by Zvi Akiva FleisherBack to this week's Parsha| Previous Issues
PARSHAS KORACH 5759 BS"D
Ch. 16, v. 1: "Va'yikach Korach" - Rashi begins his commentary by saying that this parsha is "YOFOH nidreshes," "nicely" explained homiletically in the medrash of Rabbi Tanchum. Why does Rashi refer us to Rabbi Tanchum rather than extracting parts of Rabbi Tanchum's commentary, as he does quote many commentaries throughout the Torah? The Sifsei Chachomim says that Rashi on Breishis 3:8 says that although there are many ways to interpret the verses, he is explaining the Torah according to P'SHAT, the straightforward meaning.
Since Rabbi Tanchum's commentary is DRUSH and not P'SHAT, Rashi doesn't bring it.
What does Rashi mean with the word "yofoh?" I heard from Rabbi Avrohom Yaakov Pam shlit"a that "yofoh" means that the drush fits well with the p'shat. This is why Rashi mentions Rabbi Tanchum's medrash, as it is COMPATIBLE with the p'shat. He says that this is also the intention of the word "yofoh" in the blessing given to a newly married couple, that the "zivug" should be "oleh l'YOFOH," commonly translated that the match should turn out beautifully. Rabbi Pam says that it means the match should be COMPATIBLE, similar to the explanation of the word YOFOH in this Rashi.
"AND KORACH TOOK" - What did Korach take? Here are a few answers found in the gemara, medrash, and Torah commentators: 1) Himself 2) Bad counsel 3) An entirely blue talis 4) Bad commodity 5) Doson, Avirom, On ben Pelles, and 250 great sages 6) His heart through haughtiness.
The gemara and medroshim give many explanations for Korach's challenging Moshe's position of leadership. As well, there are numerous opinions regarding exactly which point(s) Korach and his adherents disagreed with Moshe. The famous book of astounding medroshim, named Medrash Plioh, says that what caused Korach to disagree with Moshe was the "Breiso," the teaching, of Rabbi Yishmoel.
Perhaps this can be explained with the words of the M.R. 18:16 which says that Rabbi Levi says that Korach contested the positions of Moshe and Aharon by positing that Moshe and Aharon only received their respective positions as king and Kohein Godol through the procedure of being anointed with the special "shemen hamish'choh." I, Korach, who is the son of oil itself, my name being Korach ben YITZHOR, YITZHOR meaning oil of an olive, surely deserve to be the king or the Kohein Godol. This reasoning, called a "kal vochomer," is one of 13 rules of exegesis listed in the "Breisoh" of Rabbi Yishmoel, which is part of our daily morning prayers.
The M.R. 18:3 says that Korach came to Moshe with the following question: "You have taught us that one needs a mezuzoh on the door posts of his home. If the home is filled with Torah Scrolls, does the door post still require a mezuzoh?" Moshe responded in the affirmative. At this point Korach retorted, "If a Torah Scroll which contains 275 parshios does not exempt the home from a mezuzoh, how can a mezuzoh which contains but ONE PARSHA satisfy this requirement?" We can easily see a parallel to his complaint that since the whole nation is holy, why is there a need for a leader.
What is most interesting to note is that the medrash quotes Korach as saying that a mezuzoh contains but ONE PARSHA. The Medrash Tanchumoh and the Yalkut Shimoni both have a text which reads "TWO PARSHIOS," and the RSha"Sh adjusts the text in the M.R. to conform with these two medroshim. However, the original text found in all printings of the M.R. is "ONE PARSHA."
Perhaps the original text can be explained as follows:
In the standard Vilna Shas at the back of the Z'vochim-M'nochos volume we find the "halochos k'tanos" of the RI"F. This is a compilation of halochos taken from various gemoros dealing with the laws of Sefer Torah, tefillin, and mezuzoh. On the margin of this work there is the commentary "L'shone haRIO"Z," words of Rabbi Yaakov Ohr Zorua. He quotes and explains the gemara Z'vochim 32b which says that it is appropriate to write the two paragraphs of the mezuzoh, Shma and V'hoyoh im shomo'a, "s'sumos," closed, meaning without any normal paragraph spacing, as if these two chapters of the Torah are ONE.
If however, they were written "p'suchos," open, meaning that there was a blank space between the two chapters, it is also acceptable.
This is not the common understanding of the gemara. All other commentators say that there is a space requirement, but the format should preferably be of the type called "s'sumoh." If however there was a different spacing format called "p'suchoh" it is also acceptable. This is the halacha as mentioned in Y.D. 288:13.
Regarding tefillin the spacing requirement between these same two chapters is also a "s'sumoh" format, but if one leaves a "p'suchoh" spacing it is not kosher, as mentioned in O.Ch. 32:36. The Beis Yosef in his commentary on the Tur O.Ch. #36 is hard- pressed to explain the halachic difference between tefillin and mezuzoh regarding the spacing.
Perhaps the following could be helpful: The reason that either format is kosher by mezuzoh, even though parshas V'hoyoh im shomo'a has the "s'sumoh" spacing, is that the two chapters, Shma and V'hoyoh im shomo'a are not written next to each other in the Torah, so when we write them in a mezuzoh we are not writing them exactly as they appear in the Torah. This can be derived from the gemara saying that either format is kosher. This means that we don't consider a mezuzoh a section of the Torah with all the laws of a Torah Scroll.
This would also explain why the gemara Z'vochim 31b permits writing the last words of the chapter V'hoyoh im shomo'a, which are "al ho'oretz," in the middle or end of the last line of a mezuzoh, although this would create an extra space after the word "hashomayim," even though this space is not found in a Torah Scroll. The Rambam in 5:5 allows this in a mezuzoh, even though an extra blank spacing appearing where not called for invalidates a Torah Scroll. This is listed in the Rambam as the 17th of 20 reasons for invalidating a Torah Scroll in chapter 10:2.
Regarding tefillin the gemara does not say that either format, "s'sumoh" or "p'suchoh" is acceptable.
Indeed the Rambam in hilchos tefillin 2:2 and 2:8, when describing the details of writing the tefillin, says that they should be written "as a Torah Scroll." He does not say this by mezuzoh. This indicates that the parshios of tefillin are considered an actual section of a Torah Scroll and must comply with the rules of writing a Torah Scroll. This answers the question raised by the Beis Yosef in his commentary on the Tur. A strong corroboration to the difference pointed out above between tefillin and mezuzoh can be found in the responsa of the Shulchan Oruch hoRav #1 which can be found at the end of volume 6.
In any case, we now have an understanding of the RIO"Z's words that the two chapters of a mezuzoh are one paragraph, as a mezuzoh is not considered a small section of the Torah, and as such need not follow the paragraph spacing requirements of a Torah Scroll. This can well be the explanation of our M.R. which says ONE PARSHA of the mezuzoh.
WHEN DID THIS UPRISING TAKE PLACE?
The Ibn Ezra says that it took place before the incident of the spies.
Although this is related later in the Torah, we apply the rule that the Torah does not always relate happenings in the correct chronological order, "Ein mukdam u'm'uchar baTorah" (gemara P'sochim 6b and Sanhedrin 49b). The Ramban disagrees and says that this rule is only applied where there is a compelling proof that something is not chronologically in order. He says that the Ibn Ezra too easily applies the rule of "ein mukdam." We find more of this in the Ibn Ezra at the beginning of parshas Matos, where he says that it is proper to assume that two juxtaposed parshios happened in reverse order.
Rashi's opinion is the same as the Ramban, as he says on 16:4 that the bnei Yisroel had already sinned three times, including the sin of the spies, and this was their fourth failing.
Ch. 16, v. 2: "Va'anoshim mibnei Yisroel chamishim u'mosoyim" - Who were these 250 men?
1) All first-born (Ibn Ezra) 2) All from the tribe of Levi (Rabbeinu Chananel's opinion brought in the Ramban) 3) The tribal leaders plus mostly from the tribe of Reuvane (Rashi) 4) A mixture from all the tribes (Ramban) 5) Twenty-three men from each of eleven tribes, excluding the tribe of Levi.
This is equal to the quorum of a Sanhedrin. Although this equals 253 people, the verse means 250 men besides Doson, Avirom, and On ben Pelles. (Rabbi Moshe of Kutzi)
How did Korach convince 250 people of such great spiritual stature to go along with his revolt against the leadership of Moshe? As well, how did they willingly risk their lives with the test of sacrificing the incense?
During a visit to Eretz Yisroel the Holy Admor of Satmar zt"l spoke to a large crowd of educators. He said that it is very dangerous to accept funding from those who are opposed to Torah ideals, even for the purpose of furthering Torah-true education. This is true even if they offer the funding with no strings attached. Just by the mere acceptance of the money, one is influenced to think along the donours' lines. This is an insidious bribe.
He brought a proof for this from the fact that Korach, who was fabulously wealthy, gave gifts to people prior to disclosing his true intentions, although he gave no stipulations with the gifts. Through this he was later able to influence them to join in his rebellion against Moshe's leadership. An educator in the audience who considered himself a great Torah scholar, who worked in a school system which received funding from a source which he himself was at odds with ideologically, derided the Holy Satmar Rov, saying that there is no source for his words in any medrash, etc. These words reached the ears of the Satmar Rov who responded that his words are taken from Rashi on the gemara Sanhedrin 52a d.h. "b'chanfei" and 52b d.h. "l'mah."
Rashi says that through their receiving benefit from Korach, he had the ability to persuade the 250 men to rebel against Hashem.
The bribe blinded them to the point that they were even willing to risk their lives with the test of sacrificing incense.
Ch. 16, v. 4: "Va'yishma Moshe va'yipole al ponov" - Rabbeinu Bachyei explains that falling on one's face indicates three feelings, that one is keenly aware of the Divine Presence, that one is in pain and is subordinate, and that one is showing the severe limitations of his senses and the abrogation and nullification of his feelings. Moshe was displaying the third of these intentions as he was hopelessly unable to do anything on his own.
He therefore prayed that Hashem intercede with a supernatural response. Rabbeinu Bachyei goes on to say that the third of the above is the reason for gentiles praying with their hands open, palms placed against each other, showing that their hands are powerless. This indicates negation of one's own powers to a Greater Power. He says that the gentiles themselves don't know why they pray in this manner.
Bnei Yisroel say "tachanun," the most powerful of prayers, while falling on their faces, (actually falling to the ground as mentioned in the gemara Megiloh 22b) to symbolize the above in a stronger manner. One is less able to exercise his abilities and strength when not standing on his feet.
Ch. 16, v. 6: "K'chu lochem machtos" - Rashi explains that the machtos were pans with which one would shovel coals, and these vessels had a handle. It is most unusual for Rashi to give us a detailed description of a machtoh here, rather than earlier in Vayikroh 10:1 where the machtoh is first mentioned.
Rabbi Sho'ul of Amsterdam answers as follows: The gemara M'nochos 99a says that we derive from our verse that "maalin bakodesh," we elevate by sanctity. This means that if something had sanctity and we want to change its usage, we should not use it for a lower or equal level of sanctity, but rather, we must use it for an elevated level of sanctity. We see that after the pans were used for incense, they were hammered into a covering for the outer copper altar. First they served the altar and now they became part of the altar.
However, on the gemara Yoma 47a the Tosfos Y'shonim says that the incense sacrificed by Korach's adherents was not placed onto the altar, but rather, was burned in the pans themselves. If so, how do we have a proof for elevation? The pans themselves were used as an altar.
The answer to this is that although the pans were considered an altar, their handles served the contained area of the pans and were not themselves an altar. They also were hammered into the flat plates which were added to the covering of the altar. This is what motivated Rashi to explain that they had a handle.
This also answers a difficulty raised by the Turei Ovven. He asks, "How do we derive 'maalin bakodesh?' The verse clearly states that the purpose of incorporating the pans into the altar is to create a permanent reminder of the punishment meted out to those who rebelled against Moshe, as is stated in 17:3, 'v'y'h'yu l'ose livnei Yisroel.'" According to the above, the permanent reminder is created by making the container component of the pan an integral part of the altar, and the rule of "maalin bakodesh" is derived from also using the handles as part of the altar.
Ch. 16, v. 15: "Lo chamore ECHOD meihem nososi" - Rashi translates this as: I did not make use of a donkey of even ONE PERSON. Rashbam translates: I did not even make use of ONE DONKEY of theirs.
In any case, we see that when Moshe was confronted with a complaint that he took upon himself the position of leader for his personal gain and aggrandizement, he responded that he did not even ask for transportation, even when it was dearly needed for the betterment of the nation. Likewise we find the prophet Shmuel echoing the same response in the Haftorah (Shmuel 1:12:3). This is a far cry from the broad expense accounts of contemporary leaders of nations.
Ch. 16, v. 22: "Ho'ish echod yecheto v'al kol ho'eidoh tiktzofe" - The Ramban explains the question of Moshe in this verse and Hashem's response in the next two verses according to Rabbeinu Chananel as follows: Moshe misunderstood Hashem and thought that the "eidoh" to which Hashem referred in verse 21 meant all of the bnei Yisroel. Hashem clarified that He only meant the group of Korach and his adherents (v. 24). The Ramban strongly disagrees with this interpretation, saying far be it from Moshe, the premier of all prophets, to misunderstand the meaning of Hashem's words.
In last week's parsha it says, "v'heimatoh es ho'om ha'zeh k'ish echod" (13:15). Moshe beseeched Hashem to not destroy the nation. Why did he express this with "as You would put to death one man?" Rabbi Shmuel Feivish Kahana, grandson of the SM"A, answers that the gemara Yoma 86b notes that there is a contradiction between Omos 2:4 which says that Hashem will forgive three, but not four sins, and Iyov 33:29 which says that Hashem will forgive two, but not three sins. The gemara answers that three sins of the masses (tzibur) are forgiven, but not four sins, while two sins of a person (yochid) are forgiven, but not three sins. (You will not find this version in the gemara, but rather in the text of the RI"F's gemara.) Rashi on 16:4 says that Moshe fell face down when he heard the complaint of Korach because this was the fourth sin they had transgressed in the desert, the golden calf, the complainers about the manna, the spies, and now Korach. Since the sin of the spies was the third sin, Moshe asked Hashem, "Will You put to death this NATION, a tzibur, for which You have patience until they transgress four times, and now they have only sinned three times, as an ISH ECHOD, as if they were a single person, for whom you tolerate only three sins?"
Possibly, this could be applied to our verse as well according to the interpretation of Rabbeinu Chananel. Since Moshe thought that Hashem meant that He would destroy the complete nation ch"v, although they were not part of Korach's followers, and had only sinned three times and not four, he therefore pleaded, "'Ho'ish echod yecheto,' sins committed by a single person deserve punishment after three times, but how can You display Your anger on 'kol ho'eidoh,' since they have only sinned three times?"
Ch. 17, v. 2: "Emor el Elozor ben Aharon haKohein" - Why was Elozor charged with collecting the pans of burned incense from among the 250 people who died by fire, rather than Aharon? The Yalkut Shimoni remez #750 answers that this would have been much too painful a task for Aharon, since he had already suffered the death of his two oldest sons by fire when they also sacrifices unauthorized incense.
The Y.Sh. goes on to say that Aharon was so afraid of improperly sacrificing the incense, that when the plague of death began (17:11), and Moshe told Aharon to quickly take a pan, light incense in it, and stand among the stricken people to stop the plague, Aharon said that this was a deviation from the normal procedure of only lighting the incense on the inner golden altar. He said that he feared he would be struck dead by Hashem, but nonetheless, would carry out Moshe's request. This is why the verse stresses "Va'yikach Aharon kaasher dibeir Moshe" in verse 12.
Ch. 17, v. 23: "Va'yigmole sh'keidim" - Was the wooden staff of Aharon originally from an almond tree? The Tzror Hamor says yes, and the Tiferes l'Moshe says no.
Among the surnames of Kohanim, Mandel is common. It probably comes from the blossoming of almonds, "mandelin" in Yiddish, of Aharon's staff.
Ch. 18, v. 9: "Zeh y'h'yeh l'cho" - From this point until the end of our parsha the Torah enumerates the 24 benefits that Kohanim receive. The GR"A says that these are referred to in Pirkei Ovos 6:6 when it says that K'hunoh is acquired with 24 advantages. The GR"A says that they can be categorized into two groups of twelve each, one group of benefits which kohanim receive on the Mikdosh campus, and twelve which they receive in Yerusholayim and anywhere else. This is alluded to in verse 9 which encompasses the 12 in the Mikdosh, by starting with the word "zeh" which has a numerical value of 12, as well as the 12 outside the Mikdosh covered in verses 11 through 18, which begins with "V'zeh," and 12.
The 12 in the Mikdosh are:
1) The meat of the Shalmei Tzibur of Shovuos
The 12 outside the Mikdosh are:
1) The shank and thigh of a Korban Shlomim
May I suggest an interesting exercise to enhance your Shabbos table? Mention that there are 24 "matnos K'hunoh" listed in this week's parsha, and go around your table, requesting each participant to mention one item and continue until you have either exhausted the 24 matonos, or exhausted the people.
Which one word in the Torah has the greatest numerical value? You might be very surprised to find out that it has relatively few letters. Answer next week, be"H.
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