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

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Vol. 11   No. 35

This issue is sponsored L'Iluy Nishmas
Ruchamah Ela Le'ah
Dov Ber z.l.

Parshas Korach

Two Kinds of Women
Two Kinds of Tongues

The Medrash in this week's Parshah tells the story of a righteous couple who were married for many years without having children, so they decided to divorce. Both remarried, each one, strangely enough, to a wicked spouse. The Chasid became influenced by his wicked wife, and he too, quickly emulated her example. The Chasidah on the other hand, influenced her wicked husband, and it was not long before he was following in her righteous footsteps.

This Medrash is often quoted to demonstrate the vital role that a woman plays in building a Torah home. The man may well be the one who learns all day, yet it is the woman's inner wisdom (the 'binah yeseirah', from a lashon 'binyan') that builds the home. The importance of marrying a bas Torah cannot be overstressed. Because at the end of the day, quite apart from the influence she will have on their children, she is also likely to have a far greater influence on him than he will have on her.


And the most powerful example we have in the Torah of this phenomenon, is described by the Gemara in Sanhedrin (109b). Citing the Pasuk in Mishlei "The wise woman builds her house, whilst the foolish one demolishes it with her hands" (14:1), the Gemara presents the wife of On ben Pelles as the woman referred to in the first half of the Pasuk, and the wife of Korach as the woman in the second half.

On ben Pelles was originally part of Korach's rebellion, until his clever wife pointed out to him that since being an underling of Korach was no advantage to being an underling of Moshe (neither financially nor status-wise), what was the point in rebelling?

So she convinced him to remain indoors whilst she dealt with the messengers who would come to fetch him. Playing safe, she gave him to drink a dose of strong wine, which put him to sleep until it was all over, and she sat outside her tent doing her hair. The messengers arrived to pick up On, saw his wife with her hair uncovered, and promptly fled.

Applying various feminine traits for the good, she caused her husband to do Teshuvah and saved him from death.


The wife of Korach on the other hand, inspired her husband to rebel against Moshe. She said to her husband "See what Moshe has done! He appointed himself king, his brother, Kohen Gadol, and the latter's children, deputy Kohanim Gedolim. When someone brings Terumah, he says to give it to the Kohen, and the same goes for Bikurim. Even Ma'aser Rishon, which is given to the Levi, he tells the Levi to give one tenth of it to the Kohen. And now look what he's done! He's shaved off all your (the Levi'im's) hair and has had you all waved around like a block of wood! No matter that he had it all done to him too. After all, he is the leader, and his prestige won't suffer too much if he suffers along with you for a bit. And besides, there is the principle 'Tomos Nafshi im P'lishtim' (Let me die with the P'lishtim), as Shimshon said, before bringing down the house on the P'lishtim and on himself.

And what's more, he commanded you to wear a T'cheiles (a dark-blue thread of Tzitzis). If T'cheiles is so important, why don't you dress your men in T'cheiles and stand before Moshe and challenge him ... '.

She used her femininity too, with just as powerful an effect as the wife of On ben Pelles, only she caused her husband, plus two-hundred and fifty-two men to sin, and brought about all their premature deaths.

The above episode is also reminiscent of the other Pasuk in Mishlei "Death and life lie in the hand of the tongue" (18:21). A potent combination indeed - two women, two tongues, the one brought death and destruction, the other, life and salvation.

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Parshah Pearls

The Fire of Machlokes

"And Moshe arose and he went ... " (16:25).

From here we can learn, says Rebbi Shmuel bar Nachmeini, that one does not 'hold on' to Machlokes. Indeed, Rav Chisda says that anyone who does, transgresses a Lo Sa'aseh, as the Torah writes later "And there shall not be anyone like Korach and his assembly (17:5)". Rebbi Asi adds that he deserves to be stricken with Tzara'as, for the Torah writes there "as G-d spoke through the hand of Moshe", and in Sh'mos (4:6) the Torah wrote "And behold his hand was stricken with Tzara'as like snow".

Furthermore, Rav Chisda said 'Anyone who quarrels with his Rebbe is as if he quarreled with the Shechinah', as the Torah writes about Korach ( in Pinchas, 26:9) " ... when they quarreled with G-d" (even though they had only quarreled with Moshe - Rosh).

Come and see what a terrible thing Machlokes is. Beis-Din only punishes from the age of thirteen and the Heavenly Court from the age of twenty. Yet here tiny babies perished together with their parents - because of Machlokes (Rashi).


ve'Lo Yih'yeh ke'Korach

"And there shall not be like Korach and his congregation, like G-d spoke through the hand of Moshe to him" (17:5). The Rambam in Seifer ha'Mitzvos, does not count Machlokes as a La'av. He explains that when Chazal, commenting on the Pasuk, say that anyone who holds on to Machlokes has transgressed a La'av (see previous 'Pearl'), this is merely an Asmachta (a hint in the Torah for a Rabbinical law, and not a Torah one).

Then what is the Torah coming to teach us with these words, one may well ask?

According to the Rambam, says the Torah Temimah, what the Torah really means is not "And there shall not be like Korach", but "and there will not be like Korach". This is the first and last time, the Pasuk is saying, that the earth opened up and swallowed those who quarreled with the Kehunah. From now on, the punishment for quarrelling with the Kehunah will be punisheable by Tzara'as, as is hinted in the continuation of the Pasuk "like Hashem spoke through the hand of Moshe to him (as Rashi explains).

The Ramban takes the Rambam to task however, insisting that "And there shall be no-one like Korach" is a La'av and not just a piece of information.

In fact, the Torah Temimah points out, the two interpretations of the words "ve'lo yih'yeh ke'Korach" represent two opinions, both cited in the Gemara in Sanhedrin (110a). Based on the words "ve'lo yih'yeh ke'Korach", Rav explains that whoever holds on to Machlokes trangresses a La'av, whilst Rav Ashi explains that he deserves to be stricken with Tzora'as, and he bases this on the end of the Pasuk,"through the hand of Moshe" (as we explained).

The Torah Temimah supports the Rambam. If, as the wording 'Rav Ashi omar' (and not the reverse) suggests, Rav Ashi argues with Rav, he maintains, then we are bound to hold like Rav Ashi, because he is the later opinion. It is not at all certain however, that the Rav Ashi mentioned here is the one who compiled Shas, and not the earlier Rav Ashi who was a contemporary of Rav.

In all likelihood, the Rambam preferred Rav Ashi's explanation, because a. the words "ve'lo yih'yeh ke'Korach" do not appear in the form of a command, but as a statement, and b. if they are intended as a Mitzvah, then how will we accommodate the continuation of the Pasuk "like G-d spoke through the hand of Moshe to him"?


The Sons of Korach

"And the sons of Korach did not die" (Pinchas 26:11).

We learned a B'raisa quoting Rebbi who said that a special place in Gehinom was reserved for the sons of Korach (There they sat and sang Shirah to Hashem [Sanhedrin 110]). They were Talmidim of Moshe, and as such, they did not want to join in their father's rebellion, because they knew that whatever Moshe did, he did at the behest of G-d (Rosh).

It appears that they later emerged from there, for they sang in the Beis-Hamikdash, and what's more, Asaf was a Navi.

On what merit were they saved?

The Yalkut relates how they were sitting with their father Korach, when they saw Moshe approaching. They were in a quandary what to do. To stand up in honour of Moshe would be an act of disrespect towards their father; whilst to remain seated in honour of their father would be an act of disrespect towards Moshe.

They arrived at the conclusion that it was better to stand up in honour of Moshe, irrespective ... . And that is precisely what they did. This was the beginning of their Teshuvah.


Come Let Me Show You

The Medrash tells the story of Rabah bar bar Chanah, who was once travelling in the desert when he met an Arab, who offered to show him the spot where Korach and his men were swallowed up. He showed him two cracks from which smoke was rising. Dipping a piece of wool in water, he placed it on the tip of his spear and held it over the crack. The wool burned up immediately.

When the Arab instructed him to go closer and listen, he heard them shouting 'Moshe is true and his Torah is true, and we are liars!'

In time to come, G-d will take Korach and his men out from there, for it is about them that Chanah said in Shmuel (1 2:6) "Hashem puts to death and brings back to life, sends down to Gehinom and brings back" (Rosh).


The question arises as to why Korach and his congregation need to add the words 'and we are liars' (as a matter of fact, the wording in the Medrash, as in the Gemara [Bava Basra 74a] is and they are liars')?

It seems to me that there are two ways of answering this question. Firstly, they were simply being made to recant their sin in public. They claimed that Moshe had lied and that their opinion was the truth. So now in the world of truth, even as they were made to suffer for their sins, they were also forced to publicly admit that on the contrary, Moshe and his Torah (both of which they attempted to negate) were true, and that they were the liars.

Secondly, we have a principle 'Zeh ve'zeh divrei Elokim Emes'. In a Machlokes that is for the sake of heaven, both opinions can, and often are, acceptable. It is therefore necessary for Korach and his men, whose Machlokes was not for the sake of Heaven, to admit that in their Machlokes with Moshe, that principle was not applicable. So they announce that Moshe and his Torah spoke the truth (because all that Moshe ever said was for the sake of Heaven), but that they were liars, and none of their claims were acceptable.


I heard from my grandson Menachem, that someone who had quarreled with his Rav once came to ask him for forgiveness. When he told him that he (the Rav) was right, the Rav told that it is not enough to say 'you are right'. It is more important to say 'I am wrong' (as that the essence of Teshuvah.


It's Not the Ketores that Kills

"You killed the people of G-d" (17:6).

Intentionally, explains the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, by choosing to bring the Ketores as a test. The Ketores contains poison, the people claimed, the same poison that killed Nadav and Avihu who were Kohanim (insinuating that Korach and his men may well have died, not because they weren't Kohanim, but because of the poison).

So Moshe instructed Aharon to quickly take the pan of Ketores and use it to stop the plague, to demonstrate to the people that it is one's sins that kill, and not the Ketores (as Rashi explains).

When they were still not satisfied, G-d arranged the final test with the sticks, to prove once and for all that Levi was the chosen tribe and that Aharon was the head of the tribe (i.e. the Kohen Gadol). That is why the Torah writes "Speak to B'nei Yisrael and take from them a stick from each tribe", adding afterwards "and I will rid myself once and for all, of the complaints of B'nei Yisrael".


Blossoms and Almonds

"And behold the stick of Aharon blossomed ... it brought out blossoms and it produced buds and grew almonds" (17:23).

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. infers from the Pasuk that two different things occurred to the same stick. On one part of it, the blossoms that grew remained, whilst on the other part, they turned into buds and then into almonds.

Further proof for this double phenomenon, he adds, lies in the Gemara in Yuma (21b), where according to one opinion, the stick of Aharon was hidden, together with its almonds and its blossoms.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 394:
The Service of the Levi'im in the Beis-Hamikdash

The Levi'im are obligated to serve in the Beis-Mikdash, to act as gate-keepers and to sing every day when the Korbanos are brought, as the Torah writes in Korach (18:23) "And the Levi shall serve ... ".

The Sifri learns from this Pasuk that the Avodah of the Levi'im is not voluntary, but that he is obligated to serve, whether he wants to or not ... The Gemara in Erchin (11a) teaches us that singing (with the mouth, as opposed to playing the instruments) was designated to the Levi'im exclusively. And this is also expressed in Shoftim (18:7), where the Torah writes "and he shall serve with the name of Hashem his G-d", a specific reference to the singing, as the Gemara there explains.

A reason for the Mitzvah is because it is a Kavod for the King as well as for the location, that specific men from a specified tribe are designated for His service, which no stranger is permitted to perform. Indeed, regarding human kings, it is customary to appoint well-known men of esteem to serve permanently in the royal court, and they are responsible to tend to the king's every need. For it is not in keeping with the king's prestige to employ a new set of servants each day, allowing every Tom, Dick and Harry the privilege of serving him.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... the Chachomim said that a ben Levi who accepts all of the Mitzvos of a Levi except for one, is disqualified from performing the Avodah, until such time as he accepts them all ... Their Avodah includes guarding the Mikdash, which in turn, includes opening and closing the gates at the appropriate times. The main Avodah however, is singing in accompaniment to the bringing of all obligatory Korbenos Tzibur, incorporating the burnt-offerings of the Korban Tamid and the Musaf, and the Zivchei Shalmei Tzibur on Shavu'os. And the singing takes place when the wine of the Nesachim (which accompanied every Korban Tzibur except every Korban Tzibur - except for the sin-offerings) is poured on the Mizbei'ach. They do not sing when voluntary Olos Tzibur ('Kayitz ha'Mizbei'ach') are brought, or when Nesachim are brought on their own ... a Levi who is an Onan (on the day that his close relative dies) is permitted to serve and even to sing ... there are never less than ten Levi'im standing on the Duchan, ready to sing when the Korban is brought, though it does not matter how many Levi'im one adds to that) ... The Shirah of the Levi'im consists of oral singing, though there are other people with instruments, some of them Levi'im, and some Yisre'eilim (meyuchasim, of good stock who are Kasher to marry the daughters of Kohanim, for others are not allowed on the Duchan), to accompany the singers ... the minimum number of harps that play at one time is nine, but one may add as many as one pleases. There is only one pair of cymbals however, presumably because of the excessive and frightening noise that they make. And if there is more than one, the noise would sometimes drown out all the other instruments, and certainly the voices of the Levi'im singing. There is also a flute, comprising a reed pipe (because it has a particularly beautiful tone) which they only play on twelve days each year (see Erchin 10a). The playing of the instruments overrides Shabbos, since it is an integral part of Avodas ha'Korban, which itself overrides Shabbos ... a ben Levi is not permitted to enter into the Avodah before he has spent five years training, as Chazal learn from the Pasuk. And they derive from there that a Talmid who does not advance in his learning after five years, will not succeed ... No Levi is allowed to serve until he becomes a Gadol (bar-Mitzvah), and unlike a Kohen, he is not disqualified from serving on account of his age or through a blemish, only through his voice deteriorating, as is common by older men. When the Torah writes in Bamidbar (4:49) that they must retire at fifty, it is referring to the generation of the Midbar exclusively, who transport the Keilim from place to place. Yet even a Levi who retires because of voice deterioration, continues to guard the gates, and open and close them ... all of this together with the other details are discussed in Midos and Tamid, in the second Perek of Erchin, and in the Rambam (the 9th Perek of K'lei ha'Mikdash). The Chinuch (who was a Levi) excuses himself to his son for being a little lengthy in this Mitzvah, because he says, 'the Beis-Hamikdash will be rebuilt soon, and you will need to know it'.

This Mitzvah applies at the time when the Beis-Hamikdash is standing, to male Levi'im. Any Levi who contravenes it and fails to (guard the gates or to) sing when the Korban is brought, on the day that his Mishmar is designated to do so, has negated an Asei. His punishment is great, because he appears to be rejecting the honour of serving G-d. Therefore G-d will dishonour him. A Levi, on the other hand, who wants to serve His Creator, will be granted life, peace, blessing and honour.

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