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Parasha Korach 5763

Exegesis and theology or: What did Korach do?

vayikach korach (Num., 16:1) (literally 'and Korach took'): Rashi writes:

This parasha is beautifully explained in Midrash R' Tanhuma: He took himself to another side to be separated from the community in order to protest against the priesthood [based on the above Midrash]. This is the same as what Onkelos meant when he translated 'he separated himself" - he separated himself from the rest of the community in order to establish a dispute, and similarly ma yikachecha libecha (Job, 15:12) '[your heart] takes you to separate you' from the rest of mankind.

We see that in interpreting Midrash Tanhuma, Rashi maintains that vayikach korach means that he separated himself from the community, and supports this view by referring to the translation of Onkelos.

Ramban, after quoting Rashi, interprets both the Midrash and Onkelos differently, as follows:

and the opinion of the Midrash is not the way The Rabbi (Rashi) explained it. What they said there (Tanhuma) was vayikach means nothing other than separating - that his heart [mis-]led him, as we find ma yikachecha libecha, which does not mean that he took himself to another side. Similarly, ma yikachecha libecha is not that he should take you to another side to separate you from the rest of mankind. The meaning of the Midrash referring to vayikach korach is that he took counsel with his heart (his inner self) to do what it told him, for 'taking' is used as advice and thought. In the same way, ma yikachecha libecha, what thought did your heart bring you that you should think in secret 'there is no judgement and no judge' (Vayikra Rabba, 28:1) and not reveal that thought, or ma yirzemun einecha (end of above verse Job, 15:12) ('what do your eyes hint at') that from your hints it is clear that you deny Divine judgement and do not reveal that you do so, but [pretend to] oppose it so as to cover up. Elifaz ('friend' of Iyov) said this to Iyov even before Iyov made his thoughts explicit arguing that the Creator does not have providence over the lowly individual creatures. Therefore he (Elifaz) said to him 'And you said "What does G-d know, does He judge through fog?"' (Job, 22:13). That [Divine Providence for individual creatures] is the subject matter of this answer is obvious to anyone who reads it carefully. Similarly the use of the term lekicha refers to thought in kechu musari (Proverbs, 8:10) ('accept my rebuke'), levilti kachat musar (Jer. 17:23) ('not to accept rebuke'). In addition they said in the Midrash 'That Korach disputed, spoke, or commanded was not said but only and he took - what did he take? He did not take anything, but his heart took him. Scripture says ma yikachecha libecha' which is as I explained (that the Midrash is hinting at Divine Providence for individual creatures; here too it is hinting at Divine Providence for individual creatures). And Onkelos who translated "he separated himself" was presenting the general meaning as he often does, but not the literal wording. Thus he translated al devar korach (Num., 17:14) (lit. 'about the matter of Korach') as 'about the dispute of Korach' and bidvar bilaam (Num., 31:16) (lit. 'in the matter of Bilaam') as 'in the advice of Bilaam' for he gives the general meaning in his translation (and does not thereby contradict the way the Midrash understands the meaning of the word vayikach).
It follows that according to Ramban we have here reference to the belief in Divine Providence for individual creatures. R' Eliyahu Mizrachi disagrees with the Ramban's literal reading of Rashi and says that Rashi means something quite close to Ramban.

* * * *

To make blessing rest on your home (Ezekiel, 44:30)

vehinnachtam (Num., 17:19) Onkelos translated vetatzne'inun ('and you shall put them away') and he translated similarly in most places where we find hannacha with a Dagesh in the Nun. In most places where we find hanacha with a soft Nun (without a Dagesh) he translates into Aramaic using a word derived from the root Nun Vav Chet ('to put to rest'). Interestingly we have here two words, hannacha with a Dagesh in the Nun and hanacha with a soft Nun (without a Dagesh), both of which are derived from the same root Nun Vav Chet and both in the form of the hif'il conjugation. Nevertheless they clearly have different meanings - they are distinct words. This raises a question about the structure of the language. How is it possible that the one root with the characteristics of only one conjugation should have two pronunciations each with a separate meaning? The answer lies in the tendency of Hebrew verbs to parallel the normal three-letter root pattern. There are two ways to achieve this. 1) to double the pronunciation of the Nun by a Dagesh Chazak. 2) to vocalize the prefix with a long vowel which produces a nach nistar. That is to say that the long vowel lengthens the pronunciation as though one of the letters Alef Heh Vav Yud were there. This hidden letter completes the number of letters in the root to three. This explains why we find in the Shulchan Aruch 'One should bless lehaniach with a Kamatz under the Heh ('put at rest') and not with a Patach and Dagesh [in the Nun] ('put away')' (O.CH. 25:7). My teacher Yossel Kreutzer a"h who taught me to lay tefillin for my Bar Mitzva said with a twinkle in his eye Man daff leign tefiln, nisht avek legn tefiln which is the above idea in Yiddish. Nevertheless some (Tikleil torat avot keminhag k"k teiman nusah baladi, 5754, Torat Avot, Benei Berak) do say it with a Patach and Dagesh.

I will be pleased to have comments on these notes on the Parasha.
Good Shabbos, Meshullam Klarberg, 35/4 Meshech Chochma, Kiryat Sefer, Israel 71919
E-mail address: fredit@zahav.net.il

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