JUNE 18-19, 2004 30 SIVAN 5764
"The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them." (Bemidbar 16:32)
Moshe Rabenu faced one of the greatest challenges of his life in this week's perashah. Korah fomented a rebellion against Moshe and Aharon. Ultimately, Hashem commanded the earth to open up its mouth and swallow up Korah and his cohorts.
In Pirke Abot, we are told that ten things were created in the twilight of the first Friday night of creation. One of them was the opening of the earth that swallowed Korah. Rabbi David Goldwasser quotes Meorah shel Torah with a lesson for us that will guide us for our entire life. Sometimes a person finds himself in a difficult bind with no solution in sight. He should realize that the solution has already been prepared for him in advance. Moshe Rabenu was in serious danger, but the mouth of the earth was prepared for his opponents from the time of creation. We walk through life for the most part oblivious to the elaborate plans that Hashem has provided for our benefit.
Once, the Maggid of Mezritch was walking on the road when a heavy storm erupted. The storm was so strong that it was dangerous for him to remain outdoors. The Maggid spotted a large, empty palace ahead of him, and he ran in there for protection. Eventually, the storm passed. The Rabbi left the building and continued on his way. Only moments later, the entire palace collapsed to the ground. When the holy Ba'al Shem Tob heard this, he remarked, "That palace, which took years of backbreaking work to build, was constructed solely for the purpose of sheltering the Maggid from the storm."
Every morning, we recite the berachah in the morning blessings, "Hamechin mis'adei gaber - Blessed are You, Hashem, Who provides for the footsteps of man." On one level, it means that we thank Hashem for the wondrous ability to walk. On another level, we thank Hashem for preparing our steps in advance for us. A Jew never walks alone. Every one of our steps is planned for us by our Father in Heaven. A comforting though in today's world. 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
Once upon a time, there was a Torah student who was very poor - a student of the great sage, Rabbi Moshe of Sasuv. Nevertheless, he would do his utmost to help his fellow brethren who were poor and downtrodden - going above the call of duty and beyond his abilities. Hashem saw his devotion, and ultimately rewarded him with tremendous wealth. He proceeded to build a palace for himself and his family, with all the amenities that befit the "rich and the famous". Slowly but surely he began to forget his downtrodden brothers and ultimately severed all his connections to charity and kindness.
Word got back to his Rabbi that his student had forsaken his roots. The Rabbi set out to visit his student to see if he could turn him around. With great difficulty he was able to enter the palace, and began to lecture him in regards to his new ways. Finally, he told his student to look in the mirror and asked him, "What do you see?" The student answered, "Why of course, Rabbi, I see myself." The Rabbi then took him to the window and asked him, "What do you see now?" He replied, "I see people walking to and fro." The Rabbi then told his student, "When you looked in the mirror, you only saw yourself because of the silver lining beneath the glass, but when you looked out the window you could see 'other people' because there was no silver lining. Now that you have money you can only see yourself - so repent and help your brothers and sisters, widows and orphans who need you now - or Hashem will begin to forget you, and your wealth will be your downfall." So the student repented and did as his Rabbi instructed. Korah, on the other hand allowed his wealth to become a tool for his destruction. Let us use our wealth and health that Hashem gives us to help others, and with this, Hashem will surely continue to give us wealth & health, Amen! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Eli Ben-Haim
"And they gathered against Moshe and Aharon and they said to them, 'You have taken too much power for yourselves. The entire congregation is holy, and Hashem is in their midst. Why do you take leadership over the congregation of Hashem?'" (Bemidbar 16:3)
The Kotzker Rebbe commented that people who quarrel with the righteous try to find complaints in ways that are the exact opposite of truth. Moshe was the most humble of men, and Aharon's relationship with others was always to pursue peace, which takes much humility. Nevertheless, this did not stop Korah and his followers from claiming that Moshe and Aharon were acting arrogantly and were taking too much power for themselves.
This is an important lesson in our being careful not to believe lashon hara. Some people have the attitude that if someone is critical of another person, what is said must have at least some truth to it. No! People can have the audacity to find fault with others even though the person excels in the exact traits that are being referred to. Here the motive of Korah was personal envy and he was projecting his own drive for power onto Moshe. Remember that the Sages say that when a person finds fault with others he frequently is just mentioning his own faults which he can wrongly assume someone else has. Be very careful not to accept negative information about others as the truth without a careful examination. (Growth through Torah)
"You take too much upon you, B'nei Levi" (Bemidbar 16:7)
Rashi asks, "Korah was a wise and prudent fellow. Why did he commit this folly? His eye deceived him, for he foresaw that great progeny was destined to descend from him, namely Shemuel Hanabi. Shemuel Hanabi weighs against Moshe and Aharon in terms of greatness. Korah said, 'In his merit, I will be saved.'" We may question Rashi's use of the singular noun, "his eye deceived him." Didn't Korah have two eyes?
Rav Boruch Sorotzkin explains that when one "looks" at something, he should perceive it from all angles. He should examine it with both eyes, rather than glance at it perfunctorily. This is the meaning of the dictum in Pirkei Abot 1:6, "judge all men favorably." Rav Sorotzkin interprets "all men" to mean "all of man." One should look at the whole individual at all times, not simply react to an isolated situation. Essentially, this was Korah's fatal flaw. He looked at the situation with only "one" eye. This constitutes a metaphor for one who sees only what he wants to see. Had he been more discerning in his "looking" he would have realized that the greatness that emanated from him was due to his children, who later repented. It was Korah's "one" eye, his superficial and prejudicial outlook, which was the origin of his downfall. (Peninim on the Torah)
"Shall one man sin and with the whole congregation will You be angry? (Bemidbar 16:22)
When Hashem told Moshe, after the rebellion of Korah, that He would wipe out the nation, Moshe prayed to Hashem that He shouldn't punish the entire nation for the sin of a single man. In fact, this is a valid point. Why would Hashem hold the whole nation responsible for Korah's rebellion?
Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch explains that, even though only a few people joined Korah in his attack against Moshe and Aharon, the rest of the people stood by silently and didn't protest. When someone witnesses the public degradation of another person, especially if the person being attacked is a leader of the Jewish people, he is obligated to speak out in his defense. If he looks away, he runs the risk of being considered a partner in crime to the attacker, as we see in the case of Korah. One cannot simply close his eyes and think that he is just an innocent bystander. If he is in a position to help, he has a responsibility to do so.
Question: When you hear someone slandering another person, do you: a) move closer so you could hear the juicy gossip, b) try not to hear it, or c) try to find a way to defend the accused, at least to the listeners? If you were told that someone spoke out against you and your friend did nothing to defend you, would you be more upset with the speaker or with your friend?
Question: Why do we not begin with Uba Lesiyon on Saturday night after Amidah (instead of starting from V'atah kadosh)?
Answer: Uba Lesiyon refers to the coming of the Mashiah, which will happen in broad daylight and not at night. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
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 for 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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