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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 16, v. 14: "Af lo el eretz zovas cholov udvash heviosonu vati'ten lonu nachalas so'deh vocho'rem" - However not to a land that flows of milk and honey have you brought us and you have (also not) given us an inheritance of field and vineyard - Note the words in parentheses in the translation. Rashi says that LO in the beginning of our verse refers not only to the immediate words following, but also to "vati'ten .." I have come across three more places in our parsha where we find this phenomenon, albeit they are not as straight forward and obvious as in our verse.

In 16:26 we find a warning to turn away from the tents of the evil people and another warning to not touch any of their possessions "lest you will come to an end through their sins." Ibn Ezra explains that "lest .." applies not just to the immediate preceding warning to not touch their possessions, but also to not heeding the warning to turn away.

In 17:5 the verse says "v'lo yi'h'yeh ch'Korach v'chaadoso kaasher di'ber Hashem b'yad Moshe lo." The last words of this verse are quite enigmatic. Rashi first explains that these words mean that Hashem has spoken LO, regarding Aharon, to Moshe, that he and his sons are the rightful Kohanim. Alternatively, Rashi explains that one who contests the rightful Kohein family will be struck with leprosy, with LO referring to Korach. Either of these explanations leaves us with a verse that has choppy syntax.

The Chasam Sofer asks, "How can one be warned to not act like Korach did towards Moshe? After all, Moshe was appointed the leader and it was acknowledged by all when they heard the voice of Hashem say that Moshe should ascend the mountain." Any other argument cannot have this totally unanimous component to it. He answers that we must understand the verse differently. In general, when one argues with another, he will bring a proof from the Torah itself or a Rabbinic explanation of the Torah, and be convinced that the Torah clearly sides with him. Read our verse as follows: "And one shall not be like Korach and his group, and also not, again with the words "v'lo yi'h'yeh" referring to the next phrase, "kaasher di'ber Hashem b'yad Moshe LO," as if Hashem has spoken through Moshe (in His Torah) LO, specifically to HIS position. Thus we have "v'lo yi'h'yeh" refer not only to the immediately following words, but also to the next phrase.

In 18:20 the verse says "b'artzom lo sinchol v'cheilek lo yi'h'yeh l'cho b'sochom." This seems like doubletalk. Rashi (Sifri) says that "v'cheilek lo yi'h'yeh l'cho b'sochom" adds that even in the spoils of war there is no portion for the Kohanim. The obvious problem is that in parshas Matos we see that a portion of the spoils was given to Elozor haKohein (31:29). Sifsei Chachomim answers that the prohibition of giving spoils of war to Kohanim is limited to Eretz Yisroel, just as the verse predicates the prohibition of their having a land inheritance "b'artzom," so too, these words apply to "v'cheilek lo y'h'yeh l'cho." Thus we once again have an expression not only apply to the immediate following phrase, but also to the next one as well. Note that the question of Kohanim (and L'viim) having a portion in lands conquered outside Eretz Yisroel is in disagreement (see gemara B.B. 56, M.R. on our parsha, and Mishneh L'melech at the end of hilchos shmitoh v'yoveil). This will have great relevance when the three lands Keini, Knizi, and Kadmoni will be incorporated into Eretz Yisroel with the coming of Moshiach bb"a.

There seems to be a way to understand our original verse without having "af lo" refer to the second phrase "va'ti'ten lonu." Sforno says that the verse is saying not only have you taken us out of Egypt, a land that flows of milk and honey, but you haven't even brought us into a land where we may have fields and vineyards, and to add insult to injury, you have commanded us in the laws of tithing from fields and vineyards, as if we would own them. With a slight variation on the Sforno's words we can say that "va'ti'ten lonu" means you have given us the burden of studying the mitzvos of the field and vineyard, but not the field and vineyard themselves, a cynical barb.

Ch. 17, v. 5: "V'lo y'h'yeh ch'Korach v'chaadoso" - And - he shall not/there will not - be as Korach and his group - Rashi chooses the latter of these two translations, while the Ramban says that this is an exhortation to not be like Korach and his group, literally a negative command. An interesting explanation heard from R.B.: And there will never again be an argument like Korach and his group against Moshe. In any future argument, no matter how incorrect one party will be, there will be at least a speck of justification. Korach was 100% dead wrong.

Ch. 17, v. 6: "Va'yilonu .. al Moshe v'al Aharon leimore a'tem hami'tem es am Hashem" - And they complained .. against Moshe and Aharon to say you have caused the death of Hashem's nation - The word "leimore" seems superfluous, as the complaint was not something that they asked to be communicated further. The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh explains that they did not literally say these words, but rather they intimated them. All the "eidoh" complained in a manner that indicated, "leimore," meaning to say, that they held Moshe and Aharon responsible for the death of so many people.

Ch. 17, v. 7: "Va'y'hi b'hiko'heil ho'eidoh al Moshe v'al Aharon" - And is was when all the group assembled upon Moshe and Aharon - Targum Yonoson ben Uziel writes that they assembled to kill Moshe and Aharon. How does he derive this from the words of our verse? We similarly find "va'yikohalu al Moshe v'al Aharon" in Bmidbar 20:2 and Targum Yonoson ben Uziel does not write the same there.

Perhaps because we find that Moshe and Aharon headed towards the Mishkon, seemingly without purpose, we can assume that their lives were in danger. To save one's life he may enter even the Holy of Holies. Obviously the "eidoh" would not enter the Mishkon and Moshe and Aharon would save their lives. When a cloud of glory appeared above the Mishkon the angry crowd stopped its advance.

Ch. 17, v. 10: "Heiromu mitoch ho'eidoh hazose vaacha'leh osom k'roga va'yiplu al pnei'hem" - Elevate yourselves from within the group and I will annihilate them in a moment and they fell upon their faces - Commentators ask why Moshe and Aharon fell upon their faces here and not when other terrible happenings or complaints came their way. This prompts Rashi to say that Moshe was embarrassed when he heard that he was suspected of having an affair with their wives, and he simply hid his face.

In Sedrah Selections parshas Korach 5759 note was taken of four different expressions of separation from the evildoers, "hibodlu" (16:21), "hei'olu" (16:24), "suru" (16:26), and "heiromu" in our verse. An explanation of the choice of "heiromu" and of Moshe and Aharon falling on their faces is offered, based on the words of the Mo'ore Voshemesh" whose yahrtzeit usually falls out during parshas Korach is offered.

It is an unfortunate fact that in every generation there are many sinners. They sin so greatly that they not only negatively affect themselves, but also they terribly pollute the world spiritually. A major saving factor is the great tzadikim of the generations. Their merit is not simply hocus pocus, but rather, although they grow greater and greater in their spiritual pursuits and are more and more elevated above the common man, they lower themselves to find some redeeming factor (limud z'chus) in sinners, often convoluting themselves to find that the evil person is better than he is in one aspect or another. This is no simple task.

The story is told of a person who had just committed a terrible outrageous sin. In spite of this he had no compunctions against immediately afterwards appearing in front of a very holy Rebbe for a blessing. The Rebbe immediately felt the spiritual pollution that enveloped the sinner and could not think of any merit. Just as the sinner came in front of the tzadik, he came up with a merit. The Rebbe said, "Your spiritual drive is stupendous. If I would have just committed such a severe sin I would have been ashamed to even step foot into the city where the tzadik resides. Yet you, in your quest for spirituality, did not let this stand in your way. You truly amaze me and are surely greater than I am in this aspect."

Hashem was so angered by the nation (see Ramban) that He considered destroying it. However, Hashem was aware that through the great powers of "limud z'chus" of Moshe and Aharon, positive aspects of the bnei Yisroel would be brought up, and Hashem's hands, so to speak, would be tied. Hashem therefore said "heiromu," elevate yourselves well above the nation, and do not lower yourselves to find merit in them. This will allow Me to "vaacha'leh osom k'roga."

Just as Moshe understood that Hashem's intention when saying "v'atoh hanichoh li ..vaacha'leim" (Shmos 32:10), where Hashem told Moshe to not continue pleading their case at the sin of the golden calf, when Moshe had not even said a word, was that he indeed plead their case, so too, here they understood that Hashem's telling them to elevate themselves when they did not indicate that they were ready to plead the case for people who denied Moshe's leadership, who claimed that he was haughty, who suspected him of having an affair with their wives, who denied that his was truly the word of Hashem, and could easily have had no interest in helping them, was indicative that Hashem really wanted them to come to the aid of the nation.

Moshe and Aharon did this in grand style, lowering themselves to the level of the nation. This is the intention of their falling upon their faces, lowering themselves to the ground, to the lowest spiritual level, and saving the nation from destruction.

Ch. 17, v. 17: "Ish es shmo tichtov al ma'teihu" - A man his name shall you write upon his staff - Whose name was written? Ramban offers that it was either the name of the tribe, Reuvein, Shimon, etc., or it was the name of the present leader of the tribe.

Ch. 18, v. 19: "Bris melach olom" - A bond of permanence as salt - Rashi explains that salt is symbolic of permanence, as it never spoils. Ibn Exra says that "melach" means land that is very salty and cannot sustain any growth. This type of land will not grow anything, and its surface will experience no change. So too, the bond is permanent and will not be altered.



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

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