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

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Vol. 21   No. 38

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

Parshas Korach

Dasan & Aviram
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

"And Korach the son of Yitzhar, the son of K'has, the son of Levi, together with Dasan and Aviram sons of Eli'av and On ben Peles, sons of Reuven, took himself apart" (16:1).

The Oznayim la'Torah comments that it is difficult to fathom 'these two creatures', and to understand why it was that, at every conceivable opportunity, they hounded Moshe. So much so, that the Gemara in Nedarim (64) states 'Wherever one finds the term "Nitzim" (quarreling) or "Nitzavim" (standing [in confrontation]), it refers to Dasan and Aviram.

Their first confrontation took place after Moshe killed the Egyptian. Why did he kill him? Because he was beating a Jewish slave mercilessly, a slave whose name was - Dasan, and whose life Moshe saved by his intervention!


The Medrash relates how the Egyptian taskmaster took a fancy to Dasan's wife (Shulamit bas Divri, who tended to greet everyone, man and woman, Jew and Egyptian). So after waking up Dasan early one morning to go to work, he raped her. When Dasan returned home after working non-stop for an entire day, realized what the Egyptian had done and let on to him that he knew, that was when the Egyptian began lashing him cruelly without respite, until Moshe caught him and took the law into his own hands, in spite of the risk to his own life.

The Medrash then tells us how, following the previous episode. Dasan planned to divorce his wife, and how her brother Aviram attempted to stop Dasan from divorcing his sister. They began to fight over the issue, and that was when Moshe rebuked them. He succeeded in making peace between them, it seems. But as payment for his services, they promptly joined forces and marched off to Par'oh to inform him of what Moshe had done to one of his esteemed taskmasters. Moshe had saved Dasan's life and had avenged the honour of Aviram's sister, yet all of this made no impression on these two evil men, and in an incredible act of supreme ingratitude, they repaid evil for good, branding their saviour as a common murderer and handing him over to the authorities to what was bound to end in the death-sentence.

Something that Moshe did or said in the course of these two episodes seems to have affected Dasan and Aviram and turned them against him, sparking off a hatred towards Moshe and all that he stood for, that in turn, would cause them to defy Moshe at every twist and turn, as we shall now see.


The next confrontation between them took place when Moshe failed in his attempt to cancel the decree that the Jewish slaves must produce the same amount of bricks in spite of the quota of straw that until then had been provided. Among the elders waiting for him were Dasan and Aviram, who 'confronted him as he left Par'oh's palace'. On that occasion, they greeted him with the words "G-d will see (what you have done) and judge you for giving us a bad name in the eyes of Par'oh".

Dasan and Aviram, who remained behind in Egypt at the time of the Exodus, were the ones to inform Par'oh that Yisrael had fled, and had no intention of returning to Egypt, and they were the ones to leave over some of the Manna and to go and look for Manna on Shabbos - on both scores contravening Moshe's explicit instructions not to do so. And they were also the ones who, following the report of the spies, suggested that the people replace Moshe with another leader and return to Egypt.


The last time the two men confronted Moshe was in the (current) episode of Korach, where the two Resha'im jumped at the opportunity of challenging Moshe's authority by joining Korach's rebellion. And it was here that their hatred reached its peak - when they stood defiantly in front of him, with their wives and children, accusing him - incredible as it sounds - of taking the people out from a land flowing with milk and honey, and of leaving them to die in the desert.

Their words and actions here suggest that they were upset at having left Egypt, and would have been happy to return there so that they could regain their important position as officers of Par'oh (that they had held prior to the Exodus). It didn't bother them that Yisrael would once again become abject slaves, says the Oznayim la'Torah, as long as they held their position of importance - and he aptly describes them as 'quizlings' (traitors).


The Oznayim la'Torah therefore concludes that it was the fact that Moshe took them out of Egypt, stripping them of their high position, which was the final straw that broke the camel's back - that caused Dasan and Aviram to rebel in the desert at every opportunity.

I would suggest that it was the title 'Rasha' that Moshe conferred upon Dasan and Aviram when he found them quarreling (See Rashi, Sh'mos 2:13 [justifiably, as Chazal explain]), that played a major role in turning the two men against Moshe.

* * *

Some Facts about Korach
& his Congregation

(translated from Otzar Ishei ha'Tenach)

Korach denied the creation of the world (Zohar).

Korach, Kayin and Bil'am all set their sights on what was not theirs. What they fancied was not given to them and what they already had was taken away from them (Sotah 9b).

Korach was an outstanding Chacham; he was one of those who merited carrying the Aron (Medrash Rabah).

Yosef hid three caches of treasures in Egypt. One of them was discovered (and taken) by Korach (Sanhedrin 110.) According to Targum Yonasan, he found two of the caches, which comprised silver and gold, and which he intended to use to drive Moshe and Aharon out of the world.

Two wealthy men arose in the world - Korach among the Jews and Haman among the gentiles, both of whom perished. Why? Because their wealth was not a Divine gift, but one that they obtained of their own accord (Medrash Rabah).

"Wealth that is kept for its owner to his detriment" (Koheles, 5:12). This refers to the wealth of Korach (Ibid.)

At that moment, Korach declared 'Torah is not from Heaven, Moshe is not a Navi and Aharon is not a Kohen Gadol!' (Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin).

He became a heretic, denying the Mitzvos of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu (Medrash ha'Gadol).

When Moshe finished addressing Korach, the Torah does not record an answer on the latter's part. Korach was smart and cunning. He knew that if he attempted to reply, Moshe, in his wisdom would out-argue him and he would be forced to acquiesce. So he chose to ignore him (Medrash Rabah).

Korach spent the entire night smooth-talking Yisrael, 'Do you really think that I am seeking Kavod for myself? Not at all; I want us all to share in the greatness!' In this way, he went from tribe to tribe until he convinced them all (ibid.).

In a voice laden with sarcasm, he told the people the following (fictional) story: 'A certain widow, mother of two orphaned daughters, who lives in my street was on her way to plow the sole field that she owned, when along came Moshe and reminded her that it is forbidden to plow with an ox and a donkey and that one may not plant Kil'ayim. When the harvest season arrived, he told her to leave Leket, Shikchah and Pe'ah for the poor.

After she took crops into the granary, Moshe demanded T'rumah, Ma'aser Rishon and Ma'aser Sheini (?).

The wretched woman decided to sell the field and with the proceeds she purchased two lambs. The moment they gave birth, Aharon arrived claiming that the firstborn belonged to him. When she came to shear the sheep, he reminded her that the first fleece went to the Kohen, too (and he happened to be a Kohen). Best thing, she thought, would be to Shecht the animals and at least to enjoy the meat. To be sure, Aharon was waiting to claim the right foreleg, the cheeks and the stomach.

In a final attempt to get the two 'greedy brothers' off her back, she declared the sheep 'Cherem'. Don't worry, Aharon had not forgotten her. Quoting the Pasuk in Korach which places all Cherem in the possession of the Kohen, Aharon promptly took away the widow's sheep and left her crying' (Medrash Shochar Tov).

The congregation of Korach forfeited their portion in the World to Come (Sanhedrin 109b).

Nor did they receive a portion in Eretz Yisrael - Yehoshua and Calev took their portions (Bava Basra 118:).

* * *

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