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Simcha Groffman

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

Parashas Korach

That's Not Normal!

"This backpack is very heavy. I need a break."

"My backpack is also getting hard to carry. What's in your pack?"

"Just clothes."

"Mine, too. Here is a nice shady spot next to the road. Let's take off our packs and rest for a few minutes."

"Okay. I'm with you."

The two hikers take off their packs and leave them in the road. They sit down on the side to rest, and soon fall fast asleep. Along comes a donkey pulling a wagon. He sniffs at the backpacks and starts chewing away at one of them. He opens up a hole and begins eating the clothes inside. He does the same to the second backpack. Just then, one of the sleeping men wakes up.

"Look at that! A donkey is eating my clothes!"

"What?!? Hey, you're right. He already ate my clothes."

The two men jump up and run over to the wagon driver.

"Look at what your donkey did! You have to pay for the damage to our clothes and packs!"

"Nothing doing. You left your packs sitting in the road. It is a place to travel, not to leave belongings. My donkey is not responsible for your unusual behavior."

The question is:

Is the donkey driver right, or does he have to pay for damages done by his donkey?

The answer is:

This case is mentioned in the Mishna (Bava Kamma 19b). The Gemora (Bava Kamma 20a) explains that both Rav and Reish Lakish exempt the wagon driver from paying based on the following principle. Whenever one person acts irregularly and someone else comes along and acts irregularly against him, the second party is exempt from paying.

The hikers who left their backpacks in the road have acted irregularly. People are entitled to travel through the public domain, not to leave their possessions lying there. Therefore, when the donkey comes along and acts irregularly against him by eating clothes, which are normally not donkey food, his owner is not liable to pay.

This puzzle and answer is for learning and discussion purposes only. Do not rely upon it for psak halacha! Consult a Rav to determine the correct halachic ruling.

The Real You

Korach was very clever at hiding and twisting the truth. What motivated him to challenge the authority of Moshe Rabbeinu? Rashi explains. Korach looked into his royal lineage. Kehas (the son of Levi) had four sons (from oldest to youngest): Amram, Yitzhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. Moshe and Aharon were sons of Amram (the oldest). They became King and Cohen Godol over Klal Yisrael. Moshe followed Hashem's wishes and appointed Elizofon ben Uzziel (the youngest) to preside over the sons of Kehas. Korach was the son of Yitzhar (the second oldest). He felt that he deserved the appointment because his father was older. In simple terms, he was jealous and desired honor and prestige. That is pure self-interest.

How did he present his case to the Jewish people? "You (Moshe and Aharon) have taken too much (for yourselves). The entire nation is holy and Hashem is among them. Why do you place yourselves above Hashem's nation?" (Bamidbar 16:3). The Steipeler in his sefer "Bircas Peretz" points out that Korach claimed that he only had the interests of the people in mind. As Rashi explains (Bamidbar 16:19), "I only care about you. They came and took all of the greatness for themselves." This is the way of those who perpetrate machlokes (disputes). They drum up support by appearing to have the interests of others at heart. Really they are only interested in their own selfish cause.

Kinderlach . . .

This is one of the tools of the Yetzer Hora (Evil Inclination). His only desire is to drag you down. Yet he makes his offer appear as if it is good for you. "I want to grab my brothers piece of cake," says the Yetzer Hora. "But you shouldn't steal from him," counters the Yetzer Hatov. The Yetzer Hora pushes himself in and presents himself as "I", your best interest. He makes the Yetzer Hatov look like the outsider. Really it is just the opposite. The Yetzer Hatov, is the real you. He only wants the best for you. Kinderlach, put the Yetzer Hora in his place. Kick him out. Make him into . . .

The Outsider

"Quickly! Close the door!"

The children had never seen their father so frantic. He rushed in the house, panting and out of breath. He slammed the door behind him and double locked it.

"What is the matter Abba?"

"Someone is trying to get in here. Do not open this door under any circumstances."

There was a light knock at the door. The children crowded around the peephole. Outside was a very sweet looking elderly man, smiling warmly.

"Abba. A nice old man is outside. Maybe he needs a drink. Can we open the door for him?"

"No way. That old man may look nice, but he is nothing but trouble. He will smile sweetly and just ask you to open the door. He won't even want to come in. He will just ask to stand outside and talk for a few minutes. Then he will say that he is embarrassed talking in the hallway. He will want to come just inside the door. Then he will ask if he can sit on a stool beside the door. Next he will want to sit on the couch. He will soon be telling Imma how to serve the meals, and telling the girls how to dress. He will give me all kinds of reasons to be late for my learning session. In short, he will take over the whole house and our lives. He will cause all kinds of arguments, hatred and bitterness, in addition to many other sins."

"Abba, I don't believe it. Who is this man? He looks so innocent and sweet."

"His name is 'the Yetzer Hora'. He looks like a softie, but he is strong as iron. The only way to defeat him is to keep him outside the door. Do not let him in, even for an instant."

Kinderlach . . .

The Yetzer Hora is always trying to push his way inside. "Just do a little aveyra (sin). It won't hurt you. Just do it once and get it out of your system." This is one of his favorite tricks. He only wants to come in for a minute. Then he promises not to bother you anymore. There is only one way to beat him. Make him the outsider. Keep the Yetzer Hatov inside, and slam the door on the Yetzer Hora.

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