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

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Vol. 15   No. 39

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Parshas Korach

Quarelling with the Kehunah
and Tzara'as

" and there shall not be like Korach and his assembly, as G-d spoke through the hand of Moshe to him" (17:5).

Commenting on the words "through the hand of Moshe", Rashi explains that whoever starts up with the institution of the Kehunah will be punished with Tzara'as, just like Moshe was when he queried Yisrael's faithfulness in Egypt.

What is the connection between the two incidents, asks the K'li Yakar? It would have been easier to understand if the Torah would have compared Korach to Miriam and Aharon, who, like Korach, claimed that Moshe was no greater than them. But Moshe's query would seem to be of an entirely different nature?


Not at all, he replies! The reason that Moshe was smitten with Tzara'as is based on the Gemara in Shabbos (97a) which states that someone who suspects an innocent person, is stricken bodily, and it cites as the source, Moshe in Egypt. Moshe in Egypt suspected Yisrael of not believing in his prophecy, the very sin of which Korach was guilty. Moshe argued that Yisrael would say "Behold they will not believe in me, for they will say 'G-d did not appear to you' ", whilst Korach claimed that G-d did not send Moshe, and that he had concocted everything himself.

Now, based on the principle that G-d always punishes measure for measure, we can assume that whatever a person intends his victim to suffer, will ultimately rebound on him, says the K'li Yakar. It therefore transpires that had Moshe's accusation been correct, Yisrael would have been stricken with Tzara'as for denying his status as a prophet. Rashi (which is in fact a Gemara in Sanhedrin 110a) is merely equating someone who queries the Kehunah with someone who queries the Nevi'us, in this regard.


One of the reasons the K'li Yakar gives as to why the punishment for these sins is Tzara'as is because they are based on conceit (one of the seven sins listed by the Gemara in Erchin [16a]) is from King Uziyah, who entered the Heichal to offer the Ketores on the Mizbei'ach ha'Zahav (an Avodah that is reserved for the Kohanim), and who was stricken with Tzara'as, because, as the Pasuk in Divrei Hayamim 2 (16:16) explains "he became haughty to the point of destruction".

In keeping with Rashi here, Rashi in Yeshayah (6:4) on the Pasuk there (with reference to the episode in Divrei Hayamim) "And the doorposts moved many Amos at the sound of the calling, and the House became filled with smoke" makes the following comment: 'On that day, Uziyah came to burn the Ketores in the Heichal. The earth, thinking that his due punishment was to be swallowed up (like Korach), began to shake (preparing itself to open up and swallow him). But a Heavenly Voice announced "A remembrance to the B'nei Yisrael and no future usurper of the Kehunah will be swallowed up like Korach or burned like his assembly, but will be stricken with Tzara'as, like Moshe at the Burning Bush" '. Hence Uziyah was stricken with Tzara'as on his forehead.


Alternatively, says the K'li Yakar, the punishment of Tzara'as that Moshe received and that is reserved for all those who go in the footsteps of Korach, is due to Lashon ha'Ra. In addition, he remarks, citing a Medrash, Korach also belonged to the group of 'Leitzim' (mockers), which in effect, is also a branch of Lashon ha'Ra. Indeed, he points out, 'Korach' is the acronym of the first letters of "Keshes' (a bow) 'Romach' (a spear) and 'Chanis' (a sword) - all of which appear in the Pasuk in Tehilim 57:5 ("People whose teeth are like a spear and arrows, and whose tongue is a sharp sword"), with an obvious reference to Ba'alei Lashon ha'Ra. And the reason that Korach himself was not stricken with Tzara'as, like Moshe in Egypt, is because he was guilty of many other sins, among them Kofer ba'Ikar (denying Hashem) and in the Torah. He could not come to terms with a higher authority, so he went down (in similar fashion to Rashi's explanation on the words of Dasan and Aviram "We will not go up" [16:12]). What's more, as opposed to K'lal Yisrael in Egypt, he had witnessed the numerous miracles that G-d had performed with Yisrael, and so he earned himself the punishment of being swallowed up by the earth. And it is for these reasons that subsequent generations who start up with the Kehunah, would receive Tzara'as, and not the punishment that was meted out to Korach.


It is true that Korach spoke Lashon ha'Ra, like Moshe, and therefore it is appropriate to attribute Tzara'as to Korach. It is not so clear however, as to what Lashon ha'Ra Uziyah spoke, and so it is with anybody else who starts with the Kehunah, which is totally unconnected with Lashon ha'Ra, and yet which, as Chazal have said, is punishable by Tzara'as - like Moshe's hand. Consequently, I prefer the K'li Yakar's first explanation, ascribing the Tzara'as to conceitedness.

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Parshah Pearls

Blinding Dasan & Aviram's Eyes

"Even if you will poke out our eyes, we will not come to you" (16:14).

This is how Rashi translates the Pasuk. The Or ha'Chayim comments that this statement demonstrates their attitude towards the good deeds of a Tzadik; it shows that they considered them worse than becoming blind. And that explains Moshe's anger expressed in the following Pasuk.

The Rashbam and Ba'al ha'Turim however, translate the Pasuk differently. According to them, what the Pasuk means is "Do you think that we are blind?" As if they did not realize that Moshe deliberately took them out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill them in the desert.

See also 'Highlights from Targum Yonasan' on this Pasuk.


A Tzadik's Protection

"And he (Aharon) stood between the dead and the living, and the plague ceased" (17:13).

Earlier in the Parshah, (16:21) G-d ordered Moshe and Aharon to separate from the evil community of Korach, the Seforno explains, so that their combined merits should not protect them from the Divine punishment that was about to engulf them. Likewise here, he explains, Aharon deliberately stood at that spot, in order to prevent those who were already stricken from deteriorating and those who had not yet been smitten from being smitten. And it worked, 'the plague ceased'.


Twenty-four Gifts -
Twenty-four Sefarim

"The Parshah concludes with the twenty-four Matnos Kehunah. These correspond, the K'li Yakar explains, to the twenty-four Sefarim of T'nach. The connection between the Matnos Kehunah and Torah he says, stems from the Gemara in Sanhedrin, which forbids giving the Matnos Kehunah to a Kohen Am-ha'Aretz, which in turn, it bases on the Pasuk in Divrei-ha'Yamim (2, 31:4), where it says "to give the Kohanim and the Levi'im their Portion, in order to strengthen themselves in the Torah of Hashem". The Yalkut, he says, writes that twelve of the twenty-four Matanos as gifts apply in the Beis-Hamikdash and twelve, outside the Beis-Hamikdash. This is hinted, he explains in the two Pesukim (28:9 &11) "And this ("zeh") shall be for you from the Kodesh ha'Kodashim (seeing as the Gematriyah of "Zeh" is twelve; "And this ("Zeh") shall be yours, that what is set aside from the gift, from all the wavings of the Children of Yisrael". The former hints at Kodshei Mikdash, and the latter, Kodshei ha'Gevul.

Finally, the K'li Yakar refers to what he wrote in Parshas Naso (6:23), that Birchas Kohanim is, in fact, the twenty-fifth Matanah. This in turn, is hinted in the opening Pasuk of Birchas Kohanim "Ko sevorchu (So you shall bless) Ko = twenty-five. It too, is hinted in this Parshah, in the word "Hinei" (see 18:8), whose numerical value is sixty, corresponding to the sixty letters of Birchas Kohanim, which in turn, correspond to the 'sixty strong men who surround Shlomoh ha'Melech's bed'. See also Rabeinu Bachye and Ba'al ha'Turim in Parshas Naso.

* * *


Moshe & Shmuel

The commentaries ascribe the choice of the Haftarah a. to the fact that Shmuel, besides being compared to Moshe and Aharon, was also a descendent of Korach, and b. to the striking similarity between Shmuel's argument against Yisrael "Whose ox did I take and whose donkey did I take?" and that of Moshe against Dasan and Aviram "I did not take a donkey of their's ". Interestingly, Shmuel leveled the same argument against Yisrael as Moshe had leveled against his great-grandfather's assembly.


Your Money or Your Life!

"And from whom did I take ransom, and I hid my eyes from him?" (12:3).

The Halachah is that someone who insults a Talmid-Chacham is obligated to pay a fine of a litra of gold, which the Talmid-Chacham is permitted to keep for himself. The reason for this is because the Talmid-Chacham is empowered to avenge his honour, by giving the sinner an Ayin ha'Ra that kills him (as we find a number of times in Shas). Consequently, the gold that he receives is a form of ransom money (by means of which the sinner redeems himself from death).

What Shmuel now meant when he said "And from whom did I take ransom, and I hid my eyes from him" was - that on the one hand, he never took ransom money from anybody, whereas on the other, he never looked somebody in the eye and gave him an Ayin-ha'Ra either.

* * *


'But you did not take us up to a land flowing with milk and honey Even if you were to blind the eyes of the men in that land and you vanquish them, we will not go there' (16:14).


'And Elazar the Kohen took the copper pans that the burned ones had brought near, and they beat them to overlay the Mizbei'ach, since they had previously been used to serve the Mizbei'ach' (17:4).


'And Moshe to Aharon "Take the pan and place on it fire from on the Mizbei'ach, and Ketores on the fire, and take it quickly to the congregation and atone for them, because the destructive angel, whom they stopped at Chorev, whose name is 'Ketzef', has gone out from before Hashem (with His permission) he has begun to kill" ' (17:11).


' Aharon stood in prayer in the middle, and he formed a partition with the pans, between the dead and the living, and the plague ceased' (17:13).


'And the B'nei Yisrael said to Moshe, behold some of us have been destroyed with a flame of fire, whilst others have been swallowed up in the earth; We are considered as if we had all died' (17:27).


'And also your brothers the tribe of Levi, who are called after the name of Amram your father, bring near to you and they will serve you, and you and your sons will stand in front of the Mishkan of testimony' (18:2).


' you and your sons with you will guard your Kehunah, in all matters that apply to the Mizbei'ach and within the curtain, and you will serve by lots, like the service so shall be the eating ' (18:7).


'And Hashem said to Aharon 'And I have given you the charge of My separation with joy, Chalah and Bikurim, and all the Kodshim of B'nei Yisrael I have given to you " (18:8).

* * *

(Adapted from the Sefer ha'Chinuch)

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

Mitzvah 379:
Carrying the Aron on the Shoulders

The Kohanim are commanded to carry the Aron on their shoulders whenever Yisrael travel from place to place, as the Torah writes in Parshas Naso (7:9) " for the holy service is on them, on their shoulders they shall carry". The Rambam comments on this that although this Mitzvah was issued as a command to the Levi'im, that was then, in the Desert, because there were so few Kohanim available. But for future generations, it is the Kohanim on whom the onus of this Mitzvah falls; they are the ones who have to carry the Aron, and not the Levi'im, as is explained in Seifer Yehoshua and Seifer Shmuel. The Ramban however, writes that the Rambam's claim that the Mitzvah shifted to the Kohanim is simply not true. Far be it from us, he says, to suggest that any Mitzvah in the Torah has changed its format, to permanently disqualify the Levi'im from carrying the Aron. And he is right, for we find that the Levi'im carried the Aron in the days of David, as the Pasuk specifically writes in Divrei Hayamim 1 (15:26/27) "And it was when G-d assisted the Levi'im to carry the Aron" and "And all the Levi'im who carried the Aron ". The truth of the matter is that both Kohanim and Levi'im are eligible min ha'Torah to carry the Aron, since both of them are called Levi'im, as the Pasuk writes in Yechezkel (44:15) "And the Kohanim the Levi'im ", and this is borne out by the Pasuk in Divrei Hayamim 1 (15:14/15) "And the Kohanim and the Levi'im sanctified themselves to bring the Aron of Hashem as Moshe had commanded, like the word of Hashem, on their shoulders they shall carry with poles"; and the Sifri commenting on that, cites our Pasuk as the source for this command. For the title 'B'nei K'has' incorporates both the Kohanim and the Levi'im.

Furthermore the Ramban writes that not only did he not find the proofs cited by the Rambam for his explanation in Yehoshua and Shmuel, but on the contrary, he found the opposite, when the Navi writes in Yehoshua (3:3) "And they commanded the people saying 'When you see the Aron and the Kohanim the Levi'im are carrying it' ". Only it is as we wrote, the entire tribe, both Kohanim and Levi'im, are eligible to carry the Aron. And what's more, the Gemara in Sotah (33b) says that although generally, it was the Levi'im who carried the Aron, on the day that they crossed the Yarden it was the Kohanim who carried it, as the Pasuk writes (YehosHua 3:6) And Yehoshua said to the Kohanim Carry the Aron of the covenant", so that the miracle that Hashem was about to perform should be done specifically through them, the most holy members of the tribe. It would seem that when the Rambam refers to Seifer Yehoshua, he is referring to this Pasuk, but his proof is not clear at all, as we just explained. Also the Pasuk in Melachim 1 (8:6) which describes how the Kohanim brought the Aron to its resting place in the Kodesh Kodshim, is no proof for the Rambam, seeing as, bearing in mind that the Levi'im were not permitted to enter the Kodesh Kodshim, there was no other option (I do not understand the Chinuch's proof, since it was only the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kipur who was permitted to enter the Kodesh Kodshim, and on any other day, the Kohanim had no more right to enter than the Levi'im?)

The Chinuch prefers the opinion of the Ramban, permitting the entire tribe of Levi to carry the Aron. And the Pasuk in Divrei Ha'yamim (2, 35:3) says "And he said to the Levi'im 'Place the Aron ha'Kodesh in the House that Sh'lomoh ben David, King of Yisrael built, You are not to carry it on your shoulders' " simply means to say that it will no longer be necessary to transport the Aron from one location to another (as they had been doing until then); but not that, should it become necessary to carry it, that it was not the Levi'im who would do so And when the Gemara says in Chulin (26a) that blemishes disqualify the Kohanim but not age, they are referring to the Avodah of the Kohanim in the Beis-Hamikdash, but as far as the Avodah of carrying the vessels is concerned, Kohanim are disqualified at the age of fifty, just like the Levi'im.

A reason for the Mitzvah is - because the main Kavod of Yisrael is the Torah, which divides us from all the other nations, transforming us to 'Hashem's Portion'. Consequently, it is befitting and correct that it should be carried on the shoulders of those among us who are the most honourable and holy. Nor is it necessary to elaborate on something that is obvious to every Cheder-child This Mitzvah is written clearly in the Torah, that the Kohanim and the Levi'im must carry the Aron on their shoulders when it was necessary to move it from one place to another, such as in time of war or for some other valid reason. It may not be transported in a wagon or on the back of an animal Indeed, Chazal have already attributed to Moshe Rabeinu an error in a ruling which even children have read about, in that he carried the Aron on a wagon.

This Mitzvah applies only when all of Yisrael are living on their land for that is when it was necessary to carry the Aron due to war, or because their king has ordered them to. But nowadays, due to our sins, we have no king and no Aron, there is no need to carry it anywhere. This Mitzvah is incumbent upon the tribe of Levi and on the rest of Yisrael, with whom they agree. The custom in Galus to take out a Seifer-Torah and to use it to greet gentile kings, this does not stem from the current Mitzvah at all, seeing as all of Yisrael is eligible to transport it. If, in honor of the Torah, one wishes to choose Levi'im to carry it, one would certainly be rewarded with a Brachah.

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