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

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Vol. 9   No. 35

This issue is sponsored in honor of
ha'Rav Yosef Avrohom Yeshaya Breuer
and Nechomo B'rochoh Chrysler n.y.
on the occasion of their engagement.

Parshat Korach

Come, Let Me Show You . . .

The Torah describes how Dasan and Aviram and their families, and Korach and his entire household (i.e. his slaves and maidservants [see Chizhuni]), fell into the 'mouth of the earth', and how Yisrael fled the scene at the sound of their screams.

Interestingly, the two hundred and fifty men who were burned, did not suffer the same fate as Dasan and Aviram. The Chizkuni ascribes this to the fact that, unlike the latter, who defied Moshe Rabeinu and refused to obey his instructions, they carried out Moshe's instructions to bring the Ketores.

And the screams that so frightened Yisrael, says Targum Yonasan, were not simply the screams of terror that one would expect from people in such a situation, but their cries of 'Moshe is genuine, his Torah is genuine and we are imposters!'


The K'li Yakar, commenting on the expression "nosu le'kolom" (instead of "nosu mi'kolom'), suggests that K'lal Yisrael ran towards their voices, to hear what they were saying, and not that they fled the scene, as we explained. They wanted to listen to what they were saying, he explains, to hear their confession, in order to discover where they had erred, to avoid becoming guilty of the same sin. Sure enough, their words reveal the depth of their sin, since they imply that they had denied not only Moshe Rabeinu's leadership, but the Torah's authority as well. This might of course, refer to Torah she'be'al Peh (the oral Torah) which 'Moshe received from Sinai', and which they automatically refuted when they rejected Moshe.


It might also refer to the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, which Korach used to mock Moshe (as Rashi explains at the beginning of the Parshah), and which symbolizes all the Mitzvos (as Chazal explain at the end of the previous Parshah).

But the K'li Yakar goes still further. In his opinion, Korach was complaining that they had all heard ''Anochi" and "Lo yih'yeh lecho" from the mouth of Moshe. All the rest, he claimed, was Moshe's own fabrication.

And this explains beautifully why Korach needed to add the words "And we are imposters". Initially, I understood that this was simply to stress the fact that they were wrong, in contrast to the principle 'Zeh ve'zeh divrei Elokim Chayim'. Because in the realm of Torah, when two Talmidei-Chachamim argue, there is room for both opinions to be acceptable. But Korach's argument was not Torah. So he needed to categorically declare Moshe right and himself wrong.

But now we can go one step further, to explain this phrase as the atonement for his accusation of Moshe. He had declared Moshe to be an imposter. Now, at the moment of truth, he admitted that Moshe was genuine, and that the imposter was none other than himself.


The Gemara in Bava Basra (74a), among the many wondrous stories concerning Rabah bar bar Chanah, relates how an Arab merchant showed him the exact spot where the earth opened and swallowed Korach and his men. He showed him two cracks in the ground which emitted smoke. Taking a piece of wool, he soaked it in water and lowered it via the tip of his sword, into one of the cracks. Sure enough, it became scorched from the heat.

The two cracks, the Maharal explains, represents Machlokes, the basic sin of Korach, who split the camp of Yisrael into two. Machlokes ravages all with whom it comes into contact (see Rashi 16:27). Perhaps the lesson of the scorched wool is that not even someone who is saturated in Torah ([which is compared to water], as Korach surely was) will be spared from the fire of Gehinom, should he indulge in Machlokes.


And the Gemara concludes that Rabah bar bar Chanah heard them announcing "Moshe is genuine, and his Torah is genuine, and they are imposters". This happens, says the Gemara, once every thirty days, when they are returned to that spot, after being roasted in Gehinom like meat in a plate, to begin the process afresh.

We will discuss in Parshas Pinchas (i.y.h.) as to why (according to our text in the Gemara) they said 'And they (rather than we) are imposters'.


Parshah Pearls

(adapted from the P'ninei Torah)

Everyone Needs a Leader

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

Korach's men asked Moshe whether a Talis of Techeiles (dark blue wool) required Tzitzis.

They were hinting to him, explains Rebbi Nasan Adler, that just like a Talis of T'cheiles does not require Tzitzis, so too, do Yisrael, who are all holy, not require a leader (thereby disqualifying Moshe in his role as king).

Imagine their surprise therefore, when Moshe replied that such a Talis would indeed require Tzitzis, intimating that even a nation that comprises only Tzadikim requires a leader, to prevent them from deteriorating and to inspire them to rise to greater heights still.


A Bad Sale

"And Korach took ... " (ibid.).

The Gemara in Sanhedrin explains that Korach made a bad sale for himself.

It is well known that Korach was extremely wealthy, and that he spent a fortune 'buying' supporters for his cause. Where did all that get him?

The answer is nowhere, because in the end, he was forced to 'go underground' anyway.

A bad sale indeed! (Torah Temimah).


G-d is Inside - Deep Inside

" because the entire nation is holy, and G-d is in their midst" (ibid.).

The greater the person, the more internalized his Avodah becomes.

That is why an upright man prays with his mouth, a righteous man with his lips, a pious man with his tongue and a holy man with his innards (as we say on Shabbos morning, just before 'Shochen Ad').

And that is what Korach meant when he made the above statement. "All the congregation is holy, and (that is why) G-d is in their midst (they pray to him with their innards)" Revid ha'Zahav.


What's the Use of Light

"In the morning, G-d will make known who is His" (16:5).

G-d created boundaries in His world, Moshe told them. Just as you cannot change morning into evening, so you cannot change this (the Kehunah) - Rashi.

Just as the body has eyes to see, so too, does the Soul (even though they see different things, the one, physical things, the other, spiritual ones). And the two are interconnected.


This can be understood with the following Mashal.

A customer arrived in a shop late one night to buy certain goods. The proprietor immediately switched on a light in the room where the goods were displayed, so that he could view the goods on sale and pick those that he preferred. The customer however, explained that the choice of goods made not the least difference to him, and he was willing to pay the price, irrespective of what he received.

In that case, said the proprietor, what was the point in leaving the light on? So he promptly switched it off.


And that is what Moshe was saying to Korach. If he could not distinguish between good and evil, between Tzadik and Rasha, then he had no need for the light of day. And if on the other hand, he realized that morning and evening were not interchangeable, then he had to know that he could not change the difference between Tzadik and Rasha either (based on the Dubno Magid).


Action Stations

"Enough for you, sons of Levi" (16:7).

And what did Korach, who was smart, think, asks Rashi?

The Kotzker Rebbi suggests that Korach saw how successful a Levi he was. There he stood on the Duchen, singing before Hashem, and attaining the highest conceivable levels (not to speak of the fact that he was one of the four men who carried the Aron). So he began to imagine just what a good job he would make of the Kehunah Gedolah.


Where did he go wrong, asks the Kotzker Rebbe?

He was guilty, he answers, of a simple miscalculation. He failed to realize that the only reason he succeeded was because Aharon stood at the helm of all that took place in the Mishkan, and did his job to perfection.

It is only when everyone, captain and crew, stands in his designated place and pulls his weight, that each individual is able to excel. It is when someone forsakes his post that the ship begins to founder.


Proud and Humble

"Because you raised yourself above us" (16:12).

How could Dasan and Aviram possibly accuse Moshe of being conceited, when the Torah so recently described him as the most humble of men?


A good leader however, is obligated to display strength and conviction in his leadership, and to lead his flock in an uncompromising manner, and Moshe Rabeinu was certainly a good leader. And it is inevitable that sometimes, this will be misconstrued as arrogance.

But that is only on the outside. Inside, that same leader must negate all feelings of pride, and develop a deep humility, irrespective of (or perhaps comensurate with) the show that one puts on externally. And that is where Moshe excelled. Only that excellence was not visible to others, who were only able to perceive his external characteristics.


Creating a Hierarchy


The Torah uses a double expression ("Ki Sistorer aleinu gam historer"), explains the Ibn Ezra, to hint at the many important appointments that Moshe made, or to Aharon, whom Moshe appointed Kohen Gadol.

The Meshech Chochmah explains this with the Mishnah in Yuma (68b). The Mishnah describes how the Seifer-Torah would be passed from the Shammes to the charge-d'affairs of the Beis-Hamikdash to the deputy Kohen-Gadol, and how it was the latter who would hand it to the Kohen-Gadol to Lein from it. All this, explains the Gemara, was in order to enhance the Kavod of the Kohen Gadol.

Here too, according to the Ibn Ezra, Dasan and Aviram were accusing Moshe of appointing many deputies, in order to enhance his own Kavod in much the same way.


When Donkeys Are Donkeys

"Lo chamor echad meihem nososi, ve'lo ha'rei'osi es achad meihem" ('I did not take a donkey from them as tax, and I did not harm any of them' -16:16).

The same words however, can also be translated as 'Neither did I raise a donkey among them, nor did I declare any of them evil'. What he then meant to say was that he neither flattered them (to give them undeserved prestige), neither did he deprive them of their esteem, whenever they deserved it.



The Amidah
(based largely on the Siddur "Otzar ha'Tefillos")
(Part XXIII)

The B'rachah of Borech Oleinu

Ve'Sein B'rochoh ...

'And give a blessing on the face of the land' - that people should look at each other with a generous eye, thereby creating a peaceful society (Eitz Yosef).

In winter, we say 'And give dew and rain for a blessing ... '. Although our sages have taught that dew never fails to descend, dew for a blessing does. Hence the insertion of dew here. And with regard to rain, the b'rochoh is a request for the rain to fall in the right time (at night-time, when it is most beneficial and least harmful [see also Rashi Eikev 11:14), and in the right place (on land, in the fields and in the vine-yards, and not on the mountains and in the hills) - Eitz Yosef.


al-P'nei ho'Adomoh ve'Sab'einu mi'Tuvoh

' . . . And satisfy us with its goodness'. This is the text of the G'ra, and it refers to the goodness of Eretz Yisrael. The last four letters notice, form 'Yud, Hey, Vav Hey', the four-letter name of G-d. Others have this text, and connect 'its goodness, not with the land but with the year According to the Rosh however, the correct text is 've'sab'einu mi'tuvecha' - 'and satisfy us with Your goodness', since satisfaction is a separate b'rochoh that does not emanate from the land, but from Hashem Himself, as Rashi explains in Bechukosai 'One eats a little, and the food is blessed in the stomach' (Maharshal).


Most commentaries agree with the Rosh's version of the B'rochoh.

The Ya'aros D'vash offers a fascinating interpretation of these words. If, he explains, there is a Torah or even a Rabbinical prohibition attached to the food that one eats, or if one sits down to eat in a group of mockers, then the spirit of sanctity that is inherent in the food that one eats, departs. That spirit is replaced by one of impurity, which deeply affects the person who eats it, even to the point of transforming him from a Tzadik into a Rasha.

And that is why we pray that our food should come from a source of purity, from Hashem Himself, and not from a source of impurity.

The Iyun Tefilah, on the other hand, agrees with the G'ro, and he proves him right from the text of the B'rochoh Achas Me'ein Sholosh (which we recite over cake etc.), where we say 've'sab'einu mi'tuvoh' (and not 'mi'tuvecho').


u'vorech Shenoseinu ka'Shonim ha'Tovos

'And bless our years like the good years'. Which good years are we referring to?

Like the good years of Elisha (presumably, Rabbi Kornfeld Sh'lita suggests, following the flight of the Syrians, when food became abundant and at rock-bottom prices), and like the good years of Yitzchak (where what he planted grew a hundred-fold), explains the Eitz Yosef.


The Sequence of the B'rachos
(from 'T'ka' until 'Modim')

Until now, writes the Iyun Tefilah, the B'rochos dealt with our current individual needs (refer to the first paragraph of 'Tefilah', Parshas Beha'aloscho). From now on, the B'rochos deal with the national Ge'ulah and subsequent events, beginning with the B'rochoh of 'Teka be'Shofar Gadol' concerning the ingathering of the exiles from our long Galus. This will be followed by the re-establishment of the Sanhedrin ('Hoshivoh Shoftenu'), which in turn, will result in bringing the Resha'im to justice ('ve'Lamalshinim'). That will leave the Tzadikim free to flourish ('al ha'Tzadikim'). Then G-d will restore, first His Glory to Yerushalayim, which He will build as an everlasting city ('ve'li'Yerushalayim'), and then Malchus Beis David ('es Tzemach David'). And it is about that era that it is written 'Before they call Me I will answer their prayers ('Sh'ma Koleinu'), and that is when the Avodah will return to the Beis Hamikdash and the fire-offerings of Yisrael and their prayers will be accepted with goodwill (Retzei).

It seems to me that the Iyun Tefilah might have concluded - At that time, we will finally learn to appreciate G-d's goodness ('ha'Tov Ashimcho'), and be granted , once and for all, everlasting peace ('ha'Mevorech ba'Sholom').

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