JUNE 26-27, 2009 5 TAMUZ 5769
"And they rose up before Moshe with two hundred and fifty men" (Bemidbar 16:2)
The Talmud describes the tragic events of the rebellion of Korah (Sanhedrin 109b). The Gemara singles out Ohn ben Pelet as one of the co-conspirators of Korah. However, Ohn was saved by his wife (see article "Reflections" in this week's bulletin). She convinced him of the folly of this whole rebellion. But, he said, "What can I do? I was with Korah's group in planning the rebellion, and I swore to them that if they will call me I will come." Ohn's wife had a plan. She gave him an intoxicating drink that put him to sleep, and she waited by the door for Korah's followers. When they came she uncovered her hair, and since they kept the laws of modesty, they quickly backed away without Ohn. In the meantime they continued with their rebellion and died a terrible death.
Rabbi A.H. Lebowitz asks: Why did Ohn feel that he had to join them? He understood now that Korah was wrong. The fact that he swore allegiance to them should not make a difference. We know that an oath made against the Torah is null and void, and this oath to rebel was clearly against the Torah! Ohn's actions teach us the tremendous power of "peer pressure." Because he was in counsel with them and he made a statement in front of them, he was ready to continue this ill-planned rebellion, with possible dire consequences, if not that his wife saved him with her resourcefulness. Man can know that he is literally dead wrong and still not back down because of what others will think of him. It is important for us to realize the pressures that we are subject to. We must retain our clarity, and if we are wrong we must be able to back down.
Of course the better way is to be surrounded by good friends. But, if we find ourselves painted into a corner, remember that what people think is only temporary. Ultimately, we must answer to Hashem above. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"It's enough for you, sons of Levi." (Bemidbar 16:7)
When Korah, Datan and Abiram came to Moshe and questioned his authority, they also expressed their wishes to become like the Kohanim, and serve G-d in a closer way. Moshe tried to diffuse the issue by saying that they already have a special status by being Leviim (Levites), so why ask for more? Ultimately, this became a major rebellion, and the only way it could be squashed is by an open miracle of the earth swallowing up Korah and his followers. This was Divine proof that Moshe was correct in his decision.
However, the Midrash tells us that forty years later, when Moshe begged and pleaded with Hashem to try to enter Israel, Hashem refused him with the same words that Moshe used to Korah, "Rab lach - It is enough for you," which is similar to "Rab lachem?" Hashem was saying to him, "Moshe, it is enough for you to be the leader here. You don't have to go to Israel." The reason these same words were used was that Moshe was being shown that it is incorrect to tell someone not to strive for a greater position in spiritual matters. Although Korah used the wrong methods and ultimately paid with his life, he still wanted an opportunity to get closer to Hashem, and Moshe seemed to be telling him, "It's enough. You don't need more."
We learn from here an important lesson. If we see someone getting close to Hashem more than we are able to handle for ourselves, we should never hold him back. Sometimes we see people learning more Torah than we do, or praying Amidah for a longer time. Even if we cannot be like them, we should not discourage them. We should understand that everyone has to be comfortable on his own level and ideally, we should be happy that Hashem is being served in a better way. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And Onn, the son of Pelet" (Bemidbar 16:1)
The Talmud in Sanhedrin 109b states that although Onn was one of Korah's original followers, it was his righteous wife who saved him from certain destruction. Even after she logically established the folly of following Korah it was still difficult to prevent the others from forcibly convincing her husband to return to the group. Therefore, she contrived a plot to rescue her husband from imminent disaster. She mixed a strong drink that put him to sleep. Then she and her daughter uncovered their hair and sat at the entrance to their tent. When Korah's messengers arrived at the tent to summon Onn, they immediately turned back at the sight of Onn's wife and daughter. Thus, Onn never appeared.
The Jewish people were justifiably depicted by Korah as a "holy people," in whose midst resides the Divine Presence. This generation had accepted and exemplified the Torah's perspective on seniut (moral modesty and privacy). Onn's wife knew that even Korah's messengers, who were so defiant in the opposition to Moshe's leadership, were morally pure and holy individuals. They would not interact with a woman in a morally questionable manner. It was unacceptable to enter Onn's home at a time when his wife was modestly unpresentable.
We may wonder at this form of religious inconsistency. Korah and his followers created discord among the Jewish people, openly slandered Moshe and Aharon and questioned Hashem's choice of leadership for His nation. At the same time, however, they maintained an aura of moral modesty and integrity. It is specifically this hypocritical form of religious piety that led to the most degrading and insulting form of slander against Moshe. The Talmud in Sanhedrin 106a states that these same "holy" men suspected their wives of being involved with Moshe. Perhaps we may suggest that it was specifically their distorted approach to religious piety that enabled them to verbalize such perverted suspicions.
The Ba'al Shem Tob states that we perceive the world around us as a mirror. What we see in others is actually a reflection of our own image. Korah and his followers had a distorted perception of Moshe. They projected their own character flaws onto him. They felt that one can differentiate between the various aspects of religious observance. For example, they permitted slander while they simultaneously prohibited themselves from approaching a woman who was immodestly dressed. Consequently, they projected onto Moshe that he was capable of being a great Torah scholar and leader while indulging in moral infidelities. A true Torah leader is one who maintains the highest standards of moral integrity and religious piety throughout his performance of all of Hashem's misvot. (Peninim on the Torah)
Planning a project requires the kind of organized thinking that progresses logically from preliminary draft to final plans. Only when you have sketched out the proposed beginning and anticipated end result of a job does the actual labor begin. The work-in-progress stage is a day-by-day process of building and improvement which lasts until the final phase is reaches and the job is completed.
I have a good friend who undertook a home renovation project. The plans were finalized, permits approved, and the work-in-progress stage began. As the planned deadline approached, it seemed as if the builder would never be able to finish the job on time - and he did not. However, my friend had rented temporary living quarters for the construction period, which he was forced to vacate. The contractor worked overtime to make the house habitable, but many unfinished details still remained when my friend moved back into his home. I ran into him the other day and asked him whether the job was completed. He said, "I can't wait to sit in my home without a painter, carpenter, or electrician on a ladder hovering over me as I read my morning paper and attempt to enjoy a peaceful cup of coffee. My life is a work in progress."
His words rang a bell.
"My life is also a work in progress," I replied.
Every day is a challenge to improve and grow, not only materially, but also in a spiritual and personal sense.
Whenever you are feeling self-satisfied, realize that life must be a work in progress. You can never rest on your laurels or feel that the job is complete. Self-improvement is a lifelong task that requires your spiritual carpenters, electricians, and painters to do daily touch-ups.
Forever. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
Call to 646-279-8712 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (Privacy of email limited by the email address)
Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.
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