JUNE 14-15, 2002 5 TAMUZ 5762
"They stood before Moshe with two hundred fifty men...leaders of the assembly" (Bemidbar 16:2)
Our perashah relates the unfortunate episode of the rebellion of Korah. There were three different groups involved in the mutiny. The first was Korah himself, the second was Datan and Abiram, and the third was the two hundred and fifty scholars who followed their lead. Korah was a man of enormous stature. However, his inner life was corrupt. He needed to dominate and that need fueled his envy of Moshe. Datan and Abiram are known to us from before, going back to Egypt. They hated and opposed Moshe even from then. They are the pure example of a ba'al-machloket, lovers of confrontation. The punishment of Korah and Datan and Abiram and their families is that they were swallowed up by the earth.
We have so far explained two out of three. How do we understand the two hundred and fifty scholars? They followed Korah and dared to offer the ketoret - incense offering. Moshe warned them that the ketoret was to be offered by Aharon and his sons only. If they want to offer it also, they should know that the penalty for offering incense was death. They nevertheless went ahead with it and they were consumed by the heavenly fire. How do we understand these scholars? What made them cross that line? The Ha'emek Dabar explains that they were amongst the greatest of that generation. We cannot comprehend their depth of awe of Hashem. They viewed the office of the Kohen and his services, such as the ketoret, as a means of opening the doors to get closer to Hashem. They neither desired honor nor privileges. What they wanted was to live in the palace and see the face of the King. They had no doubts about the truth of the Torah or of Moshe's superior prophecy. They knew the penalty of death and were willing to live with the consequences.
They made the tragic error of logic. They somehow felt that they could love the King and simultaneously refrain from obeying Him. It is for this tragic flaw in logic that they died.
In order for future generations to avoid making this same mistake, the Torah presents us with the misvah of sisit. By focusing our eye on them we remember the fact that the only way to reach Hashem is through His misvot. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"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. Even those claiming to be Orthodox, but not being loyal to the spirit of our traditions, should be avoided. To tamper with halachah in order to make it "modern" or to disparage our forefathers to make them more down to earth is unacceptable. 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. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And Korah, the son of Yitzhar, the son of Kehat, the son of Levi, took" (Bemidbar 16:1)
Rashi explains that the key reason for Korah's rebellion against Moshe was that he was envious of another relative who received honor while he didn't. Envy is destructive. It prevents a person from enjoying what he has. When you focus on the success of another person and feel pain because of it, you are likely to do things that are highly counterproductive. The downfall of Korah was because of this trait. Not only did he not get what he wanted, but he lost everything he already had.
How does one overcome envy? Focus on what you have and on what you can accomplish in this world. Envy arises when one looks at others and compares himself to them. The ultimate that anyone can have in this world is happiness. When you focus on those things conducive to happiness, you need never envy any other person.
Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev commented that a truly righteous person's main goal is to give pleasure to Hashem. To him, there is no difference if he or another righteous person causes that pleasure. But if a person's focus is on his personal reward, he wants to do everything himself. Therefore our verse states that Korah took. He wanted to take for himself and therefore felt resentment about the attainments of others.
This concept is an important tool for overcoming envy in spiritual matters. Keep your focus on the ultimate goal of doing for Hashem. When this is your focus, you will feel pleasure when others succeed, and will be free from envy. (Growth through Torah)
This week's Haftarah: Shemuel I 11:14-12:22.
This haftarah is from the book of Shemuel, who was a descendant of Korah, the subject of our perashah. Shemuel makes a declaration to the nation, stating that he never took anything from the people, and never dealt wrongly with them. In our perashah, Moshe is accused by Korah and his followers of taking the top positions for himself and his family. Moshe responds by saying that he didn't even take compensation for the donkey he used to bring his family to Egypt when he returned to bring them out. Such is the integrity of our leaders.
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