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

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Vol. 7   No. 39

This issue is sponsored in honour of Binyomin Brodman's Bar Mitzvah

Parshas Korach

To Rise by Pushing Another Down

Korach, the son of Yitzhor, Kehos' second son, considered himself senior to Elitzofon, son of Uziel, Kehos' fourth and youngest son. And it was Elitzofon's appointment to the princehood of Kehos that sparked off his jealousy, which in turn resulted in the uprising that he led against Moshe Rabeinu.

Yet it was clearly not the princehood of Kehos alone that distrubed him. That may have been the last straw, but it was not his only bone of contention. He most certainly fancied the Kehunah Gedolah, on the grounds that Moshe Rabeinu had behaved undemocratically by appointing himself as leader of Klal Yisroel and by then presenting the Kehunah Gedolah to his brother. Indeed, Moshe Rabeinu, in his initial reply to Korach's attack, asked him why he sought the position of Kehunah Gedolah (see Targum Unklus) seeing as he had already been appointed to the privileged position of Levi (and carrier of the Oron, to boot).


Nor is it unreasonable to suggest that he also coveted Moshe Rabeinu's position as leader of Klal Yisroel. This is strongly hinted in his statement, "Because all of the congregation is holy, so why do you (Moshe and Aharon) raise yourselves above the congregation of Hashem?" on which Rashi writes, 'If you took for yourselves the sovereignty, then you had no right to pick your brother for the kehunah'. His attack on Moshe's leadership suggests that he wished it for himself - just as his reference to Aharon's kehunah reflected his own interest in that position. And this contention is also borne out by the Medrash regarding On ben Peles' 'escape'.

The Medrash explains how On's clever wife got him out of his predicament. In her initial reaction to her husband's account of the rebellion, she told him, 'But what do you stand to gain from all this? Till now, Moshe Rabeinu was the leader and you were nothing but a sha'mes; and from now on Korach will be the leader and you will still be nothing but a sha'mes. So what point is there in joining the uprising?' It is quite clear from the Medrash that part of the aims of the rebellion at least, was to install Korach as the new leader of Klal Yisroel. In any case, is it not invariably the leader of the coup who emerges as the new leader?


When a candidate sets about letting his candidacy be known, he does so in one of two ways: he either informs the public of his own superior ability, or he denigrates his rival, with the aim of demonstrating his inferiority. This latter methos is a typical example of 'miskabed bi'klon chavero' (raising oneself by denigrating someone else), which Chazal strictly forbid, and this is the method that Korach chose to employ. The story is told of Rabbi Yisroel Salanter zt"l, who once saw two children playing. When one of the children pushed the other one into a pit and proclaimed himself to be the 'King of the castle', he predicted that that child would turn out to be a rosho.

'But surely,' someone asked, 'that is the way children play?'

'Maybe,' replied R. Yisroel, 'but he could just as well have climbed a rock and made the same proclamation. Why push the other one down? That bears the mark of a rosho.'


If we need any proof of Korach's evil character, it surely lies in the very fact that, instead of using the conventional and permissible method of boosting his own leadership abilities, he simply set about attacking Moshe and Aharon's qualifications, tactics that showed up Korach for what he was.

Had he complained about any other Jew, his evil intent would have been adequately proven, as we have explained. Now that his complaint was levelled at the greatest and most righteous leader of all time, it goes without saying that his sin was compounded manifold. One simply cannot challenge a Torah-leader (even one of lesser calibre than Moshe Rabeinu) in public and hope to get away with it. And Korach might have learned his lesson from Aharon and Miriam, who, not long before, had been severely reprimanded when, for much less, G-d had interceded on Moshe's behalf, and taken his part. One might even say that he was (quite literally) put in his place. He attempted to raise himself by pushing Moshe and Aharon down, but in fact, it was he who was pushed down. And it was Moshe and Aharon whose esteem rose in the eyes of the people.


Parshah Pearls


The Connecting Link

Rashi, at the end of Parshas Sh'lach Lecho, points out that the parshah ends with the three mitzvos of avodoh-zoroh, Shabbos and Tzitzis, each of which are compared to all the mitzvos.

The P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'Gro points out that, just as the melochos on Shabbos are divided into four groupings, of thirteen, eleven, eight and seven melochos respectively, so too, is it customary to arrange on each corner of one's tzitzis, five knots, and thirteen, eleven, eight and seven loops, following the same sequence as the melochos of Shabbos, and creating a link between Shabbos and Tzitzis.

Neither is this comparison a mere coincidence, as indicated by the Medrash which explains the juxtaposition of the parshah of Tzitzis to that of the man who was sentenced to death for desecrating the Shabbos, in the following way. It seems that following that episode, Moshe complained to Hashem that, whereas during the week, Yisroel had Tefilin to remind them constantly not to sin, there was nothing to keep them away from sin on Shabbos, when they do not wear Tefilin. And Hashem responded by giving them the Mitzvah of Tzitzis. So we see that the mitzvah of Tzitzis was given essentially to supplement Shabbos (despite the fact that once it was given, it extended to the other days of the week, too).


Between Heaven and Earth

By querying Moshe Rabeinu's leadership, Korach was casting doubts on one of the major foundations of Judaism - Torah min ha'Shomayim. This fits beautifully with his decision to query, of all the Taryag mitzvos, the mitzvah of tzitzis. After all, it is the mitzvah of tzitzis, and not only the mitzvah of tzitzis, but that of T'cheiles (the very aspect of tzitzis that he was querying) which links us with G-d's Throne, as Chazal explain - 'T'cheiles resembles the sea ... and the sky resembles the Throne of Glory'. By denying tzitzis and in particular, that of t'cheiles, he was in effect proving his point by denying the connecting link between this world and G-d's Throne.


A Bow, A Spear and Sword

Based on the posuk in Tehilim (57:5) "People whose teeth are a spear and arrows, and whose tongue is a bow," the Kli Yokor points out that the first letters of 'Keshes' (a bow), 'Romach' (a short sword), Chanis (a spear) spell 'Korach'.


Double Trouble

"If these people die (a natural death) like everybody else, and what happens to all men will happen to them, then G-d did not send me " (16:29).

What is the significance of the double expression used here by the Torah?

According to the Ba'al ha'Turim, the second phrase ("and what happens to all men ...") refers to the posuk in Ki Siso - that G-d visits the sins of the fathers on the sons - in other words, He gives a family a chance, up to four generations, to make good their sins before destroying them - since the same word is used there "Poked avon ovos ..." as here "... yi'poked aleihem".

Moshe's double request therefore comprised: 1) that Korach and his men should die an unnatural death ; and 2) that they should die at once, without being given a chance to do teshuvah.


When G-d Obeyed Men

There are two people in history who challenged G-d to perform an open miracle in the presence of all the people, at the time and place of their choice: Moshe Rabeinu and Eliyohu ha'Novi. (Incidentally, the Medrash compares Eliyohu to Moshe in many other respects as well.)

Moshe Rabeinu asked G-d to order the earth to swallow Korach and his followers - otherwise he himself would believe Korach's accusation (that Hashem had not sent him).

Eliyohu asked for a fire to come down from Heaven (not in the Beis ha'Mikdosh and not to consume regular Korbonos) and to burn the saturated bull that he had shechted and placed on the (forbidden) Mizbei'ach on Har ha'Carmel - otherwise he would believe that it was G-d who had turned away the hearts of Yisroel from believing in Him.


With the eyes of all Yisroel on them, one has only to imagine what might have happened had G-d refused to respond. But He did respond, as the posuk writes in Tehilim "He does the will of those who fear Him, and He listens to their cries and saves them".


Korach and Moshe's Hand

"And there will not be (another occurrence) like Korach and his congregation, like Hashem spoke through the hand of Moshe to him" (17:5).

Rashi cites a Medrash that "the hand of Moshe" is a reference to the incident at the burning bush when Moshe's hand was stricken with tzora'as. It is a hint, says the Medrash, that in future, anyone who would atttempt to usurp the Kehunah would be stricken with tzora'as - as indeed happened to King Uziyoh (Divrei ha'Yomim II, 26:19).


How strange, comments the Kli Yokor! One might have expected the Torah to draw an analogy between someone who starts up with the Kehunah and Miriam, who was stricken with tzora'as for starting up with Moshe, he remarks. But what on earth is the connection between someone who usurps the Kehunah and Moshe Rabeinu, whose tzora'as was for having wrongly suspected Klal Yisroel of not believing him?

It stands to reason, he explains, that someone who is punished for wrongly suspecting a fellow-Jew receives the same punishment that his fellow-Jew would have received, had the suspicion turned out to be correct, in line with Hashem's policy of punishing measure for measure. And that is equally true of Klal Yisroel in Egypt. Now what was the sin of which Moshe accused Yisroel? He specifically said to Hashem "And they will not believe me ... because they will say that G-d did not appear to you!" (Sh'mos 4:1) - the very sin of which Korach was guilty when he accused Moshe of appointing himself leader, and Aharon, Kohen Godol.

The Medrash's comparison is now appropriate. Moshe was stricken with tzora'as because he accused Yisroel of not believing that G-d had appeared to him, a clear sign that that is what Yisroel would have deserved had his accusation been justified. And that is the just punishment coming to anyone who usurps the Kehunah, because, like Korach, he is denying that Aharon and his sons were Divinely chosen, but believes rather, that Moshe chose his brother on his own initiative.


Korach himself by the way, was not stircken with tzora'as, explains the K'li Yokor, because, due to his many other sins, he was to receive death, and was therefore absolved from the lesser punishment.



Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)

78. Not to hate any observant Jew in one's heart - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:17) "Do not hate your brother in your heart".

Should one Jew sin towards another, the latter is not permitted to hate him in his heart for what he did. He is obligated to speak to him, and to ask him why he did it, and to erase the hatred from his heart.

But if one sees a fellow-Jew performing a sin and, after warning him (in a positive manner), he continues to transgress, then it is a mitzvah to hate him (since he is not behaving like "your brother"). Similarly, this la'av does not apply to a non-practicing Jew (who does not behave like your brother). In fact, it is even a mitzvah to hate him, should he refuse to mend his ways (though this might not apply to everyone who fits this description today, since many of them are considered to be 'Tinokos she'Nishba'im' - like babies who were captured, and who never knew better).

This mitzvah applies to men and women everywhere and at all times.


79. Not to put one's friend to shame (or to embarrass him) - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:17) "And do not bear a sin because of him", and this sin is compounded if it is performed in public. Our sages have said in Bovo Metzi'a (59a) 'Someone who shames his friend in public, has no portion in the World to Come'.

One should therefore take great care not to shame or embarrass a child, as well as a grown-up, and not to call him by a name that embarrasses him. This pertains to personal relationships, but when it comes to someone who sins, should he refuse to retract after he has been corrected privately, then one may even shame him in public, and even publicise his sin until he recants.

This mitzvah applies to men and women everywhere and at all times.


80. Not to take revenge on one's fellow-Jew - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:18) "Do not take revenge". 'Revenge' constitutes paying him back for what he did to oneself. For example, if someone refused to lend me his hammer yesterday, I am not allowed to retaliate by refusing to lend him my spade today.


81. Not to bear a grudge against a fellow-Jew - as the Torah writes there " ... and do not bear a grudge". 'Bearing a grudge' constitues retaining a spark of hatred in one's heart for what the person did. For example, it is forbidden to say to a person who asks to borrow something 'Here you are, in spite of the fact that yesterday, you refused to lend me'. One is obligated to erase what the other person did (or didn't do) from one's heart entirely, and lend him with a full heart.

Both taking revenge and bearing a grudge are extremely evil traits, because, when one comes to think of it, all material matters are of no consequence and simply not worth taking revenge or bearing a grudge over.

This mitzvah applies to men and women everywhere and at all times.


82. Not to refrain from saving one's fellow-Jew from a dangerous situation - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:16) "Do not stand by while your friend's life is in danger". If one sees a fellow-Jew drowning in a river, or in any other life-threatening situation, one is obliged to save him in any way possible. Included in this mitzvah is saving him from a gentile or a robber who intends to rob him - if he is able to persuade the robber to desist, he is obliged to do so. Similarly, if one walks past his friend's house, and sees the front-door or his windows open, assuming that there is nobody at home, he should close them to protect his friend's house against theft.

This mitzvah applies to men and women everywhere and at all times.


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