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

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Vol. 19   No. 37

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmos
Michoel ben Avraham Nosson Halevi z"l
and
Sara bas Avraham z"l
by their loving family
t.n.tz.v.h.

Parshas Korach

Which Congregation?

" Korach gathered the entire congregation against them (Moshe and Aharon) to the en-trance of the Ohel Mo'ed, and the Glory of Hashem appeared to the entire congregation. Then G-d spoke to Moshe and Aharon saying. Separate from this congregation and I will de-stroy them in a moment! And they (Moshe and Aharon) fell on their faces and they said Oh G-d, G-d of the spirits of all flesh, if one man will sin, will You be angry with all the congrega-tion?" (16:19-21).

It appears from Rashi that G-d was indeed re-ferring to the whole of K'lal Yisrael, and that He was angry with them for joining forces with Korach against Moshe and Aharon. And it was only when Moshe pointed out that since Korach was the instigator, and he was the one who had really sinned, it wasn't fair to implicate the en-tire nation for one man's sins, that G-d (Kevay-achol) relented. To which G-d replied that Moshe was right, and that He would indeed make it clear as to who the sinner really was.

This conveys the impression that Moshe con-vinced G-d that what He was about to do was unfair, and that G-d gave in (Chas ve'Shalom), though it is of course inconceivable to say such a thing.

*

That is presumably why Rabeinu Bachye ex-plains that although Moshe thought that G-d was referring to the entire nation (perhaps because it was only he and Aharon who were instructed to separate themselves [Refer to Parshah Pearls. See also Targum Yonasan]), G-d in fact, only in-tended to strike down the congregation of Korach. And when He then instructed Moshe and Aharon to tell the people to go away from the dwelling of Korach and his congregation, He was merely elaborating on His earlier instruc-tion, explaining what He had meant in the first place (this explanation is also cited by the Ram-ban in the name of Rabeinu Chananel).

The K'li Yakar concurring with R. Bachye's explanation, explains that Moshe understood from G-d's words, that He intended to destroy the entire congregation (as we explained) for siding with Korach. However, sizing up the situation, there was nothing in the behaviour of the people to indicate that they were actually on his side. The Torah, after all, does not say that the people joined Korach, but that Korach gath-ered the people. In any event, even if Yisrael had been swayed by Korach, it would not have been fair to implicate them to the same degree as Korach. And he cites the incident where Miriam and Aharon spoke against Moshe, where Miriam was stricken with Tzara'as, but not Aharon, be-cause she was the one to instigate the Lashon ha'Ra.

Consequently, R. Bachye points out, even if Yisrael were guilty, they did not deserve to be wiped out together with Korach, with one and the same stroke. And here too, he cites the epi-sode with Chavah and the snake, where, unlike Adam and Chavah, the snake was smitten with a punishment that was incurable - because he was the instigator (See also Parshah Pearls 17:10).

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Parshah Pearls

The Two Hundred and Fifty Men

" and two hundred and fifty men from the B'nei Yisrael" (16:2).

The Riva citing the Count of Coucy, explains that from each tribe, Korach chose twenty-three men (comprising a Sanhedrin Ketanah), with the exception of the tribe of Levi, against whom his objections were directed.

Eleven times twenty-three equals two hundred and fifty-three men, comprising the two hundred and fifty men mentioned in the Pasuk, plus the trouble-makers Dasan, Aviram and On ben Peles (who are mentioned separately in their capacity as leaders of the rebellion, and who presumably, were among the twenty-three members of the tribe of Reuven).

This explanation, comments the author himself, does not conform to the opinion of Rashi, who specifically states that the majority of Korach's men were from the tribe of Reuven.

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Keeping away from Trouble

"Separate from this community" (16:21).

Rabeinu Bachye quotes a Chazal, which, based on the Pasuk in Tehilim "A thousand will fall at your side and ten thousand at your right, but you will not be affected", states how it is possible for three people to be sleeping under one cloak, and for the two outer ones to die and the third one to survive.

In that case, he asks, why was it necessary for Moshe and Aharon to move away from the congregation of Korach? Why could Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu not go ahead and kill them even as Moshe and Aharon stood next to them?

And he gives three possible answers:

1. So that Moshe and Aharon should not be affected by the air that accompanies the plague of pestilence, in the way that Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt when she turned round whilst fleeing from S'dom (See footnote in R. Bachye).

2. Because as long as they remained, their lives were in danger, due to what Chazal say in Bava Kama (60a) 'When the Midas ha'Din strikes, it makes no distinction between Tzadikim and Resha'im. According to both of these explanations however, It is not clear as to why G-d did not also instruct the rest of the people to move away too (See main article).

3. It was in honour of Moshe and Aharon, for as long as these Tzadikim were in the vicinity of Korach and his congregation, G-d would not lay a hand on them.

*

The Difference between
Separation & Elevation

"Elevate yourselves from this congregation and I will destroy them in a moment" (17:10).

The K'li Yakar points out that on this occasion, the congregation referred to can only be the entire congregation of Yisrael. In fact, he uses the change of expression here "Heromu!" as opposed to "Hibadlu (separate yourselves)" mentioned earlier on (refer to main article) to prove his point that on the earlier G-d was referring to the entire congregation separating from that of Korach.

He does this by translating "Hibadlu" and "Heromu" in the way that we just did. This distinction indicates that whereas on the former occasion, He was referring to the people, on the latter occasion, He was referring to Moshe & Aharon, who were on a higher level than the people.

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No Portion for the Kohanim

" and a portion you will not receive in their midst" (18:20).

Even not in the spoil, Rashi explains.

Why then, asks the Riva, in Parshas Matos, did Moshe command the soldiers to give a tax consisting of one fiftieth of the animals that they captured in the war with Midyan, to the Kohanim?

And he answers that the current prohibition is confined to the spoil of Eretz Yisrael. And, what's more, he adds, this is clear from the Pasuk itself, which begins with the words "And G-d said to Aharon, in their land (Eretz Yisrael) you will not inherit ". Midyan, of course, was not part of Eretz Yisrael, so the prohibition did not apply to it.

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