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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
For parents to share with children at the Shabbos Table

Parashas Korach

Hidden in the Fire

"Look at that thick black smoke."

"Something is burning there at Mr. Wallace's farm. Look it's his haystack."

"Wait a minute. A burning haystack does not put out thick black smoke like that. Let's go a little closer to see what is happening."

As the boys approach, they see two men arguing.

"You'll pay for this. I had ten radial tires hidden in that haystack. They are worth almost a thousand dollars."

"You had no business hiding tires in a haystack. I will happily pay for your haystack. After all, I was negligent by letting it catch on fire. However, I cannot be responsible for your radial tires. You should have stored them in a more protected place."

The question is:

Does the man who burned the haystack pay for the radial tires?

The answer is:

This puzzle is from the Gemora (Bava Kamma 61b).

This is a dispute in the Mishna between Rebbe Yehuda and the Chachomim.

Rebbe Yehuda holds that the one who lit the fire is responsible for the tires that burned up inside the haystack. Therefore, he must pay for the value of the haystack and the tires.

The Chachomim exempt him from paying because tires are not usually hidden in a haystack. However, if the fire burned objects that are usually hidden in a haystack, he must pay for them. Therefore, he must only pay for the haystack.

The Mechaber in Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 418:13 rules like the Chachomim. In the case of a house burning, the one who lit the fire may pay for all of the contents of the house that are burned, because a person normally keeps all of his possessions in his house.

These puzzles and answers are for learning and discussion purposes only. Do not rely upon them for psak halacha! Consult a Rav to determine the correct halachic ruling.

A String of Mitzvos

Korach wanted honor. Korach wanted leadership. He felt it was coming to him, for good reason. Korach knew who was destined to descend from him. None other than Shmuel HaNovi, who was equated to Moshe and Aharon. "For his sake I rescue (our honor, and not for my own)." Additionally, twenty- four legions of prophets would be born to Korach's grandchildren.

Korach's father Yitzhar was the second son of Kehas. Moshe passed over him and made Elitzofon ben Uzziel, (the son of Korach's youngest uncle,) the Prince. "How can I be silent (while my family's honor is slighted)?" Korach felt that he must speak up. "You have taken much more than you deserve, Moshe and Aharon!"

And so, he began the first uprising against a leader of Klal Yisrael. He donned a tallis made entirely of t'cheles (turquoise wool). "Does such a garment need tzitzis?" he asked Moshe Rabbeinu. "Yes," was the answer. "Ha! Can it be that one thread of t'cheles (in the tzitzis) frees a tallis (from its obligation), yet a whole garment of t'cheles is not exempt from tzitzis?"

The Steipler zt"l has a fascinating insight into Korach's statement. One can see Korach's mistake by examining the question he asked Moshe Rabbeinu. What are the purpose of the tzitzis threads (among them the t'cheles) on the edges of the tallis? To remind us of Hashem's mitzvos, as the verse states, "And you shall see them, and you will remember all the mitzvos of Hashem, and you will perform them" (Bamidbar 15:39). A thread cannot have two functions. If the thread is part of the garment, its' job is to clothe and warm the person. The same thread cannot remind him of the mitzvos. Why? When the wearer sees that thread, he will only be reminded of the pleasure that he receives from it. It cannot also remind him of the mitzvos because the two concepts: worldly pleasures and mitzvos are diametrically opposed.

A leader of Klal Yisrael is compared to the t'cheles. His true function is like the tzitzis: to inspire and lead the people to serve Hashem. This is a tremendous mitzvah. If this is his only goal, he will be a good leader. However, if he wants leadership in order to pursue the pleasures of this world, honor being among them, he is totally unworthy. He is no better than an ordinary thread of the garment. This was Korach's mistake. He was rodef kovod (running after honor). The running itself proved that he was unworthy. He only wanted kovod. He did not want to help people. Such a person cannot possibly lead Klal Yisrael.

Kinderlach . . .

"Imma, do you know who they picked to be the leader of our Shmiras HaLashon group?" "No, who?" "Leah. Many girls wanted to be the leader. Leah was not so interested. She only wanted to seriously learn and practice Shmiras HaLashon." "That is precisely why they picked her! She was not interested in the honor of leadership. She was only interested in doing mitzvos. Therefore, her dedication and sincerity will inspire everyone. That is a true leader. May she have much success." "Amen."

Stay Connected

"Vayikach Korach" (Bamidbar 16:1). Targum Unkelos translates "vayikach" to mean "separated". What did Korach separate? The Noam Elimelech explains, that the soul of a person was taken from underneath Hashem's Heavenly Throne. Therefore, his main thoughts and actions must be directed toward the spiritual world. When a person commits a sin, he separates himself from the Heavenly Throne. He has severed his connection with Hashem. He and his body remain cut off in the mundane physical world. The Gemora (Sanhedrin 109b) expounds on Korach's name. "Korach" (meaning bald), whose name became a "bald spot". No Jew was ever named Korach after him. "Ben Yitzhar" (meaning the bright shining of the sun), who caused anger to burn within the Jewish people. "Ben Kehas" (meaning blunted), who blunted the teeth of his descendants. "Ben Levi" (meaning funeral) who made a funeral into gehennom, when the earth opened to swallow him up. These are the terrible things that can happen when a person cuts himself off from Hashem.

Kinderlach . . .

Your soul comes from under the Heavenly Throne. Every mitzvah that you do brings you closer to your source. It increases your connection and relationship to Hashem. Like a big thick rope, which is made of many thin strings. Each strand makes the rope stronger. Hashem wants to have a good, healthy strong relationship with you. Do His mitzvos. Stay connected.

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