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Vol. 17 No. 35
Gittel bas Chana z"l
Two Glaring Questions
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)
Rabeinu Bachye poses two important questions with regard to Moshe's handling of Korach and his group of rebels. Firstly, why Moshe, who bears the title 'the faithful shepherd of Yisrael', neither prayed to save them from the terrible punishment that awaited them (indeed he prayed for it to happen). Nor did he make any attempt to bring Korach and his followers from the tribe of Levi back to the fold (he did try to convince Dasam and Aviram), like he did time and time again, when he Davened for the sinners in Yisrael, like he did for example, at the episode of the Golden Calf, when he pleaded with G-d not to destroy them as He had threatened to do, and that of the Spies, when he succeeded, through his Tefilos, in modifying the punishment that G-d had in store for them.
Indeed, Rabeinu Bachye explains, Teshuvah as we know, overrides all considerations, atoning as it does, for the most severe of sins, as G-d's Right Hand is extended to all and sundry - even to the greatest rebels - to accept their Teshuvah, should they but make one step in that direction? So why did he do nothing to rectify the sin of Korach and his congregation. Worse still, he went to great lengths to arrange their ultimate downfall?
And if Korach and his congregation had doubts about Moshe's actions and activities, he asks further, why did Moshe not simply ask G-d for a sign from Heaven to prove to them that Aharon was indeed the chosen Kohen Gadol? And once that had been proven beyond any shadow of doubt, they would have also believed that all of Moshe's other appointments were Divinely inspired!
(This question is difficult to understand because nothing that Korach did suggests that he harbored doubts about Moshe's authenticity. All his actions were born of a firm conviction that Moshe had filled all the positions with those who were nearest and dearest to him. And once a person is pre-convinced about something, nothing will serve him to convince him otherwise.
The second question that R. Bachye poses concerns the Pasuk which relates how Dasan and Aviram perished together with their wives, their children and their babies. What could the babies possibly have done, he asks, to deserve any punishment at all, let alone such a terrible one? (See Rashi, with whose answer the author himself later concurs, as we quote him in Parshah Pearls).
These questions, says R. Bachye, can only be answered through Kabalah, and he goes back in time to the generations of the Haflagah (the Tower) and of S'dom. The Torah cites the men who built the Tower, who said "Come, let us construct for ourselves a city … and make for ourselves a name; whereas by S'dom the Pasuk writes "And the men of the city, the men of S'dom surrounded the house". The insertion of "the men of the city" in the second Pasuk indicates that the men of S'dom were in fact (reincarnations of) the men of the Tower. And this is borne out by the expression the Torah uses in connection with the latter "and this is what they began to do". Yes; they began with the Tower, and they continued with their evildoing in S'dom.
In the current Parshah, the Torah hints at the connection between Korach and his congregation and the two previous generations, when it writes "And they arose before Moshe" (rather than 'against Moshe', which would have been more appropriate), implying that the congregation of Korach had already rebelled against Moshe (i.e. against G-d) previously. And this is why it refers to them as "men of a name" - the same description that the generation of the Tower applied to themselves. Two further hints lie in Targum Unklus, who translates "and Korach took", as "ve'Isp'leg Korach", a direct hint to the Dor Haflogoh, and in the words of Dasan and Aviram, "will you blind our eyes … ?" This is reminiscent of the men of S'dom, who were stricken with blindness by the angels as they harassed Lot (in the way that one tends to scare a person with something harmful that he already suffered before).
R. Bachye compares this triple connection to a merciful father whose foolish son was not behaving the way he should. Initially, he scolded him. Then when he persisted in his evil ways, he beat and chastised him. And finally, when he saw no change in his behaviour, he expelled him. Likewise, the generation of the Tower, G-d scattered; the men of S'dom, He smote with blindness and finally, when Korach and his congregation sinned again, He 'expelled' them from the world.
With this explanation, the questions that the author posed earlier are automatically answered, seeing as the sinners here had already sinned twice before (and this includes the babies, who had been their too). This was their last chance to make good. The Tefilos of Moshe would not help them; the onus lay on them to do Teshuvah!
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(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)
G-d of All Directions
" G-d of the spirits (the angels and) of all flesh, will one man sin … " (16:22).
This is how Rabeinu Bachye initially translates "Elokei ha'Ruchos le'chol bosor". In a second explanation however, he translates it as 'G-d of all (four) directions', indicating that G-d rules over the four corners of the earth, and that His Majesty is to be found in the middle, from where He controls the world (as G-d informed Par'oh "for I am G-d in the midst of the earth" [Sh'mos 5:18]).
The reason that Moshe describes G-d in this way is based on the Avos, who described Him as "G-d of the Heaven and G-d of the earth" (Chayei-Sarah 24:3). Bearing in mind that the world comprises six directions, over all of which G-d rules, Moshe made a point of completing the picture by stating "Elokei ha'Ruchos", incorporating the remaining four directions over which G-d has jurisdiction .
When the Prophets Threaten
"If these people die like everybody else … " (16:29).
This can be compared, says R. Bachye, to the Shushbin (best man) at the wedding of the daughter of a king who was charged with guarding the evidence of the princesses chastity. When one of the guests stood up and announced that the bride was not a virgin, the Shushbin arose and told the king that unless he avenged his honour, and duly punished the guest, he himself would be forced to concede that the princess was indeed not a virgin. The king responded that it would be better to kill the guest rather than have the Shushbin spreading false rumours about his beloved daughter.
And so it was with Moshe, who 'threatened' G-d that if Korach and his men died a normal death, he would support their claim that G-d did not send him, and that he (Moshe) made all the appointments of his own accord. Rather than have Moshe spread false rumours about G-d's appointments, He acquiesced and punished Korach and his men just as Moshe had requested.
R. Bachye then cites two prophets who followed in Moshe's footsteps, and challenged G-d in similar fashion. 1. Miychayhu ben Yimlah, who announced that if Ach'av returned alive from the battle with Syria, then G-d had not sent him; and 2. Eliyahu on Mount Carmel, who likewise threatened that if G-d denied his request to send down a fire to consume the Korban that he had prepared on the saturated Mizbei'ach and to create a multiple Kidush Hashem, he would place the blame fairly and squarely on Him for turning Yisrael's hearts away from Him. In both cases, G-d avoided a confrontation with his prophets by acquiescing to their respective requests. Ach'av (and nobody else) was killed in the otherwise bloodless battle that ensued, and a Heavenly fire miraculously consumed Eliyahu's Korban.
Such a Harsh Punishment
Commenting on the particularly harsh punishment meted out to Korach, Rabeinu Bachye points to the evil Midah of Machlokes (strife), of which Korach was guilty, and which chips away at the Torah bit by bit, until it succeeds in negating the entire Torah. Today Korach was querying Moshe's appointments; tomorrow, he would query something else that Moshe had said, until eventually, he would end up totally denying that G-d gave the Torah on Har Sinai, and that Moshe had invented it off his own bat. And when the stakes are that high, one needs to nip it in the bud, even using extreme measures if need be.
And it is because Korach was attacking Torah, about which the Pasuk in Yirmiyah writes (33:28) "If not for My covenant day and night, the laws of Heaven and earth I would not have set up", that he needed to receive a punishment that involved both Heaven (the fire) and earth (when the earth opened up and swallowed him alive).
In any event, the author comments, they deserved this severe punishment, because whoever rebels against Moshe, it is as if he had rebelled against the Shechinah.
See also Main Article.
The Suffering of Korach
"And they and all their belongings went down alive to the grave (She'olah)" 17:33.
In fact, R. Bachye points out, "she'olah" means not just to the grave, but to the lowest of the seven levels of Gehinom, to which those who forget G-d are sent, as the Pasuk in Tehilim (9:18) informs us. The Pasuk there uses the term "they return", hinting at the cycle that takes place there; for once they are burnt to a cinder, G-d reconstructs them, and they are burned all over again, and so the process continues to the end of time. The fact that the fire of Gehinom is sixty times hotter than the fire that we know renders the punishment even more frightening.
Citing a Medrash, he explains that half of "She'ol" consists of fire, and half, of snow. And the 'inmates' are punished there by being forced to jump from the fire into the snow and from the snow back into the fire.
Losing Both Worlds
" … and they perished from the midst of the congregation" (17:33).
From here we see, says R. Bachye, that someone who attacks the Torah with the intention of uprooting its foundations loses his portion in the World to Come. And so R. Akiva says in Sanhedrin (109b) "and the land covered them" - 'in this world'; "and they perished from the midst of the congregation" - 'in the World to Come'.
Interestingly, the quote in the Gemara differs from Rabeinu's version, and whether or not, Korach and his congregation, is a matter of opinion. This is partially offset by our concluding paragraph.
Why, he goes on to ask, having received such a severe punishment in this world, did they also deserve to lose the World to Come? Why is this not comparable to the case of Achan (who defied Moshe's strict orders not to take from the spoil of Yericho), to whom Yehoshua subsequently said "This day Hashem will 'blacken' you", and from which Chazal extrapolate "Today … ", 'but not in the World to Come!'
R. Bachye himself simply says that the sin of Korach was so much worse than that of Achan that they deserved to lose both worlds. He does however, explain why. It is safe to assume that he is referring to the fact that whereas a. Achan was guilty of transgressing one sin, Korach and his congregation attacked the very foundation of Torah, as he himself intimated earlier; b. Achan alone sinned, Korach caused so many other people to sin and to lose their lives.
The question is difficult to comprehend, bearing in mind that whereas Achan did Teshuvah before he was killed, Korach and his men did not, and when someone dies without doing Teshuvah, even death does not atone for his sins. Indeed, Achan's Teshuvah is the central theme of the Pesukim there in Yehoshua.
The author concludes that even though Korach and his men did not merit to go to the World to Come (which he defines as the world of the Nashamos to which Tzadikim go after they die), they will however, arise when the dead are resurrected, as the Pakuk writes in 'Shiras Chanah' (Shmuel 1, 2:6) "Hashem kills and brings back to life; He sends down to the grave\Gehinom and brings up again".
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THE BA'AL HA'TURIM ...
" … and two hundred and fifty men from the B'nei Yisrael" (16:2).
Two hundred and fifty in numerals spells 'Ner'. This hints, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, to the Pasuk in Mishlei (24:20) "Ner re'sha'im yid'ach" (the lamp of the wicked will be extinguished).
"And Korach assembled the people" (16:19).
Just as was done in honour of Aharon, on the day that he became Kohen Gadol, comments the Ba'al ha'Turim, as the Torah writes in Tzav (8:3) "And all the congregation assemble". Seeing as Korach had his eyes on the Kehunah Gedolah, this is clearly no mere coincidence.
"The pans of these sinners (ha'chato'im ho'eileh) with their lives … " (17:3).
The only other time that the word "ha'cha'to'im" appears in T'nach is in Shmuel (1, 15:18) "and you (Shaul) shall destroy the sinners Amalek."
Like Korach and his men, who were aware when they brought the Ketores, that their lives were at stake, so did Amalek, who, together with the rest of the world, had just witnessed the awe-inspiring miracles of the Exodus, yet he chose to attack K'lal Yisrael (like the well-known parable of a man jumping into a boiling bath).
" … and behold Aharon's staff had blossomed … it produced blossoms, sprouted buds and almonds had ripened".
Three items, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, corresponding to the three people who started up with the Kehunah - Korach, Yerav'am ha'Melech and Uziyah ha'Melech.
On the other hand, he points out, the word Shekeidim (almonds) has the same Gematriyah as "Chashmonim" (i.e. the Maccabim), in whose hands the Kehunah was firmly established.
"And Moshe took out all the sticks (ha'Matos [of the other tribes]) from before Hashem … " (17:24).
The word "ha'matos" the Ba'al ha'Turim observes, is missing a 'Vav' (the letter that denotes life), because the sticks were as dry when they came out of the Ohel Mo'ed as when they went in.
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AND THEIR MEANING
(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.
Not To Eat the Limb of a Live Animal
We are commanded to refrain from eating the limb of a live animal, i.e. a limb that has been severed from an animal whilst it is still alive, as the Torah writes in Re'ei (12:23) " … do not eat the soul together with the flesh" - this is called 'Eiver min ha'Chai'. We have learned in Chulin (102b) that someone who eats both the limb of a live animal and meat from a live animal receives two sets of Malkos. This is because there are two La'avin in this regard; the one that we just quoted, and one in Mishpatim "u'Basar ba'sodeh T'reifah lo socheilu", which is a La'av against eating the flesh of a live animal, as the author already discussed in Mishpatim, Mitzvah 73 - not to eat T'reifah. The Mitzvah not to eat Eiver min ha'Chai is repeated in Parshas No'ach (9:4).
A reason for the Mitzvah is to train ourselves to negate the Midah of cruelty, which is a particularly despicable Midah . And there is nothing more cruel than cutting a limb or a piece of flesh from an animal that is still alive and eating it. The author recalls how he has often discussed the tremendous advantage of acquiring good Midos on the one hand and distancing oneself from bad ones, on the other. Since someone who is good chooses what is good, and G-d who is all good, wants good. That is why He commanded His people to choose what is good. And this is how the Seifer ha'Chinuch explains the majority of Mitzvos according to the simple explanation.
Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah … Chazal have said that the prohibition pertains exclusively to an animal, a Chayah or a bird that is Kasher, but not to those that are not. They have also said that it makes no difference whether the limb contains a bone in addition to flesh and sinews (such as a fore or hind-leg) or not (such as the tongue, the 'beitzim', the spleen, the kidneys and the heart, all of which are included in the Isur. The difference between them however, is that a limb that does not include a bone, is subject to Eiver min ha'Chai, whether it is cut off completely or only in part; whereas one which does not is only subject to this La'av if it is cut off together with the bone; Otherwise, someone who eats it transgresses only the La'av of T'reifah, but not that of Eiver min ha'Chai.
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