov prayed that his name not be mentioned in association with Korach’s rebellion. As Korach was four generations removed from Yaakov, who wasn’t even alive at the time of this episode, what difference did it make to Yaakov whether his name was used in conjunction with Korach’s ancestry?

In his work Shemen HaTov, Rav Dov Weinberger explains that Yaakov’s life was full of difficulties and struggles. Even in the womb, he fought with his wicked twin Eisav to emerge first and claim the birthright. When he subsequently purchased the birthright from Eisav and used it to receive their father Yitzchok’s blessings, Eisav wanted to kill him and Yaakov had to flee for his life. He spent the next 20 years with his wicked uncle Lavan, with whom he also struggled as Lavan repeatedly tricked and deceived him. He returned to Canaan and again had to pacify Eisav, only to be confronted with the attack on his daughter Dina by Sh'chem and the jealousy of his sons toward his beloved Yosef.

In short, Yaakov’s was a life fraught with strife and conflict. He accepted this as his Divinely-ordained lot and engaged in these disputes solely for the sake of Heaven. Yet when Yaakov prophetically saw that his great-great-grandson would engage in an argument purely for the sake of his personal honor, he feared that people would assume that Korach was merely continuing in the aggressive, confrontational path that he inherited from Yaakov. Since nothing could be further from the truth, Yaakov prayed that his name not be used in association with Korach’s genealogy in order to emphasize that Korach’s selfish rebellion had no origins in the struggles engaged in by his ancestor Yaakov for the sake of Heaven.

Vayikahalu al Moshe v’al Aharon vayomru aleihem rav lachem ki kol haeida kulam kedoshim uvesocham Hashem u’madua tisnasu al kehal Hashem (16:3)

The Medrash Pliah teaches that Korach was motivated to rebel against Moshe when he learned about the mitzvah of parah adumah (the red heifer). As Korach’s arguments seem to have no connection to the red heifer, how is this Medrash to be understood? In what way did the parah adumah inspire Korach to challenge the authority and leadership of Moshe?

The Roshei Besamim notes that the Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 19:6) teaches that although the mitzvah of the red heifer is a chok – a mitzvah whose reason isn’t known to us – its rationale was revealed to Moshe. Korach argued that the rest of the Jewish people were actually on a higher level than Moshe because they performed this mitzvah without any understanding solely to perform the will of Hashem. As a result, this mitzvah inspired him to challenge Moshe’s leadership and begin his rebellion.

Alternatively, the Chemdas Tzvi cites Rashi (Shemos 20:2), who explains that Hashem said the 10 Commandments in the singular tense so that Moshe would be able to defend the Jews after the sin of the golden calf by arguing that they thought that the commandments, such as the belief in Hashem and the prohibition against idolatry, were given only to Moshe and not to them. However, Rashi also writes (Bamidbar 19:2) that the red heifer atones for the sin of the golden calf.

When Korach saw that there was a new means to atone for the golden calf and Moshe’s defense was no longer necessary, he was able to challenge Moshe’s authority. Now that there was no need for the claim that the singular tense indicated that the 10 Commandments were directed solely to Moshe, Korach argued that the entire nation was equally holy because they had all stood at Mount Sinai and heard Hashem’s commandments directed to all of them.

Finally, the Mas’as HaMelech explains that after the Jewish people saw the thunder and heard the shofar blasts at Mount Sinai, they became scared for their lives and insisted that Moshe speak to them instead of Hashem (Shemos 20:16). The Rashbam explains that had they not made this request, they would have heard all of the mitzvos directly from Hashem. Although they elected to forego this opportunity, they nevertheless recognized that they were on a level at which they were entitled to learn and understand all of the mitzvos on the highest level. When Moshe, to whom the reason for the mitzvah of parah adumah was revealed, refused to teach it to them, Korach was motivated to challenge his authority, based on the argument that all of the people were equally holy and were entitled to comprehend the Torah on Moshe’s level.

Vayishlach Hashem es Yeruba'al v'es B'dan v'es Yiftach v'es Shmuel (Shmuel 1 12:11 - Haftorah)

The Haftorah for Parshas Korach contains a lengthy rebuke given by Shmuel to the Jewish people in response to their request that he appoint a king to rule over them. His message of reproof included a review of Jewish history, in which he demonstrated to the people that Hashem had always sent them trustworthy and reliable leaders to save them from the hands of their enemies. Specifically, Shmuel mentioned that Hashem had sent Gidon, Shimshon, Yiftach, and Shmuel to lead them and rescue them.

However, while this verse can be taken at face value as a list of four Jewish leaders, the Radak points out that one of the four people mentioned is the one who was speaking, Shmuel, in which case it is difficult to understand why he speaks about himself in the third person. Seemingly, the verse should say, "Hashem sent Gidon, Shimshon, Yiftach, and me."

Rav Yitzchok Sorotzkin points out that most other prophets do speak in the first person, such as Yechezkel and Yirmiyahu repeatedly saying, "the word of Hashem came to me." However, there is one exception: Moshe wrote the Torah in the third-person, saying, "Hashem spoke to Moshe."

The Vilna Gaon explains that this is because other prophets received their prophecies from Hashem and later when to share the message with the Jewish people, after they had already stopped receiving prophecy. In contrast, the Zohar HaKadosh teaches that the Shechinah (Divine Presence) spoke directly out of Moshe's mouth, so it was Hashem relating the message to the Jewish people, not Moshe, and the Shechinah therefore spoke about Moshe in the third-person. Similarly, he explains that when Aharon said Hashem's Ineffable Name on Yom Kippur, it also came out via the Divine Presence speaking it.

The Vilna Gaon suggests that this distinction explains why in this week's Haftorah Shmuel didn't say ĺŕĺúé in the first-person, as he wasn't the one talking. Rather, the Shechinah was speaking out of his mouth, as the Radak writes that with the exception of Moshe, Shmuel was on a higher level than all of the other prophets and in this episode was able to reach the level of prophecy in which the Shechinah spoke directly out of his mouth, which explains why Hashem spoke about him in the third-person.

Based on this explanation, the Vilna Gaon explains the verse in Tehillim (99:6), "Moshe v'Aharon b'chohanav u'Shemuel b'korei shemo" - Moshe and Aharon were among His priests, and Shmuel among those who invoke His name - where Dovid seems to group Moshe, Aharon, and Shmuel together to say that they were equal. In what way were they equal, and what did they have in common? Each of them merited the phenomenon of the Shechinah speaking directly from their throats: Moshe whenever he gave over his prophecies, Aharon when he served as Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur, and Shmuel when he was "korei shemo" - when he said his name in this verse.

As far as why the Divine Presence specifically spoke from Shmuel's mouth in this situation, the Mussar HaNevi'im explains that this is the longest and most detailed rebuke that Shmuel gave the people in response to their demand for a king. One might be tempted to think that his resistance was due to personal feelings of hurt that they rejected him and his sons as leaders and insisted on a new king to lead them. In order to make it clear that this wasn't the case and his disapproval was based solely on spiritual considerations, the Shechinah itself delivered this message from his mouth so that it would be clear that it wasn't coming from Shmuel, but from Hashem.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) A simple reading of Korach’s arguments (16:3) makes them seem logical and reasonable. Where did Chazal see it alluded to that his true intentions were for the sake of his personal honor and glory? (Yirah V’Daas)

2) The Ramban (16:5) quotes the opinion of Rabbeinu Chananel, who maintains that the assembly of Korach was comprised of individuals from the tribe of Levi, although the Ramban himself disagrees. As the tribe of Levi refused to take part in the sins of the golden calf and the spies, why were they specifically ensnared in the sin of Korach’s rebellion? (Ayeles HaShachar 16:7)

3) The word in the Torah with the largest numerical value appears in Parshas Korach. Which word is it, and what is its significance? (Paneiach Raza)

4) After the leader of each tribe gave a staff with his name written on it to Moshe, Moshe placed them in the Mishkan. The next day, only Aharon’s staff had blossomed, sprouting ripe almonds, thereby proving his legitimacy as Kohen Gadol (17:21-24). What other miracle did Aharon’s staff perform during that time which ensured that the other staffs wouldn’t sprout? (Baal HaTurim Shemos 7:12)

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