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

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Vol. 12   No. 40

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Yisrael ben Binyamin z.l.
whose Yohrzeit is on 27th Sivan.

Parshas Korach

Which Community?
(Based on the commentary of the Ramban)

Shortly before the earth opened and swallowed up Korach and his men, G-d commanded Moshe and Aharon to 'separate from this community, and I will destroy them in a moment!'

If He was referring to the community of K'lal Yisrael, asks the Ramban, then 'Mah Nafshach' (whichever way you look at it) ... if Yisrael were not guilty of sinning, why did G-d threaten to kill them, whereas if they were, how could Moshe and Aharon argue in their defense "If one man sins, why are You angry with the entire congregation?"


And he cites Rabeinu Chananel, who explains that it was Moshe and Aharon who mistakenly thought that, when G-d mentioned 'this community', he was referring to K'lal Yisrael, which is why they reacted by declaring their innocence. But in actual fact, He had been referring (not to Moshe and Aharon moving away from the community of Yisrael, but) to K'lal Yisrael moving away from the community of Korach, and that explains why He hastened to correct Moshe, instructing him to do exactly that, as that is what He had meant in the first place.

And the reason for the command, he explains, was so that when the three sinners would see the whole of Yisrael leaving their vicinity, perhaps the gravity of the situation would hit them, and they would do Teshuvah. Rabeinu Bachye, who explains the Pesukim like Rabeinu Chananel, suggests three other reasons for the command. G-d might just as well have killed Korach and his men whilst the rest of Yisrael were standing in their vicinity, he explains. But He chose not to, firstly, so that the people should not be affected by the contagious air (just like Lot's wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt, because when she turned round to look back towards S'dom, she was stricken by the contaminated air of the plagued city); secondly, because when the Midas ha'Din strikes, it makes no distinction between Tzadik and Rasha, striking down whoever is in its path; and thirdly, in deference to the two great Tzadikim, Moshe and Aharon, in whose presence, G-d declined to punish the Resha'im.

The Ramban disagrees with Rabeinu Chananel's explanation however, on the grounds that G-d would not have referred to Korach, Dasan and Aviram as a 'community' (which normally implies at least ten people). And also because a. the command to separate ("Hibadlu mi'Toch ho'eidah") was clearly issued to Moshe and Aharon (and not to the rest of Yisrael [like "Heiromu mi'Toch ho'Eidah ha'zos", later in the Parshah 17:10]), and b. because "and I will destroy them (va'achaleh osam)" hints at the ensuing plague that killed thousands (and not just to the death of Korach, Dasan and Aviram). Finally, he objects to the suggestion that Moshe (the greatest of all the prophets) would misunderstand a Divine prophesy.


The Ramban therefore explains like he originally suggested. G-d actually ordered Moshe and Aharon to leave the vicinity of K'lal Yisrael, just as Moshe had initially thought. His decision to destroy the whole of Yisrael was made following Korach's campaign to win the people over to his side, which he did by assuring them that he was acting on their behalf, to establish a leadership that cared for their wellbeing. The people, it seems, were indeed taken in by him, and they all turned up at the entrance to the Ohel Mo'ed, in the vain hope that G-d might restore the Avodah to the Bechoros. At that point, says the Ramban, they were guilty of harboring doubts on the words of their Rebbe, This is akin to casting aspersions on the words of the Shechinah and refusing to fulfill the command of a Navi, a sin for which one is Chayav Miysah bi'Yedei Shamayim.

Nevertheless, Moshe and Aharon pleaded with G-d to have mercy on the people, who after all, had neither sinned in deed, nor had they sinned at all of their own accord, but on account of Korach, who had succeeded in leading them astray, and that consequently he should be the one to die, and the people should be spared. In any case, there was a case for their defense, and such is the way of Tzadikim, to deflect the sin from the people at large and to place it at the door of those who are truly guilty.

Targum Yonasan, who, commenting on G-d's second command, explains that - G-d had accepted Moshe and Aharon's request to forgive Yisrael, clearly interprets the Pasuk like the Ramban.

See also the K'li Yakar, who follows in the footsteps of Rabeinu Chananel.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)

Always Finding Fault

"And why do you raise yourselves above the congregation of Hashem?" (16:3).

This was Korach's complaint against Moshe and Aharon, the two most humble men who ever lived.

R. Naftali me'Ropshitz cites the Pasuk in Tehilim (106:16) "And they (Dasan and Aviram) were jealous of Moshe in the camp, of Aharon the holy man of G-d. No matter what a Tzadik does, there are always people who will find fault with his actions. If they see a Tzadik who sits and learns Torah day and night, they will castigate him for separating himself from the community, and for not involving himself more in its affairs; whereas when a Tzadik does work for the community, they accuse him of meddling in affairs that do not concern him, because his place is in the Beis-Hamedrash, where he should be learning full-time.

And that is precisely what the above Pasuk in Tehilim means. "They were jealous of Moshe in the camp", he explains, refers to their complaint that Moshe was so busy learning that they never saw him in the camp, where he was sorely needed; whilst when it came to Aharon, they complained that he was a holy man, whose place was in the Beis-Hamedrash, learning Torah, and not running round the camp making peace between every couple that had fallen out.


Korach Refuted

The Gemara in Nedarim (39b) relates that when Korach attacked Moshe and Aharon, the sun and moon went up to Z'vul and threatened to cease functioning, unless Hashem took him to task (see Parshah Pearls, vol. 10, 'The Fourth Sin', where we explained why they went specifically to Z'vul [which is the fourth Heaven] and not to Arvos [the seventh]. Why, asks the Ma'or va'Shemesh, did specifically the sun and moon, and none of the other heavenly bodies, issue this threat?

And he answers with the well-known Medrash which describes how, following the moon's complaint that it was not possible for two kings to share the same crown, Hashem ordered the moon to make itself smaller.

The sun and the moon taught us that there is no such thing as all leaders being equal, but that ultimately, there is only one king who wears the crown. That explains why they, of all the celestial powers, were incensed when they heard Korach claim that all members of the congregation were equal, and that Moshe and Aharon had no right to claim positions of leadership. From first-hand experience, they knew full well that there has to be a hierarchy, and that there is no such thing as shared leadership.


With that, explains the Ner le'David, we can also understand the Gemara in Bava Basra (74a), which relates how every Rosh-Chodesh, Korach and his men cry out from the bowels of the earth 'Moshe is true and his Torah is true'! Why specifically on Rosh Chodesh, one may well ask?

But when we remember that the goat that we bring as part of the Musaf-offering on Rosh Chodesh is to atone for Hashem for having made the moon smaller, the question is answered.


Change of Identity

"If these people die in the same way as everybody else, then Hashem did not send me" (16:29).

Imagine if Korach's men had done Teshuvah, and ended up dying a natural death. How could Moshe Rabeinu jeopardize faith in his own prophesy, and the belief in Torah min ha'Shamayim, asks the Sochatchover Ga'on? How could he not contend with the possibility that they would indeed do Teshuvah, and no longer be deserving of the death that he had decreed?

Indeed he did, he answers! Moshe was fully aware of such a possibility, and that G-d is always ready to accept Teshuvah, even at the last minute. That in fact, explains why he added the word "Eileh" (these people, which otherwise seems superfluous). Tthe Rambam defines a Ba'al-Teshuvah as a new-born baby, as if he was a different person. In that case, Moshe was referring specifically to these people, provided they remained unrepentant. Should they do Teshuvah and become different people, well, that would be a different matter, and his decree would be automatically annulled.

See following Pearl for an alternative answer to the question.


Visiting the Sick

"And the destiny of all men is visited upon them" (ibid.).

The Gemara in Nedarim (39b) learns from this Pasuk the Mitzvah of visiting the sick (see Torah Temimah). What is the significance of this Mitzvah here, of all places, asks the M'lo ho'Omer'?

In reply, he cites the Gemara in Bava Metzi'a (87a) that until Ya'akov Avinu, nobody ever became ill, and that it was he who prayed for a period of sickness before death, to give a dying person a chance to prepare for death by doing Teshuvah (though this is not how Rashi explains the Gemara).

And it is for the same reason, he says, quoting the Ba'alei Musar, that lies behind the Mitzvah of visiting the sick. More than anything else, they say, one should encourage an ill person to do Teshuvah on his misdeeds as there is a good chance that this will lead to his full recovery.

The likelihood of the congregation of Korach doing Teshuvah however, was remote, for Chazal have said that someone who sins and causes others to sin forfeits the Divine assistance to do Teshuvah that is afforded to others. In that case, the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim had little significance, as it would not have had the desired affect. And that is why Moshe made the above statement. If these men suffer long enough for visitors to be able to visit them, it is a sign that there is a chance that they will do Teshuvah. And in that case, said Moshe 'Hashem did not send me'.

In fact, Hashem did send him, so he knew that Korach and his men were destined to die a swift and sudden death.


The Haftarah

Reinforcing G-d's Sovereignty

"Come let us go to Gilgal and renew the monarchy" (Shmuel 1 11:12).

Because there were objectors, comments Rashi.

On Rosh Hashanah, we say the B'rachah of Malchiyos. 'Say before Me Malchiyos', Chazal cite Hashem as saying, 'in order to crown Me over you'.

But surely, asks the Gerrer Rebbe, we accept G-d's rulership every day of the year? So what need is there to single out Rosh Hashanah for special mention?

With Rashi's above explanation however, he explains, the matter becomes clear. On Rosh Hashanah too, there are objectors, in the form of prosecuting angels, who in the time of judgement, prosecute Yisrael. They accuse them of a vast variety of sins, and do all their power to place a wedge between Yisrael and the King of Kings. That is the time, more than any other, to renew G-d's Sovereignty by reciting Malchiyos.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 392:
To Redeem a Firstborn Son

It is a Mitzvah to redeem every firstborn son of a man, meaning that every Jewish man is obligated to redeem from a Kohen, his son who is the firstborn son of his Jewish mother, as the Torah writes in Korach (18:15) "Only you shall surely redeem the firstborn of a man"; and elsewhere (Parshas Bo 13:2) the Torah makes this Mitzvah dependent upon the mother, when it writes "Every firstborn that opens the womb in B'nei Yisrael (meaning that it must be the first baby to pass through its mother's womb), both of man and of animal belongs to Me" . This explains why the Gemara writes in Bechoros (46a) that a baby that is born after a miscarriage does not requires redemption from a Kohen (since the miscarriage preceded it). This only applies however, to a miscarriage that renders its mother Tamei Leidah. Otherwise, the baby that follows is the Bechor for redemption. This distinction is clearly explained in Nidah (21a); whereas the Gemara in Bechoros clarifies the difference between a Bechor for the Kohen but not for inheritance, and vice-versa. It also explains there that it is possible to find a firstborn that is a Bechor regarding both, and a Bechor regarding neither.

The Chinuch has already discussed a reason for the Mitzvah in Parshas Bo (Mitzvah 18).

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The Mitzvah to redeem a firstborn begins from the time he reaches the age of thirty days and onwards, as the Torah writes "And you shall redeem him from the age of one month", since that is the age that he leaves the realm of 'Nefel' (a miscarriage) ... The mitzvah is incumbent on the father. If the father transgressed and did not fulfill the Mitzvah, then when the son turns bar-Mitzvah, he becomes obligated to redeem himself ... The redemption is performed either with money to the value of five Sela'im, or objects that are intrinsically worth that amount (to preclude slaves, land and documents) ... the father may give the money to one Kohen or to a number of Kohanim, as he sees fit, but not to a Kohenes, since the Torah specifically writes "the sons of Aharon" ... Should the Kohen, of his own accord, choose to return the money to the father, that will not negate the Mitzvah (provided this is not stipulated at the time of the transaction). Likewise, if the father stipulated that he is giving the Kohen 'a Matanah on condition that it is returned' and the Kohen agrees, the Pidyon is valid ... Here is how the Seifer ha'Chinuch's Rebbes describe the Mitzvah (though it is not the way we do it nowadays):

'One brings a cup of wine and a Hadas (a myrtle twig) to the house of the baby's father (or whichever location he chooses). The Kohen chosen by the father then recites the appropriate B'rachos over both the wine and the Hadas, and then says the following - 'Blessed are You Hashem ... who sanctified the fetus inside its mother's womb, and at forty days He formed its two hundred and forty-eight limbs, after which He blew into it a Neshamah, as the Pasuk writes (Bereishis 2:7) "and He breathed into its nostrils a Soul of life", He clothed it with skin and flesh, and covered it with bones and sinews, as the Pasuk writes in Iyov (10:11). Then He commanded that it be provided with food and drink, honey and milk for its pleasure, and designated for it two administering angels to protect it inside its mother's womb, as the Pasuk writes in Iyov (ibid. Pasuk 12) "You granted me life and were kind to me". In fact, the Chinuch will say later that the Kohen recites these B'rachos after the Pidyon, and not before.

The mother then declares 'This is my firstborn son, with whom Hashem opened the doors of my womb'. His father adds 'This is my firstborn son, and I am commanded to redeem him', as the Torah writes "And all the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem" (Sh'mos 13:13). May it be Your will Hashem my G-d, that just as You merited his father to redeem him, so will You merit him to attain Torah, Chupah and good deeds. Blessed are You Hashem, who sanctifies the firstborn of Yisrael to be redeemed'. He adds the two B'rachos - 'Baruch ... al Pidyon ha'Ben', and 'Shehechiyanu', and gives the Kohen five Sela'im. Furthermore, writes the Ramban, when the father gives the money to the Kohen, he also hands him the baby, upon which the latter asks him 'Which would you prefer, your son or these five Sela'im. And the father replies that he prefers his son. The Kohen then takes the money and moves it round the baby's head (like one does with the Kaparos on Erev Yom Kipur) and declares 'This (the money) is instead of this (the baby); this is in exchange for this; the sanctity of this (the baby) is transferred on to this (the money). This money will go to the Kohen, and this baby, to life, Torah and Yir'as Shamayim. May it be G-d's will that just as the baby has been redeemed, so too, will he enter the realm of Torah, Chupah and good deeds, and let us say 'Amen' '.


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