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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 16, v. 1: "Va'yikach Korach" - And Korach took - In numerous places Rashi explains "taking" as convincing people to go along with an idea. Here Rashi says that he took himself. He convinced himself that he was deserving of an exalted position, as he too, was of the Levite family. We can thus say that Korach took "ben Yitzhor ben K'hos ben Levi," that he convinced himself by virtue of his illustrious and distinguished ancestry that he was worthy of a position of leadership.

Ch. 16, v. 3: "Umadu'a tisnasu" - And why should you elevate yourselves - Rashi says that Korach complained, "Since you took kingship for yourself you should not have given K'hunoh to your brother." Only one who has skeletons in his closet may become a king, 'kupoh shel shrotzim mei'achorov.' If so, how could you give your brother the position of Kohein, which requires a pure untainted lineage?" (Rebbe Reb Heshel)

Ch. 16, v. 3: "Umadu'a tisnasu" - And why should you elevate yourselves - Irony of ironies, Moshe is blamed for being haughty, while the Torah TESTIFIES that he was the most humble person on the face of the earth (Bmidbar 12:3), notwithstanding that he was the prophet par excellence with no equal ever (Rambam's 13 tenets of faith #7). Similarly, the gemara Sanhedrin 110a says that "Va'yishma Moshe va'yipol al ponov," - And Moshe heard and fell on his face - refers to people warning their wives against going into seclusion with Moshe out of fear that he would ch"v have an affair with them. Moshe fell on his face out of sheer embarrassment. Again, this is an irony of ironies. Moshe was so removed from involvement with women that even from his wife who was permitted to him, he separated (gemara Shabbos 87a). History seems to repeat itself, and when character attacks sparked by dispute develop, it is not unusual to see that some people are provoked to find fault with their adversary specifically regarding a point in which the one who is being maligned is exceptionally scrupulous.

Ch. 16, v. 5: "Boker v'yoda Hashem" - In the morning and Hashem will advise - Moshe suggested that they wait until the morning. He realized that Korach's adherents were influenced by his hype and campaigning. Eventually all of his cohorts would go to sleep. When in the privacy of their homes way from Korach they might come to their senses, as indeed did On ben Pelles. (Rabbi S.R. Hirsch)

Ch. 16, v. 15: "Al teifen el minchosom" - Do not accept their offering - Rashi says that Moshe prayed that their "minchoh" offering that they would bring the next morning should not be accepted. Alternatively, he says that their portion in the communal daily "tomid" offering not be consumed. Ramban says that they wanted to become Kohanim, so Moshe prayed that any offering that they would service as Kohanim should not be accepted. Sforno says that Moshe prayed that even if they offer a sacrifice as an atonement for attacking Moshe it should not be accepted, because Moshe said that he did not forgive their sin of embarrassing him. The gemara Yoma 85b says that when one sins against his fellow man, even if he repents to Hashem, the sin is not cleansed until he receives forgiveness from the person he wronged.

Ch. 16, v. 32: "V'eis kol horchush" - And all the possessions - Why were all of Korach's possessions swallowed by the earth? This happened so that none of his property would fall into the hands of a righteous person who would then benefit from it. If this were to happen it would be meritorious for Korach, as per the dictum, "If a coin falls from the pocket of a person and ends up in the hands of a poor person, it is to the credit of the previous owner" (Toras Kohanim, Rashi on Vayikroh 5:17). (Sforno) Alternatively, it was because of Korach's being fabulously wealthy that he had the audacity to stand up against Moshe's leadership. (Yalkut Yehudoh)

Ch. 17, v. 3: "Tzipuy lamizbei'ach" - Cladding for the altar - The gemara M'nochos 99a derives from these words that when an object is holy for a certain purpose it may be used for an alternate purpose providing that it is an upgrade in sanctity, "maalin bakodesh." The copper was used as a fire pan to hold coals for the incense and now it became part of the altar itself. Since the offering incense in this circumstance was totally against Hashem's will, as demonstrated by the death of those who offered it, why do we consider the copper of the fire pans as objects of sanctity in the first place? In turn the proof of the gemara seems to fall apart as well.

Since through this act Moshe's leadership was validated against the claims of Korach, we can compare this to Eliyohu's telling the ox that was to be offered to baal that it should not be reluctant to be offered, as through it Hashem's primacy would also be validated. This gave the incense and its vessels sanctity. (Divrei Sho'ul)

Ch. 17, v. 23: "Va'yotzei ferach" - And it developed a blossom - The blossoming of Aharon's staff is symbolic of his being the right man or his position. It is not due him because he was head and shoulders above the rest of the congregation, as indeed was the complaint of Korach, that all the congregation is holy and elevated. It is because Aharon has the capacity to bring out latent internal strengths and this in turn would encourage and impel the bnei Yisroel to do the same. This is the nature of almonds. They are the first to blossom and to bear fruit, as if they are the trail-blazers for all other fruit trees to bring forth their inner abilities. (Rabbi S.R. Hirsch)

Ch. 18, v. 9: "Zeh y'h'yeh l'cho" - This shall be for you - The Torah lists numerous benefits the Kohanim receive for their servicing the bnei Yisroel. This comes after the parsha of Korach's complaint that he deserved a position of prominence. The juxtaposition teaches us that although Korach overtly complained about the position, covertly he simply wanted the benefits. (L'vushei Srod)

Ch. 18, v. 13: "Bikurei kol asher b'artzom" - The first produce of all that is from their land - These words are most puzzling. The mitzvoh of tithing the first produce is limited to only seven species. This might well be a proof for the novel position of the Ra"n on the gemara Chulin 120 that even though one is obliged to bring only from the seven species, he may bring from any type. (Rabbi Shmuel Yershalmi)

Ch. 18, v. 15: "Podo'h sifdeh eis b'chor ho'odom v'eis b'chor habheimoh hatmei'oh tifdeh" - Redeem the first-born person and the first-born non-kosher animal you shall redeem - Why does the verse not incorporate both man and animal and simply say "redeem the first-born of man and of the non-kosher animal?" As well, once the Torah does mention them separately, why does redemption precede the mention of man while the non-kosher animal is mentioned ahead of the act of redemption?

Two differences between the redemption o man and animal are that if one sets aside the required five "slo'im" for a man and they go missing, the money must be replaced and given to the Kohein. If the money set aside for redeeming the first-born donkey goes missing it need not be replaced. Also, a person must be redeemed, while the animal need not be redeemed. Given these differences, the Torah does not want to combine the redemption of the two. As well, since the redemption of man is much more binding, as per the two halochos cited, redemption is mentioned before man to stress the importance of this act, while it is mentioned after the animal that is to be redeemed to show that its redemption is not as strict. (Haksav V'hakaboloh)

Ch. 18, v. 20: "Kein torimu" - Thus shall you tithe - This verse discusses the tithing of 1/10th of the "maa'ser," which the Levi is required to give to the Kohein. Since the Rabbis in the gemara Gitin 31 posit that this must be accurately measured and not given by approximation, we can interpret the words "kein torimu" to mean "you shall tithe ACCURATELY." (Mikro M'forosh)



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

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