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

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Vol. 23   No. 39

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

Parshas Korach

Korach and His Followers

Korach, besides being an influential man, was also extremely affluent. Putting these attributes to good use, he set about gaining adherents to his cause. To this end, he succeeded admirably, winning over a number powerful men, including the twelve princes, Dasan, Aviram, On ben Pelles (who subsequently withdrew, together with his own three sons) and two hundred and fifty men, predominantly from the tribe of Reuven, his neighbours, who bore a grudge against Moshe for having deprived their tribe of the birthright cum priesthood.

He also whipped up a substantial following among the populace by showering them with gifts, and by effectively putting to use his sharp tongue by lashing out at Moshe and Aharon, as the Torah specifically writes.


Between them, Korach and his band of rebels had four objectives.

1. The prince-hood of K'has - indeed it was Korach's jealousy of his younger cousin Elitzafan ben Uzi'el that sparked off the rebellion, as Rashi explains.

2. The Kehunah Gedolah, which accounts for his attack against Aharon, and on which, judging by the test of the Ketores, the two hundred and fifty men had also set their sights.

3. To discredit Moshe, no doubt in order to achieve his goals, and to have all his appointments negated, as is evident from his opening comments.

4. To reinstate the tribe of Reuven as the firstborn tribe, who would then serve in the Mishkan as Kohanim.


It is interesting to note that the latter objective clashed with the first two. If Reuven would regain their position and would serve in the Mishkan, then the Kohen Gadol would have had to be a member of the tribe of Reuven, and not Levi. And by the same token, K'has would not have played a prominent role in the Avodah. What would then have come of Korach's first two aspirations?

Moreover, if they would have succeeded in their quest to negate the entire hierarchy that Moshe had organized, by what Divine right would Korach have taken over the leadership of the positions to which he laid claim?

Yet such is the power of Machlokes that is based on jealousy. In their zeal to bring their opponents down, the disputants present arguments that not only defy logic and truth, but arguments that are self-contradictory.


With all Korach's influence, wealth and following, how many of his objectives did he achieve? Dasan and Aviram, his right-hand men, who did not seek the Kehunah Gedolah, were swallowed-up alive, the two hundred and fifty men, who did, were burned, whilst Korach the instigator, suffered both deaths. Moshe Rabeinu remained the leader of K'lal Yisrael, Aharon, the Kohen Gadol, Elitzafan ben Uzi'el, the Prince of K'has and the Tribe of Levi retained the priesthood. In short, not only did Korach and his band of followers gain nothing, they lost everything that they already had. To this day, he and his men announce daily from Gehinom 'Moshe is true, his Torah is true and we are impostors!' (Bava Basra, 74a).

To cite a Mashal from the Medrash - 'The camel decided that it wanted horns. Not only was its request not granted; its hump was taken away from it as well!'


And as for Moshe, he emerged from the fracas more established than ever. His masterly handling of the situation, coupled with his typical humility throughout must have had the effect of increasing his prestige among the people, and marking him as one of the greatest men who ever lived - if not the greatest!

* * *

Dasan & Aviram

The exception to the list of objectives that we cited earlier was Dasan & Aviram. Their in-volvement with Korach was not based on any particular objective. From the time they entered the scene, at the end of Parshas Sh'mos, when they confronted Moshe and Aharon, as they left Par'oh's palace, they took every opportunity to embarrass Moshe, and to flaunt his lead-ership.

After Moshe killed the Egyptian (in defense of none other than Dasan himself) after they left Egypt - they were the ones to inform Par'oh that Yisrael had fled and who left over from the Manna after the episode of the Spies, they announced that they would appoint a new leader and return to Egypt. They were evil men, troublemakers who joined up with Korach for no reason other than Machlokes and rebelion was part of their psyche.

No wonder the Medrash describes them as 'sages to do evil', and writes about them that 'Any wicked act that one can ascribe to them, one should'.

* * *

The Matnos Kehunah

In their capacity as G-d's chosen tribe, the Kohanim served regularly in the Beis ha'Mikdash, to which purpose they were ultimately divided into twenty-four groups which served on a weekly rota system, although all groups served on Yom-Tov.

In exchange for their services, and because their special obligations precluded them from receiving a portion in Eretz Yisrael alongside the other tribes, they were allotted the following twenty-four gifts, which were divided into three groups.


Bear in mind that most of the above was not relevant to the era of the Mishkan, seeing as the sum total of Kohanim was only three, and that no crops grew in the desert.


Kodshei ha'Mikdash, which the Kohen had to eat in the Azarah (Temple Courtyard).

1)& 2). The Chatos (the sin- offering of both animals and birds)

3). The Asham (guilt-offering)

4). The Asham Taluy (a guilt-offering brought for a Safek (doubtful) sin

5). The Shalmei Tzibur (the communal peace-offering brought on Shavu'os)

6). The Lug (a measure comprising six egg-volumes of oil (taken from the oil that accompanied the Asham Metzora)

7). The Sh'tei ha'Lechem (the two communal wheat-loaves brought on Shavu'os)

8). The Lechem ha'Panim (the twelve loaves that were placed each week on the Shulchan)

9). The Minchah (the meal-offering)

10). The Omer (the communal barley offering brought on Pesach).


Kodshei ha'G'vul - which the Kohen could eat anywhere in Eretz Yisrael (though those that bore the title 'Kodesh' could not be eaten in a Tamei location).

1) Terumah Gedolah (one fiftieth of the crops that grow in the fields of each non-Kohen)

2). T'rumas Ma'aser (one tenth of the Ma'aser Rishon that the Levi received, that he was obligated to give to the Kohen)

3). Challah (a small amount of dough of a private person and of a baker)

4). Reishis ha'Gez (the first of the year's wool harvest that was shorn from one's sheep)

5). The right foreleg, the cheeks and the stomach of every Shechted animal

6). Pidyon ha'Ben (the five Sela'im with which a Yisrael [but not a Levi] redeems his firstborn son)

7). A Petter Chamor (the lamb with which the owner redeems his firstborn donkey)

8). A Cherem (a field that the owner declared 'Cherem' - a form of Hekdesh)

9). An inherited field that the owner declared Hekdesh and that was not redeemed before the Yovel year arrived)

10). Gezel ha'Ger (an object stolen from a Ger [convert] after the thief has falsely sworn his innocence and where the Ger died leaving no relatives, upon which the thief becomes obligated to pay the Kohanim the object plus a fifth).


Kodshei Yerushalayim - which the Kohen was permitted to eat or use anywhere in Yerushalayim.

1) A B'chor Beheimah (after the relevant parts of the Korban had been brought on the Mizbe'ach)

2). Bikurim (the first-fruits of the seven species - wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates)

3). The Chazeh ve'Shok (the chest and the calf of every peace and thanks-offering brought by a Yisrael) plus four of the forty loaves that accompanied the latter

4). The skin of every Kodshei Kodshim Korban (incorporating every Olah, Chatas, Asham and the Shalmei Tzibur on Shavu'os).


The Levi'im, who played a supportive role to the Kohanim in the Beis-ha'Mikdash, did not therefore receive a portion in Eretz Yisrael. In return for their services, everyone had to give them Ma'aser Rishon (one tenth of the crops that grew each year, after they had given T'rumah Gedolah to the Kohen).

* * *

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