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

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Vol. 18   No. 39

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Yisrael ben Binyomin z"l
whose Yohrzeit will be
27 Sivan

Parshas Korach

The Staff that Blossomed

Dasan and Aviram had been swallowed up, Korach's two hundred and fifty followers had been burned, yet the people persisted with cries of 'You killed the people of G-d!'

So following a plague that killed almost fifteen thousand people, G-d ordered Moshe to take twelve bare staffs, one from each tribe and to place them in the Ohel Mo'ed. The next day, Aharon's staff had blossomed. It is unclear however, what this miracle set out to prove, and the commentaries differ in their interpretations.

Rashi explains that it proved once and for all that Aharon and his descendents were chosen as Kohanim. Indeed, he says, that is why the staffs blossomed into almonds (shekeidim) - which are the quickest of all fruit to blossom - a Divenely inspired sign that if somebody starts up with the Kehunah, his punishment will be swift. Indeed, we find that King Uziyah, who tried to usurp the Kehunah Gedolah, was immediately stricken with Tzara'as.

And that is why the Torah refers to "the staff of Aharon", rather than 'the staff of Levi'.

The Ba'al ha'Turim clearly learns like Rashi, as he points out that the three stages of "porach" (blossomed), " Tzitz" (budded) and " Sh'keidim" (grew almonds) hints at Korach and at kings Yerav'am and Uziyah, the three people who usurped the Kehunah. And he adds that the Gematriyah of "shekeidim" is equivalent to that of 'Chashmona'im', who were descendents of Aharon, and in whose hands the Kehunah was established.

In any event, the blossoming staff would finally establish that Aharon and his descendents exclusively were the Kohanim. The Ramban however, disagrees. In his opinion, the burning of Korach's two hundred and fifty men had already established beyond any shadow of doubt that Aharon and his sons were the only authentic Kohanim. And the purpose of the staff was to prove that the Levi'im had been chosen to replace the firstborn (a fact that Korach, who was a firstborn, denied) (see Parshah Pearls 'You Killed the People of G-d!'). (See also footnote in R. Bachye who, quoting the Mizrachi, counters that according to the Ramban, it ought to have been, not Aharon, but his son, Elazar [who was after all the official Nasi of Levi], who handed in the staff.)


The Ha'amek Davar, in defense of Rashi, explains, that were it not for the test of the staffs, we might have thought that both the miracle of the ground swallowing and that of the burning, were meted out to the sinners as a punishment for insulting Moshe, rather than to prove that Aharon was the Kohen Gadol.

Perhaps one can also argue that, notwithstanding the fact that G-d had already proved Aharon's authenticity, now that Yisrael continued to express doubts, He initiated this second test to set the record straight once and for all. In answer to their accusation "You killed the people of G-d!", He sent them a proof which proved, beyond any shadow of doubt, that Aharon was the Kohen Gadol and his descendents, the Kohanim. For so the Pasuk says "And it shall be that the man (not the tribe) that I will choose, his staff will blossom, and I will rid Myself of the complaints of the B'nei Yisrael ".


To reconcile Rashi's explanation with his, the Ramban himself suggests that once the staff ascertained that G-d had rejected the firstborn and replaced them with the tribe of Levi, this would automatically confirm that Aharon was the Kohen Gadol. He rejects the suggestion however, in that Gershon was the firstborn of Levi, in which case the Kehunah Gedolah ought to have gone to one of his descendents.

However, this too, is difficult to understand, firstly because nobody in Gershon was contending for the Kehunah Gedolah, nor in all likelihood was there anybody who was worthy of the post; and secondly, it is clear from Pesukim in Bamidbar and in Naso that, notwithstanding Gershon's seniority in age, K'has took precedence over him in matters of Avodah. Moreover, Korach himself coveted the Kehunah Gedolah, as the commentaries explain, and he was from K'has and not Gershon.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted mainly from the Riva)

What Upset Korach?

"And Korach the son of Yitzhar took" (16:1).

Commenting on Rashi, who explains that Korach was jealous of his cousin Elitzafan ben Uziel's appointment as prince of K'has, the Riva cites a Medrash Tanchuma. The Tanchuma maintains that Korach was annoyed at the fact that the members of K'has had to carry the Holy Vessels on their shoulders, whilst Gershon and Merari were given wagons to carry the accessories of the Mishkan.


Korach's Complaint

"And Moshe said to Korach 'You and all of your congregation should be ready before G-d; you, they and Aharon, tomorrow!" (16:16).

Why, asks the Riva, does the Pasuk mention "you" twice?

It seems, he explains, that Moshe first instructed Korach and his men to appear without Aharon (see also Ramban), to which Korach retorted that if Aharon was not asked to participate, he saw no reason why he should.

And it was in response to Korach's reply that Moshe repeated his instructions, but this time, including Aharon!"


No New Creation

"If G-d will create something new " (16:30).

This is how Rashi translates "ve'Im b'riy'oh yivro Hashem", which he explains to mean either that G-d will create a death that has never been applied before, or that if G-d already created a mouth for the earth, that was fine, but if not, then He would create one now.


The Riva citing the Rash however, queries Rashi from the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos, which specifically lists the mouth of the earth as one of the things that G-d created at dusk of Erev Shabbos. And that being the case, the term 'create' here would not be applicable. Now Rashi does allude to the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos, but what he says is difficult to understand. If Moshe knew that G-d had created the mouth, then why did he need to add that if not, He would create one now? Whereas if he didn't know about it, then why would it enter his mind that perhaps G-d had created it?

In any event, as the Riva asks, since G-d did create the mouth at the time of the creation, the term 'create' is not appropriate here.


The Riva therefore concludes that the translation of "ve'Im b'ri'oh yivro Hashem" is 'If G-d will make a hole and the ground will open its mouth" (as we find in Yechezkel 12:47, where the word "u'boro" means to make a hole).


It seems to me however, that the Riva's question is precisely what is bothering Rashi. That explains why he gives his first explanation, because, granted the mouth of the earth was already created, but a death of this nature had never occurred to date, so to apply to it the term 'creation' is appropriate.

Whereas in his second explanation (which is also that of Targum Yonasan), taking into account the fact the mouth of the earth already existed, he is clearly bothered by the fact that the Torah uses the word "if " and by the future tense of : "He will create". Consequently, bearing in mind that he was speaking to Korach, Dasan and Aviram, he told them that as far as he was concerned, the mouth of the earth already existed and was ready to swallow them up at a moment's notice. But from their point of view, even if it wasn't, they deserved to be swallowed up by the earth, and that G-d would not hesitate to create one there and then to give them their desert.


Swallowed Up and Burned

" the earth opened its mouth and it swallowed them " (16:32).

Later, comments the Riva, the Pasuk lists Korach together with those who died by burning.

Indeed, he says, Korach received both punishments, as the Gemara explains in 'Cheilek'. The reason for this is because, had he not been swallowed up, then those who were would have complained (and justifiably so) that Korach was the one to bring that punishment on them, and he himself escaped it. Likewise those who were swallowed up would have had the same complaint. So G-d gave him both punishments, leaving nobody with cause for complaint.


Two Kinds of Rebels

"And a fire went out from before G-d and it consumed the two hundred and fifty men who brought the Ketores " (16:35).

Why, asks the Riva citing Rav Yosef Karo, did the two hundred and fifty men who brought the 'strange' Ketores die by burning (a regular form of death), whilst Dasan and Aviram (and Korach) die the horrific, never-ending death of being swallowed-up by the earth?

To answer the question he gives the simple Mashal of two men who were being judged. The one accepted upon himself whatever the judge would decree upon him, whilst the other stated unequivocally that he would refuse to comply with the judicial verdict.

There is no doubt that the judge would issue a harsher decree upon the latter. And that is what happened here. When it came to the crunch, the two hundred and fifty men, albeit rebels, followed Moshe's instructions to the letter. They took their fire-pans with the Ketores, and appeared at the entrance to the Ohel Mo'ed at the given time, as instructed. Dasan and Aviram on the other hand, responded to Moshe's call with the words "We will not come to you!" That is why their punishment was infinitely worse that that of the two hundred and fifty men.


A Firstborn Animal can be Eaten

for Two Days

We learn this, Rashi explains, from the Pasuk (with reference to a firstborn animal) " like the chest of waving and the right calf (of Shelamim) it shall be for you" (18:18)

And the chest and the right calf of Shelamim could be eaten by the Kohanim for two consecutive days.

The question arises says the Riva as to why we need a Pasuk to teach us this, since we already know it from the Pasuk in Re'ei (regarding B'chor Beheimah) "shanah be'shanah", which Rashi himself explains with reference to the last day in the current year and the first day in the next one (i.e. for two consecutive days)?

And he answers that from the Pasuk in Re'ei we learn that the Kohanim may even eat a B'chor Beheimah for two days (and not just one); whereas the current Pasuk teaches us that, like Shelamim, one may eat it for two days but not three.

It is not clear though, why we cannot learn the first Din too from Shelamim?

* * *

You Killed the People of G-d!
(Translated from the Ramban)

"And all the congregation of B'nei Yisrael grumbled saying 'You killed the people of G-d!' " (17:6).

It seems to me that the people now believed in the choice of Aharon as Kohen Gadol, once the fire came down from Hashem and consumed his Korbanos. What they still wanted was for the B'choros to serve in the Mishkan in place of the Levi'im - they rejected the switch that had taken place (i.e. the Levi'im being chosen to re-place the B'choros.) This was because they wanted all the tribes to have a share in the Avodah in the House of G-d (and not just one).

That is why they now complained that, by virtue of Moshe and Aharon's choice of the Ketores, an Avodah that is reserved for Kohanim, when what they were fit to perform was the Avodas ha'Levi'ah, they (Moshe and Aharon) had brought about their deaths.

And that explains why the Pasuk will shortly write "the staff of Aharon blossomed for the tribe of Levi".

See Main Article.

* * *


"Are we (ha'im) doomed to die" (17:28).

The same word "ha'im" appears in Iyov "Is (ha'im) my help (ezrosi) not with me, and counsel (Tushi'ah) withheld from me?" Taken out of context, the word "ezrosi" there, has connotations of wife (helpmate, as G-d said when creating Chavah - 'I will make for him a helpmate [eizer]!"); whereas "tushi'ah" is sometimes used to describe Torah.

Connecting the Pasuk in Iyov with the current Pasuk, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains, the Torah is hinting that both someone who does not have a wife and someone who is devoid of Torah are considered like dead.


"This shall be for you from the most holy from (mi'KodeSH ha'KodashiM miN) the fire " (18:9).

The Ba'al ha'Turim observes that the last letters of "mi'KodeSH ha'KodashiM miN",spell 'shemen' (oil). This hints at Chazal, who learn from these very words that what remains from the oil after the Kohen has placed some of it on the ear, the thumb and the big toe of a Metzora, is included in the twenty-four gifts that are given to the Kohen.


"And you shall separate from it (mimenu) the T'rumah of Hashem" (18:26).

If we read the word "mimenu" as "mi'miyno" (from its species), it hints at the Halachah that prohibits separating T'rumah from one species on to another and from this year's crops on last year's.

* * *

(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 225:
Not to Deny Money Belonging to Someone Else that One Has in One's Possession

One may not deny money that has been deposited with one or anything that one has that belongs to someone else, as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:11) " and do not deny", which is written with reference to money. The Sifra explains that when the Torah writes in Vayikra (5:22) " and he denies it and swears on it falsely ", that refers to the punishment. From where do we know the warning? From the Pasuk here "do not deny". This is another Mitzvah that logic dictates.

Some Dinim of the Mitzvah The Gemara says in Bava Metzi'a (5b) that someone who (falsely) denies having received a security, is disqualified from testifying, even if he has not yet sworn to that effect. The Gemara explains however, that this speaks specifically where witnesses testify that the object in question is currently is his possession. Other details of the Mitzvah are to be found in various locations in Maseches Shavu'os (and in Choshen Mishpat Si'man 94).

This Isur applies everywhere at all times to men and women. Someone who contravenes it and falsely denies a monetary claim, has contravened a La'av. He has transgressed a Command of the King, but is not subject to Malkos.


Mitzvah 225:
Not to Swear After Having Falsely Denied a Monetary Claim

One is forbidden to swear following a false denial, as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (19:11) " and do not lie"., meaning that someone who denies having in one's possession a deposit, has contravened the La'av of not denying, and if he then swears to substantiate his denial, he transgresses the La'av of not swearing falsely; Since traditionally, that is how we explain the Pasuk - that the La'av of "lo seshakru" comes to add to that of "lo sechachashu". As the Sifra explains - Lo seshakru is the punishment of the warning ""ve'nIshba al shaker" (See previous Mitzvah). The Gemara in Shavu'os explains that whoever swears to substantiate a false denial) transgresses two La'avin - 1. that of "Do not swear by My Name falsely (Kedoshim 19:12)" And 2. "One may not swear falsely against one's fellow-Jew".

A reason for the Mitzvah the author already presented in Parshas Yisro, in the Mitzvah of 'Not to Swear Falsely' (Mitzvah 30). The Dinim of this Mitzvah are to be found in the fifth Perek of Shavu'os

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times. Anybody who contravenes it and who swears be'meizid after having falsely denied a monetary claim, is subject to Malkos -despite the fact that this La'av does not involve an act (a 'La'av she'ein bo ma'aseh'). This is because the Torah nevertheless decreed Malkos on it, due to the severity of the sin.

* * *

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