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

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Vol. 10   No. 38

This issue is sponsored by Family Saperstein n.y.
L'iluy nishmas Yehudah Zev ben Yisrael z.l.
whose Yohrzeit is on the twenty-fifth of Sivan

Parshas Korach

The Mitzvah of Guarding the Mikdash
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch, Mitzvah 388,
and the Rambam, Hilchos Beis ha'Bechirah chap. 8)

The Kohanim and the Levi'im are commanded to guard the Beis Hamikdash and to patrol it continuously each and every night, all night.

The purpose of this Mitzvah is simply to raise the esteem of the Mikdash, not out of fear of an enemy or thieves, but because the Torah commanded it. The Sifri, commenting on the Pasuk in Korach "And you and your sons with you ... in front of the Ohel Mo'ed", explains that the Kohanim guarded inside the Azarah and the Levi'im, from the outside.

It is a sign of greatness, says the Sifri, for the Mikdash to have guards, for one cannot compare a Palterin (a palace) that has guards, with one that doesn't. And 'Palterin' is synonymous with the Heichal.

The Seifer ha'Chinuch adds that the purpose of the Mitzvah is to increase the fear of the Mikdash in our hearts (see Devarim 14:23), so that, when we go there to pray to Hashem and to beg His forgiveness, our hearts will soften and we will do Teshuvah quickly.

Guarding the Mikdash, the Rambam writes, is a Mitzvas Asei, and failure to do so constitutes a Lo Sa'aseh.


The Kohanim guarded the Mikdash in three locations, in the Beis-Avtinas, the Beis-ha'Nitzutz and the Beis ha'Mokad, The former two were situated in the attics placed on top of the walls that adjoined the gates of the Azarah, and it was young boys who kept guard there. Whereas it was young, mature Kohanim who were eligible to serve, who kept guard in the Beis-ha'Mokad. The elders of the group of Kohanim (the Beis-Av) who had served that day slept in the Beis-ha'Mokad, holding the keys of the Azarah in their hands. The guards (whilst not on duty) would sleep there too. They would change into their ordinary clothes and place the Bigdei Kehunah beside their heads whilst they slept.

A Kohen who had an emision would immediately immerse in an underground Mikvah which he reached via an underground tunnel that led from the Beis-ha'Mokad, since the underground tunnels were not sanctified with the Kedushah of the Azarah. Then he would return to his sleeping colleagues until the morning, when the doors of the Azarah were opened and he was able to leave.


The Levi'im stood guard in twenty-one locations: by the five gates and the four corners of the Har ha'Bayis, on the four corners of the Azarah (on the outside, since it was forbidden to sit in the Azarah), and outside the five gates of the Azarah. And finally, they stood guard by the Lishkas ha'Korban, the Lishkas ha'Paroches and behind the Beis ha'Kapores (another name for the Kodesh Kodshim).


An officer was appointed to take charge of all the guards. He was known as 'Ish Har ha'Bayis', and he would patrol the entire area where the guards stood (or sat), carrying lit fire-brands. As he passed each guard, the latter was obligated to stand up and greet him, failing which, he would assume him to have fallen asleep on duty. He would then beat him with his stick and set fire to his clothes.

Each morning before dawn-break, the Memuneh (the officer in charge of the Beis-Hamikdash) would knock at the door of the Beis-ha'Mokad. After being handed the key, he would open the small gate that led to the Azarah.


A Levi who performed the job of a Kohen or of another Levi (i.e. a gate-keeper who sang in the choir or vice-versa) was subject to Miysah bi'Yedei Shamayim. A Kohen who performed the job of a Levi on the other hand, would receive Malkos, but not Miysah.


Parshah Pearls

(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

A Divine Gift

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

The trouble with Korach, explains Rebbi Bunim from P'shischa, was that he helped himself to greatness (or tried to). Greatness is a Divine gift. It is a good thing, only when it is bestowed upon a person. The moment one takes it by force, it is not Kasher, and is destined to fail.


Biding One's Time

Rashi accredits Korach's rebellion to his jealousy of Elitzafan ben Uziel, a 'younger' cousin, who had been appointed the Nasi of Kehas, rather than himself.

The question arises that if that was so, why did he wait so many months (from Nisan, when the Levi'im were chosen, until after the sin of the Meraglim in Av) before challenging Moshe?

The answer, says the Ramban, lies in the timing. As long as Yisrael were encamped in Midbar Sinai, Korach knew that he stood no chance of winning over the hearts of the people to his cause. Everything was going well (even the sin of the Eigel had been forgiven), and they had just constructed the Mishkan. Consequently, Moshe's popularity was at its peak, and any rebellion would have stood little chance of succeeding.

But the moment they entered Midbar Paran, everything seemed to go wrong. With Tav'eirah, Kivros and the sin of the Meraglim behind them, and Yisrael in a sullen mood, now was the time to strike. Indeed, the Medrash describes how overnight, he managed to gain the people's sympathy for his cause.


A Machlokes le'Shem Shamayim

An example of a Machlokes that is le'Shem Shamayim (for the sake of G-d) is that of Hillel and Shamai, says the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (5:20). Whereas an example of a machlokes that is not le'Shem Shamayim, is that of Korach and his congregation. Why Korach and his congregation, ask the commentaries, when it was really Korach and Moshe who were arguing?

The Medrash Shmuel explains that Moshe cannot be cited together with Korach, as his intention was most certainly le'Shem Shamayim, and it was Korach and his congregation alone whose intentions were not.

To me it seems that the Tanna omitted Moshe's name because he failed to take his cue both from Korach's arguments and from Dasam and Aviram's tirade. In keeping with the Halachah, Moshe refused to be drawn into the Machlokes. He responded to the one with instructions on how to proceed, and to the other with a prayer to G-d to punish them for disrupting the peace. But he did not answer back! Korach indulged in Machlokes; Moshe did not!


Quarreling with the Shechinah

From where do Chazal know with such certainty that Korach meant she'lo le'Shem Shamayim?

A certain Gadol once answered with the Chazal, who say that quarrelling with one's Rebbe, is akin to quarrelling with the Shechinah. And how does one quarrel with the Shechinah le'Shem Shamayim?


Strange Accusations

It is incomprehensible how whenever people undertake to take Tzadikim to task, they will always concoct faults which are the furthest removed from the truth.

The Torah describes Moshe Rabeinu as the greatest Anav in the world, yet the one fault of which Korach and his men accused him of was 'boasting', of raising himself above the rest of the community (The Kotzker Rebbe).


The Fourth Sin

This was already Yisrael's fourth sin, explains Rashi. They sinned by the Eigel, by the Mis'onenim, by the Meraglim and now by the machlokes of Korach.

The Medrash explains that when G-d created the world, the Shechinah dwelt in this world. Following the sin of Adam however, it moved away into the first heaven; after the sin of Kayin, it ascended to the second heaven, and when the generation of Enosh served idols, it moved up to the third. It moved to the fourth heaven at the time of the Flood, and to the fifth when they built the tower. It moved to the sixth heaven in the time of S'dom, and after the sins of Mitzrayim in the time of Avraham, it disappeared into the seventh.

With the advent of the seven Tzadikim Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya'akov, Levi, Kehas Amram and Moshe, the Shechinah descended once more, from one heaven to the next, until in the days of Moshe, it resided on earth once more - until Yisrael began to sin, ascending one heaven with each sin. It transpires therefore, that when they sinned now for the fourth time, the Shechinah moved up to the fourth heaven, which is called 'Z'vul'.

And this will help us understand a Gemara in Nedarim (39), which relates that at the episode of Korach, the sun and moon moved from Raki'a (the first heaven where they reside) up to Z'vul. There they stood before Hashem and threatened that unless He took up the defense of Moshe, they would refuse to shine.

According to what we just wrote, the reason that they went specifically to Z'vul is self-explanatory (Hagadah, Toldos Moshe).


Blinding Their Eyes

"Even if you call us to blind our eyes, we will not come" (16:14).

Why of all the possible punishments, did they pick on blinding their eyes, asks the Yalkut ha'Urim?

And he reminds us that their escapade began with the Mitzvah of Tzitzis (see opening Rashi in the Parshah). That was where their denial of Torah min ha'Shamayim began. Now Chazal say that each Mitzvah corresponds to one limb. The Torah writes in connection with Tzitzis "and you will see them and remember all the Mitzvos of Hashem".

The Mitzvah of Tzitis it appears, corresponds to the eyes, and it is not therefore surprising that Dasan and Aviram chose the blinding of their eyes as the punishment they might receive at the hand of Moshe (even if they themselves did not realize why they said it).


Taking His Own Fire-pan

"And you (Korach) and Aharon should each take his fire-pan" (16:14).

Aharon had the communal fire-pan that was used daily to bring the Ketores, asks the Yalkut ha'Urim, so why was it necessary to take his own?

The difference, he explains, is that as Chazal have taught, all the vessels that Moshe made were anointed with the anointing oil. Those that were made afterwards were sanctified by their use (and did not therefore require anointing). Consequently, had Aharon used the communal fire-pan, they would have said that his Ketores was accepted because his fire-pan had the edge over that of Korach and his followers, seeing as it was the only one to have been anointed.

It is also fair to presume, that had Aharon used the communal fire-pan, whilst they had to provide their own, they would have objected to having to pay for their fire-pans, whereas Aharon got his free.


Against Moshe's Will

"With this you will know that G-d sent me to do all these things, and not of my own accord" (16:28).

Why does Unklus translate this as 'arei lo me're'usi', which suggests that the appointments that Moshe authorized were made against his will?

The Medrash explains how during the seven days of the Milu'im (the inauguration of the Mishkan), when Moshe served as Kohen Gadol, Moshe harbored hopes that he would continue to act in that capacity permanently. And it was only when G-d Himself disillusioned him, informing him that Aharon was destined to take over the Kehunah Gedolah from the eighth day, that he reluctantly relinquished it.

And that is what Moshe was telling Korach here. How can you accuse me of designating the Kehunah Gedolah to my brother Aharon, when I so much wanted it for myself, and my appointment of Aharon was done against my will?


The Amidah

(based mainly on the Siddur "Otzar ha'Tefillos")
(Part XXXXI)

Birchas Kohanim (cont.)

Although the commentaries offer many explanations of Birchas Kohanim, we will present that of the Or ha'Chayim, the one that is probably the most all-encompassing explanation of them all.


Yevorech'cho - ve'Yishmerecho

Hashem will bless you with all your needs, and according to the B'rachah that He bestows upon you, He will ensure that it remains safe (the greater the B'rachah, the more carefully He will guard it for you).

Alternatively, He will see to it that what He gives you will not effect you adversely (in the way that the Torah writes in Eikev "Lest you eat and are satisfied, and you become proud and forget your G-d").


Yo'er Hashem Ponov ...

There will be no barriers that divide between Yisrael and their Father in Heaven, so that the light of the Shechinah will shine on them.


Hashem will give you charm and graciousness. Once the Shechinah shines on a person, everyone sees only the good in him, and not the bad.


Yiso Hashem Ponov ... and Grant You Peace

Even if your deeds are such that they form a partition between you and your G-d, Hashem will remove them and grant you peace. Peace, explains the Or ha'Chayim, is the exact opposite of division, and it therefore means total unity. It is, he says, the foundation of the world, which supports both the upper and the lower worlds. It is, as Chazal describe, the vessel which contains b'rachah. With it, one has everything; without it, one has nothing.


The B'rachah of Sim Sholom

The Levush writes that Chazal established 'Sim Sholom' as the eighteenth (nineteenth) B'rachah, corresponding to the angels, who recited 'ha'mevorech es amo ba'sholom', when Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael, and realized the fulfillment of the Pasuk "And I shall give peace in the land".

And they fixed it after Birchas Kohanim, in keeping with the Pasuk in Naso (after Birchas Kohanim) "and they will place My Name on the B'nei Yisrael, and I will bless them". And the blessing of Hashem is peace, as the Pasuk writes "Hashem gives His people strength, Hashem will bless His people with peace".

The Ya'aros D'vash suggests that when reciting this B'rachah, one prays for peace (in all its forms) and that there should be no strife in Yisrael, no hatred, no jealousy and no competition (to try and outdo one another). One should pray that these should be replaced by intense love, harmony and friendship. And one should have in mind to fulfil the Mitzvah of "ve'ohavto le'rei'acho komocho" (loving every Jew like one loves oneself).


Sim Sholom Tovoh u'Verachah

This B'rachah takes its cue from where Birchas Kohanim ends, with the word 'Sholom', explains the Iyun Tefilah. And besides, Chazal in the last Mishnah in Uktzin, have taught us that G-d found no better receptacle for B'rachah than Sholom. At the same time, it is common to prepare the receptacle first, and then to bring the contents with which one intends to fill it (like Betzalel said to Moshe regarding the holy vessels and the Mishkan). Consequently, the B'rachah begins with 'Sholom' (the receptacle), and then 'tovoh u'v'rochah' (the b'rochoh).


Sim Sholom, Tovoh u'Verachah, Chein, vo'chesed ve'Rachamim ...

... six things, points out the Eitz Yosef, corresponding to the six B'rachos of Birchas Kohanim.


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