Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 6 No. 34

Parshas Korach

(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)


"Someone who prays for good seeks good-will, (whereas) someone who seeks evil will find it happening to him. Someone who trusts in his wealth, he will fall, and the tzadikim will blossom like a leaf" (Mishlei 1:27-28).

King Shlomoh is advising us here to work towards the good of one's friend and not towards causing him harm, because we ourselves, are at the receiving end of our actions. We will receive payment for all that we do, measure for measure.

Chazal also referred to this, when they said in Bovo Kama (92a) 'Someone who prays on behalf of his friend, and he himself is in need of the same thing, will be answered first, as the possuk says in Iyov "And G-d returned the losses of Iyov when he prayed for his friend" (42:10)'.


Similarly, a leader of the generation is obligated to pray for the people that he leads. If he does not, he is punished for failing in his duty. For Chazal have taught, with regard to someone who killed inadvertently, and who is obliged to run to a city of refuge and remain there until the death of the Kohen Godol - that it is because the Kohen Godol should have prayed for the people to reach a level where there are no murders - even inadvertent ones. Indeed, anyone who is able to pray and does not do so is termed a sinner, for so Shmuel ha'Novi said to Yisroel "Cholilah that I should sin to Hashem by refraining from praying to Him on your behalf" (Shmuel I 12:23).

Dovid ha'Melech too, would pray to Hashem for the needs and good health of people (even of wicked people), for so he wrote in Tehillim (35:13) "And as for me, when they became ill, I dressed in sack-cloth, I tormented myself with fasting", concluding with the words "and my prayer will rebound" (because he too, stood to benefit from his prayers for others). And in chapter 141 (5) he wrote "as long as I live, I will pray for them because they are evil".


And in the same way as "Someone who prays for (someone else's) good seeks (his own) good-will," so too, will he find that, if he makes efforts to upset his friend and to cause him harm, it will boomerang on him, as the possuk continues "(whereas) someone who seeks evil (for another person) will find it happening to himself". He not only fails to seek good on his behalf, but he even seeks his downfall! Therefore, he will be made to suffer measure for measure.


"Someone who trusts in his wealth, he will fall." It is usually a man of means who seeks the downfall of others, because eventually, the rich begin to trust in their money. Wealth tends to go to a person's head; it causes him to become conceited, to avenge himself on others and to land them in trouble. The word he ("hu") refers to the man who trusts in wealth - he will fall, as Shlomo wrote in Koheles (5:12) "Wealth that is kept for the owner to his detriment", or perhaps it means that it, the wealth, will fall.

He placed his trust in his wealth, so he will be deprived of it, as he wrote there "And he lost that wealth in a terrible (traumatic) way". Whilst regarding wealth, Shlomoh writes in Mishlei (23:5) "You blink, and it is no longer there, because it will grow wings like an eagle (and fly away) ..."

"And the tzadikim will blossom like a leaf." He compares the speed of a tzadik's success to the blossoming of a leaf, which grows before the fruit. This is in contrast to the person who relies on his riches, because he will fall quckly, whereas the former who trusts in Hashem will flourish quickly, as the possuk writes in Tehillim "A tzadik will flourish like a date-palm".


According to the Medrash, "Someone who prays for good seeks good-will" refers to Mordechai, and "Someone who seeks evil will find it happening to him", to Homon. "Someone who trusts in his wealth" refers to Korach (who also lost his wealth), "and the tzadikim will blossom like a leaf", to Moshe and Aharon (about whom it is written "and behold Aharon's stick blossomed for the tribe of Aharon").

There were two wealthy men in the world - Korach (a Jew), and Homon (a non-Jew). Both listened to their wives and that is what caused their downfall: Homon listened to his wife's advice and fell, as the possuk writes: "And Zeresh his wife ... said to him 'Let them prepare a tree fifty cubits tall' ". That is what he did ... and look what happened to him!

Korach too, listened to his wife and fell: He returned from the Beis ha'Medrash one day and told her that they had learned about the obligation of placing tzitzis on each of the four corners of the garment, adding that one thread on each corner was to consist of techeiles.

"How Moshe mocks you!" said his wife. "I will make you a garment that is completely techeiles." So Korach dressed the two hundred and fifty heads of Sanhedrin (who were mainly from the tribe of Re'uven) in cloaks that were made entirely of techeiles, and taking the cloak that his wife had made for him, he came with the men and stood before Moshe ... and look what happened to him!

Parshah Pearls


Pride and Prejudice

However powerful Korach's argument may have been, it was seriously flawed and totally unacceptable, because of a Gemoro in Bechoros (38a). The Gemoro writes there that the ruling of a talmid-chochom is valid only as long as he has not become personally involved in the outcome. The moment however, he issues the ruling with vested interest in its outcome, his ruling is invalid.

Korach presented his argument that all the people are equal and that Moshe and Aharon were overstepping the mark, and his proof that a garment made entirely of techeiles should be exempt from tzitzis, only after he became interested in the leadership and in the Kehunah Gedoloh, and only after he became jealous of the princehood of Elitzofon ben Uziel.

He had a vested interest in the case, and was therefore prejudiced. Consequently, he was automatically disqualified from stating an opinion in the matter.


This lies inherent, explains the Steipler Gaon z"l, in the house full of seforim and garment which is all techeiles. It is the house that contains the seforim, and the garment to which the tzitzis are attached, that represent the personal bias of which Korach was guilty and which he was now presenting in his argument. And it is the Mezuzah and the thread of techeiles, which represent complete devotion to Hashem (entirely for the sake of Hashem), that he was rejecting - because even though he may not have been aware of it, it was not what he truly wanted.


Property Goes Down

"... and do not touch whatever belongs to them, because you will (then) be destroyed too, on account of all their sins" (16:26). It is not clear why someone who touched the property of Korach or his men, would be destroyed? The Ibn Ezra explains that this is a warning against somebody who might try to loot their belongings. Since G-d had decreed that they were tainted and were destined to go down together with them, anybody who attempted to take such property, would go down when it did.


The Ramban resolves the difficulty quite differently. According to him, the phrase "because you will then be destroyed" does not pertain to the prohibition of touching the property, which precedes it, but to the previous phrase "Go away from the tents of these wicked men ... because you will (then) be destroyed". Klal Yisroel, who sympathised with Korach, were not worthy of being spared from the same fate as Korach and his followers, were they to be found in their vicinity when the earth swallowed them up. Consequently, they were warned to move away for their own good. Moshe and Aharon, on the other hand, were ordered to move away, so that their merits should not prevent Korach and his followers from suffering the fate that awaited them (Seforno).


Falling on His Face

"And G-d spoke to Moshe ... separate from this congregation ... and they (Moshe and Aharon) fell on their faces" (17:10) - with reference to the people who grumbled that Moshe and Aharon were responsible for the death of Korach and his congregation. They did not daven, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, like they did earlier, because the prayer did not emerge from their mouths fluently, which explains why Moshe then said "because the anger has gone out" - much in the same way as Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa in B'rochos (34b) knew whether his prayer for a sick person had been answered or not.


When the Ba'al ha'Turim writes that they did not daven like they did earlier, he appears to be referring to possuk 16:4, when Korach and his congregation first confronted them, where Moshe also fell on his face. However, it is not clear from where the Ba'al ha'Turim knows to say that there he davened and here he didn't, seeing as the Torah uses the same phrase in both places. Indeed, Rashi there (in 16:4), implies that Moshe was lost for words, and did not daven. (Interestingly, according to Targum Yonoson, he davened on both occasions.)


Rabeinu Bachye has a unique and novel way of explaining why Moshe fell on his face, when Korach approached him the first time. (Presumably, he will explain the second episode in the same way.) To begin with, he says, it was only Moshe who fell on his face on that first occasion, and not Aharon, because it was Aharon who was under attack from Korach, and Aharon was far too humble to retaliate. Moshe on the other hand, was goaded into action by the very fact that his brother had been so deeply insulted. He fell on his face in defence of Aharon, because falling on one's face has the power to severely punish one's enemies. Presumably then, falling on his face was merely a preliminary to the test that followed and the ultimate destruction of the sinners. And it is from here that Rebbi Eliezer learned to punish Raban Gamliel (for placing him in Cherem - see Bovo Metzi'a 59b), by falling on his face and saying Tachanun. (Tachanun is a derivative of 'techinah' which has the connotation of Midas ha'Din, on one's left-hand, which represents the Midas ha'Din, too, Rabeinu Bachye writes).


Blossoms, Buds and Almonds

"And it was on the following day ... and Aharon's staff had blossomed for the house of Levi. and it had produced blossoms, brought out buds and grown almonds" (17:23). The purpose of this miracle was to serve as a warning signal to those who would usurp the Kehunah. They would be punished swiftly - like almonds, the fastest-growing fruit, which ripens in twenty-one days.


The triple miracle (the blossoms, the buds and the almonds) represents the three people who did indeed usurp the Kehunah Gedolah, points out the Ba'al ha'Turim: Korach, Yerov'om ben Ne'vot and King Uziyah (Korach and King Uziyoh were indeed punished swiftly, though this does not seem to have been the case with Yerov'om ben Nevot).


History of the World

( Part 53)

(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros)


Aristotle lives at this time. He is a disciple of Socrates and Plato, and the teacher of Alexander the Great, whom he will outlive by twenty years, though from the letter he writes to him, just before his death, he appears to have died before him.

In that letter, he describes how he met Shimon ha'Tzadik, and how it deeply influenced his entire way of thinking. Imploring his disciple not to follow the words of the philosophers, but only of Torah, he informs him that he has retracted from everything that he ever wrote and that if he could, he would withdraw all his books - since they clash with the words of Torah, which he now sees as the ultimate truth. According to some commentaries, he even converts to Judaism before his death.



Apikorus and Min are the names of two irreligious men who deny that there is reward in the World to Come. Their followers become known as Apikorsim and Minim.



It is one thousand years since Yisroel left Egypt. Alexander Mokdon attacks Daryovesh the second of Persia and drives him out of his land. Although he ascended the throne already in 3442, it is only from now that documents are dated according to his reign. Some say that Chagai, Zecharyah and Mal'achi die in this year (see year 2442), as does Ezra. Meshulam ben Zerubovel (Nechemyah) dies and his son, Chananyah, takes over the leadership from him.


Shimon ha'Tzadik, the Kohen Godol, is from the remnants of the Anshei Keneses ha'Gedoloh. Some say he is also known as Ido ben Yehoshua ben Yehotzodok - Yehotzodok was the last Kohen Godol in the time of the first Beis ha'Mikdosh and Yehoshua Kohen Godol, the first in the time of the second. Yehoshua was also the brother of Ezra ha'Sofer. Shimon ha'Tzadik is Kohen Godol for forty years. He is the last surviving member of the Anshei Keneses ha'Gedoloh.

From the possuk in Nechemyah it would appear however that Shimon ha'Tzadik is not a son of Yehoshua, but a son of Chonov, who is a seventh generation grandson of Yehoshua Kohen Godol. That will mean however, that the Anshei Keneses Ha'gedoloh did not all live at the same time, but were spread over eight generations.

Five 'miracles' occurred regularly during Shimon ha'Tzadik's lifetime: the red thread would turn white; the lot for Hashem came out each year in the Kohen Godol's right-hand (both on Yom Kippur); the Ner Ma'arovi (the second lamp, according to those who maintain that the Menorah stood from east to west) was always the first to be lit, but the last to go out; the fire on the Mizbei'ach burned strongly (continuously) - it never went out; the Omer (on Pesach), the Sh'tei ha'Lechem (on Shevu'os) and the Lechem ha'Ponim (every Shabbos) were blessed (i.e. every Kohen who received even the smallest portion from any of them, was fully satisfied).

Ezra (who was not a Kohen Godol) prepared the second Poroh Adumoh (Elozor, the son of Aharon, the first); Shimon ha'Tzadik prepares two.

Alexander Mokdon marches towards Yerusholayim, but when he sees Shimon ha'Tzadik coming out to meet him wearing the eight garments of Kehunah Gedolah, he dismounts and bows down to him, much to the dismay of his troops and the Samaritans (who were the ones to convince him that the Jews would never accept his leadership, and would rebel against him, and who were now accompanying him towards Yerusholayim to enjoy the fruits of their labour). The King, however, explained to them that it was an angel who resembled this man who appeared to him in his dreams and encouraged him to go into battle, and who was responsible for his victories.


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