subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues



Ch. 16 , v. 1: "Va'yikach Korach" - This parsha is placed after the parsha of Shlach, which deals with the spies. The spies and the rest of the generation of those who left Egypt were sternly punished for speaking and accepting "loshon hora." Korach and his congregation behaved in an even worse manner, creating discord. Inherent in discord is "loshon hora" plus causing for painful arguments. This group was punished even more sternly, as not only did they die a most hideous death, being swallowed up by the earth, but even their family members including minor children and their possessions were swallowed up as well. (Yo'geil Yaakov - Rabbi Yaakov Chaim Sofer)

Ch. 16, v. 1: "Va'yikach Korach" - What did Korach take? The gemara Sanhedrin 109b offers numerous answers. One is that he took a bad purchase, "mekach ra," for himself. If we add the numerical value of "ra," 270, to the numerical value of Korach, 308, we have a total of 578, the value of the word "machlo'kes," argumentative discord. (Rabbi Avrohom Boruch Mani)

Ch. 16, v. 2: "Va'yokumu lifnei Moshe va'anoshim mibnei Yisroel" - The gemara Kidushin 33b says that one is required to stand up as a sign of honour when seeing his greatest mentor for a distance of his being in sight. For another Torah scholar it is sufficient to stand up when the scholar is within a four cubit distance. Rabbi Moshe Mizrachi says that our verse tells us that the group of people who came in front of Moshe belittled him by only standing up when immediately in front of him, "LIFNEI Moshe," and not from the required "once he is within view" distance. The Nachal K'dumim adds that this might also be indicated by the grouping of the words "va'yokumu lifnei Moshe va'anoshim mibnei Yisroel," meaning that they gave equal honour to Moshe as others of the bnei Yisroel in their parameters of rising for them.

Ch. 16, v. 3: "Umadua tisnasu al k'hal Hashem" - The M.R. 18:3 says that Korach was an outstandingly wise man and of the family of K'hos whose charge it was to carry the Holy Ark, as stated in Bmidbar 7:9, and in spite of this he had the temerity to argue about the validity of Moshe's leadership. It is well understood that his being very wise points that he should have known better, but how does his being a Holy Ark bearer add to it?

The gemara Sotoh 35b says that those who carried the Holy Ark expended no effort and were actually carried by the Holy Ark. One who not only knows about this phenomenon, but also actually experienced it should take the lesson that it is not one's efforts but the will of Hashem that brings things to fruition. If so, Korach, a carrier of the Holy Ark, should have learned from this to not question Moshe's appointments, let alone claiming that Moshe was guilty of nepotism. (Rabbi Volf of Strikov in Zeir Zohov)

Rabbi Shlomo Algazi explains the words in verses 9 and 10, "Ham'at mi'kem ki hivdil ...... laavode es avodas Mishkan Hashem, ...... uvikashtem gam K'hunoh" to mean that the reason that the tribe of Levi was the smallest in number is because they were given the task of carrying the holy vessels and if done improperly they would die (as per Rashi on Breishis 29:34 based on M.R. Bmidbar 5:1), and this is the reason for "ham'at mi'kem."

If so, Moshe reasoned that they surely shouldn't want to undertake the even more daunting tasks of the Kohanim, which might bring about the death of even more people. The T'chei'les Mordechai says that with this interpretation it is simple to understand the point made by saying that Korach was one of the carriers of the Holy Ark. Since he knew that there were dire consequences for those who were not careful with its proper portage, he should have surely understood that he should not look for an even higher position.

Ch. 16, v. 5: "Boker v'yoda" - Why did Moshe push the confrontation off until the next morning? The Ohr Pnei Moshe of Pshavorsk answers that this gave Korach and his adherents the opportunity to see both the moon at night and the sun in the morning. It would remind them of the complaint the moon had when it was of equal size as the sun, that there can be only one leader. The moon's size was reduced (gemara Chulin 60b). We see from this that Hashem chooses the leader. This visual aid might help bring Korach around.

Ch. 16, v. 7: "V'simu a'leiheN k'to'res" - The word "a'leiheN" in the feminine form seems to be appropriate since the antecedent of this pronoun is "machtos" in the previous verse. However, in verse 17 we find "U'n'sa'tem a'leiheM k'to'res." Since "a'lei'heM" refers to the word "machtoso" of this verse, why is it in the male form? Also, why is the word form "simoh" used in this verse and "n'sinoh" in verse 17? Your answers would be greatly appreciated.

Ch. 16, v. 7: "Rav lochem bnei Levi" - Rashi (Medrash Tanchuma #5) raises the question, "Since Korach was very intelligent, why did he pursue such absurdity, 'shtoos?'" Why is the term "shtoos" used for Korach's attempted revolution? The Chidushei hoRi"m answers that the gemara Shabbos 14b says that when King Shlomo instituted the laws of "eiruvin," a ruling through which separate properties halachically join to become one, a voice emanated from heaven and said, "Bni im CHOCHAM li'becho yismach libi gam oni" (Mishlei 23:15). We see that the term CHOCHOM is used for one who creates unity, making separately owned properties as one. Korach is the paradigm of the fomenter of argument and divisiveness. Since his fomenting argument is the opposite of the concept of "eiruvin," it is called "shtoos," the opposite of "chochmoh." It is now well understood why the term used to allude to the incident of Korach in parshas Dvorim, where many iniquities are alluded to and not openly mentioned, is CHATZEIROS. This word is in the plural form, and the opposite of "eiruvin." "Eiruvin" unite, while "chatzeiros" connotes divisive separate domains.

Another answer: The gemara Brochos 27b relates that Rabbon Gamli'eil, who was the head of the Yeshiva, slighted Rabbi Yehoshua. He was deposed from his position and it was necessary to find a successor. The gemara says that Rabbi Yehoshua who was an appropriate candidate could not be the one because since through him Rabbon Gamli'eil was removed, albeit through no fault of "Rabbi Yehoshua, nevertheless it would be too painful for Rabbon Gamli'eil. Similarly here, even if Korach were to ch"v be successful in deposing Aharon, he could never be the one appointed in Aharon's place, since he was the cause of Aharon's being removed. (Imrei Shamai)

Possibly with the words of the gemara Yerushalmi Sanhedrin final chapter #1 we can explain this in yet another manner. The gemara says that eventually Korach showed his true colours, claiming that Torah is ch"v not Divinely commanded, but rather was the work of Moshe. If so, how could he expect to have a successful uprising, as even the 250 men who joined ranks with him did not agree with his premise. This is obvious because if Moshe made up the Torah, there really is no heavenly ordained position of Kohein Godol, as this was also Moshe's doing. Thus, Korach was even at odds with his cohorts right from the beginning, the ultimate "shtoos."

Ch. 16, v. 21: "Hibodlu" - Moshe and Aharon were at the Ohel Mo'eid with Korach and his 250 adherents at its doorway. The term used by Hashem when commanding Moshe and Aharon to remove themselves from this group is "HIBODLU." In verse 24, where Hashem told Moshe to tell the bnei Yisroel to remove themselves from around the residence of Korach, Doson, and Avirom the words used are "HEI'OLU misoviv l'mishkan ......" In verse 26, where Moshe carries out Hashem's command he expresses himself with "SURU noh mei'al oho'lei ......" In verse 27, where the bnei Yisroel remove themselves from this area we find "Va'YEI'OLU mei'al mishkan ......" In 17:10, in response to the people complaining that Moshe and Aharon were responsible for the death of the 250 men (verse 6), we find yet a fourth term for removing themselves, "HEI'ROMU mitoch ho'eidoh." Why the use of four different terms for what is seemingly the same idea? Also why the change in terms from "miSOVIV l'MISHKAN" in Hashem's command to "MEI'AL O'HO'LEI" when Moshe told this to the bnei Yisroel? A thorough search in the classic commentators on the parsha will answer why four terms were used for removing themselves. I await your answers.

Ch. 17, v. 2: "V'yo'reim es hamachtos" - The gemara Sanhedrin 55a says that the item through which a person has sinned and has brought about his death should be destroyed. If so, why weren't the pans in which Korach's followers brought the incense destroyed? The gemara says that there are two reasons for destroying these items. One reason is "kolone," the embarrassment this brings to the memory of the dead person. Every time someone sees the item, it reminds him of the tremendous sin that was done. The second reason is "takoloh." Once a sin was done through this item it could bring about another person sinning with it in the same manner. Thus the next verse answers why the pans were not totally destroyed. As far as embarrassment, there is none, since the incense was brought for Hashem, "ki hikrivum lifnei Hashem." As far as the fear of someone similarly sinning with one of the pans in the future, once used as cladding for the altar they serve as a sign not to sin, "v'y'h'yu l'ose livnei Yisroel." (Meshech Chochmoh)

Ch. 17, v. 24: "Va'yikchu ish ma'teihu" - Once the heads of the tribes saw a Divine sign that they were not to be elevated beyond their positions, why did they take the staffs back? The Sforno answers that according to the opinion that the staffs were given by the representatives of each tribe to Moshe this is understandable. Each person cut a stick off a larger branch of wood and gave it to Moshe. Upon their sticks not sprouting they took them back simply to see if they were the original sticks they gave. They saw if the hewn edges matched to the area of the large branch from which it was cut. In other words, they did not trust Moshe.

Another explanation is offered by Rabbi Moshe Dovid, the Holy Admor of Tchortkov. They fully accepted that they were wrong once they saw this miraculous celestial sign. They were truly modest people and wanted to make sure that they remained with this lesson, so they took their staffs back to place in a prominent location as a constant visual reminder that Moshe was right.

Ch. 18, v. 9: "Zeh y'h'yeh l'cho" - From this point onward the Torah enumerates many of 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 Holy Shalo"h points out that there are also a total of 24 positive and negative mitzvos that are incumbent upon a Kohein that do not apply to a Yisroel. This is no coincidence. Since a Kohein derives 24 extra benefits he has to respond in kind by fulfilling 24 more commands of Hashem than a Yisroel does. As always, "mit recht kumt flicht" - with privilege comes responsibility.



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel