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Pop Quiz: What was done with the fire-pans of Korah and his followers?

by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"Speak to the nation saying: Get yourselves up from about the Mishkan of Korah." (Bemidbar 16:24)

The episode of the rebellion of Korah and his men is shocking, but at the same time full of lessons for our own day and age. Korah rebelled against Moshe and Aharon which led to a most dramatic end. The ground opened up and swallowed all of them alive! Why the drama? Why the harsh end? The answer could be found in the pasuk quoted above.

Hashem tells Moshe to tell the people to separate from the "mishkan" of Korah. Of course, the word mishkan can be interpreted to mean the dwelling place of Korah. However, Rabbi Mordechai Gifter says that it has a very profound implication which perhaps tells the whole story. A mishkan is a temple. The ideas that Korah had were not just something he spoke about in the privacy of his home. He spoke about the necessity to rebel and negate the authority of Moshe to everyone. His tent became the "Temple of Korah," the source of a new movement, and a new religion. This aspect of Korah's ideas was most dangerous and struck at the heart of our people and their devotion to Hashem. This had to end in a way that all would agree that Hashem Himself intervened to establish the truth of the mission of Moshe.

Today we are not likely to see the ground open up. However, there are movements just as dangerous and destructive to our people as the "Temple of Korah." The temples of Reform and Conservative Judaism are the modern day Temples of Korah. The greatest rabbis of this and the previous generation forbid us to conduct any interaction with their rabbis, which gives a clear message that what they are offering is not Judaism. May Hashem shine a great light of wisdom on all of our people to return to the true Torah way of life, Amen. Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"For the entire assembly, all of them, are holy" (Bemidbar 16:3)

Korah is the first one in recorded history who used flattery and excessive praise to win the masses over to his cause. His cause was to usurp the power of leadership from Moshe and to attain his own position of power. He said that all of the Jewish people are holy and there is no need for a leader, and Moshe is really exploiting the people. Being viewed as a champion of the people, he hoped to be the new leader.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller says that Korah was right! Well, not really. He was wrong about Moshe Rabenu. He was wrong that the Jewish people don't need a leader. But, he was right on target when he described the Jewish people. The entire assembly, all of them, are holy. We find the same phenomena in the character of Bilam. He blessed the Jewish people many times. "Lo hibit aven beYa'akob- [Hashem] saw no iniquity in Ya'akob," is only one example. It's interesting that we don't find abundant praise from our friends, Moshe Rabenu and others. We never find our praises in the Torah, but only from our enemies. The reason is a simple one, but fundamental. Our enemies don't want us to become greater, so they tell us, "You are great enough. You are already saddikim. No need to strive for greater heights." However, Hashem and Moshe want to see us become more holy, more happy, more prosperous. From the best grapes comes the best wine. Hashem wants us to produce the best wine so He presses us and presses us to yield the most precious wine. Praising us for what we are is not as productive as praising us for what we can become. Shabbat Shalom.


"Korah separated [lit., took] himself" (Bemidbar 16:1)

What was the nature of the ideological dispute between Korah and Moshe, and what implication does it have for our times? During their confrontation, Korah challenged Moshe about the requirement for a mezuzah on a house filled with Sifrei Torah. He also asked if a taleet made entirely of tehelet requires a string of tehelet in the strings. Moshe responded to both questions affirmatively.

Logically, Korah appeared correct. Moshe, however, told him, "Torah and misvot cannot be approached with our cold logic. A Jew must have complete submission to the will of Hashem, doing whatever He commands, even when human logic may dictate otherwise.

The name "Korah" conveys to us the nature of his personality. It has the same letters as the Hebrew word "kerah" - ice. For an advocate of using a cold and frigid approach to spiritual matters and serving Hashem only with logic and understanding, the name Korah is appropriate.

The two radically different approaches to Torah are illustrated by a story of the Ba'al Shem Tob. He once told his students that anything a Jew sees or hears is not a function of mere chance, but caused by Divine Providence and intended as a message for the individual.

Afterwards, the disciples went out into the street and noticed a group of villagers singing and dancing. It was a holiday which was being celebrated by chiseling out a cross from the frozen water of the river and dancing with it through the streets. Deeply disturbed, the students hastened back to the Ba'al Shem Tob and asked, "What lesson is being conveyed to us through this mysterious scene?"

The Ba'al Shem Tob replied, "Water has very unusual qualities. It enables a person who immerses in it to regain his purity. However, this can be accomplished only when the water is in a flowing state. When it freezes, then, G-d forbid, it can become an object of abodah zarah - idolatry. Likewise, Torah is compared to flowing water. Through it, one can reach the highest levels, but approaching it with coldness can make it "freeze" and produce a radical spiritual decline in a person."

Korah's "chilly" approach deprived him of the warmth of the Torah and ultimately led to his downfall. (Vedibarta Bam)


"And behold there budded the rod of Aharon for the house of Levi and it put forth buds and blossomed blossoms and bore ripe almonds" (Bemidbar 17:23)

It is stated in the Torah that Aharon's rod continued to maintain all these qualities at the same time. This is peculiar, since blossoms bloom after the buds have fallen. The Tosfot Yeshanim asks this question, and responds by saying that this was a miracle. This answer needs further explanation. What reason was there for such a miracle? To teach us that physical things shrivel, dry up and wither away into oblivion. However, spiritual entities do not wither; they perpetuate themselves and last forever.

The fruit of a misvah is the actual performance of a misvah, while the ways and means that lead up to its completion are the blossoms. In Hashem's eyes it is not only the fruit of the actual misvah which endures, but also the various steps along the road; the toil and sacrifice, the enthusiasm and ardor are also an inherent part of the misvah and consequently they also exist forever. In the performance of misvot, we cannot say that the end justifies the means which brought the successful goal, since the means which brought the successful goal must also be performed in the proper manner, and are therefore also a source of reward as well. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to pop quiz: They were used to make a cover for the mizbe'ah.

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