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Parashat Korakh (English)

Updated: Jun 23, 2022

Rav David Lhungdim

Our sages ask why did Korach, who was astute, commit this folly? His vision deceived him. He saw prophetically Samuel descend from him, who is equal to Moses and Aaron. He said, “For his sake, I will be spared…since he heard Moshe saying one of them will be spare…He thinks he was the one to be spare, however, he didn’t “see" properly, for his sons repented. Moses, however, foresaw this (Rashi16:7).

The Ralbag wrote (1 Shmuel 2:18), Shmuel serves the Lord, from his childhood, he wore an ephod (vest) which distinguished him as the servant of G-d, like Nov city of priests in which eighty-five men, wearing a linen ephod (ibid 22:18). And the Me'am Lo’ez wrote while the sons of Eli despised the priesthood, Shmuel was "wearing a linen ephod." And it was like the ephod of the High Priest in a different format and was worn by all the priests, as it is written in the Priests of Nov.

To understand we need to see the greatness of Samuel, the Gemara recorded the saying of Rabbi Eleazar that, at the age of two when Hannah took him to Eli, Shmuel passed halakhic law in front of Eli. Shmuel disagreed with Eli that sacrificial animals were slaughtered only by Kohanim and ruled that even stranger are permitted to perform the slaughter since he rule Halakha before his teacher, he was liable to a death sentence by heaven (Berakhot 31b).

The Akharonim pose a question on Rambam ( Hilkhot Kli Beith Hamikdash Ch 5:12) that it is forbidden for Kohen to wear priestly garments when they didn’t work, because one of the priestly garments (Avnet) was shatnetz, and was permitted for Kohanim to wear only when they perform their duty. Thus, as Shmuel instructed that strangers are permitted to slaughter sacrificial animals, and in order to safeguard the priest from wearing the prohibition of shatnetz, he prohibited wearing Avnet even while at work. Whereas according to Eli since slaughtering a sacrificial animal is considered one priestly work, they must wear the priestly garments when slaughtering, since Samuel's intention was to safeguard the priest from prohibition, certainly for such pure intention, a person is allowed to give halakhic ruling even before his rabbi.

According to “Ha Tzlach”, Eli rules that the most preferable way is the slaughtering should be done by the Kohanim, while Shmuel saw that the slaughtering in the absence of a priest causes the problem of long waiting periods, he rules that strangers can also perform the slaughtering. According to Tosafot, even though Shmuel had not yet studied with Eli, he is considered his teacher since Eli was the “Gadol hador,” moreover since he came to study before him.

The Maharsha wrote, that even though Shmuel was two years old, Eli said he must die at the hands of Heaven. And this explanation is difficult because a person below 20 years is not punishable by the hands of heaven. Therefore the “Tzalch” expounded that a unique and brilliant child is punishable according to his wisdom.

The Book Peer Yisrael (khelek 1 pg 410) wrote that we found in Hannah's prayer (1 Samuel 1:11): "You will give your bondswoman a man-child." And the Sages interpreted: "Neither wise nor stupid." Allegedly, what mother asks for her son not to be wise? But being from the Korach family, Hannah remembered well that his (Korach) cleverness was not good. The Maharsham wrote, that Eli claimed that Shmuel must die according to his wisdom, but Hannah claimed that "to this lad, I prayed" which means she prayed he would not be particularly wise, thus he should be judged like all other children and shouldn’t be punished.

And the Arizal wrote (in Shar Ha Gilgulim 32, 36, 39) that there are sparks from Cain and Abel, Abel has 37 sparks equivalent to his name. Cain has 308 sparks equivalent to Korach's name (308), and therefore Rabbeinu Arizal wrote that Korach was a reincarnation of Cain. Moses Rabbeinu was an incarnation of Abel, and there is a good and evil spark in Cain, Korach received the evil parts of Cain and Samuel received the good part. Moses has the ability to rectify the sparks of Cain, therefore, Moses' name in gematria is 345 which is the same as the number of Abel (37) and Korach (308).

"The Degel Machane Ephraim" (Parasha Pinkhas), wrote, that the leaders of the generation are given according to the merit of generation and according to the root of their souls, since G-d knows the soul's root of all Israel in every generation, he gave a leader accordingly, so that the righteous leader can raise all his contemporaries to their root and bring them closer to G-d, therefore it is impossible to appoint the leader of the generation by a man, but by G-d blessed is he who is the sources of all souls and knows the root of each soul in every generation, indeed G-d send leaders according to their needs.

It is known that G-d showed Moshe every generation and their leaders, including their Torah insights, he saw the sons of Korach repentance (Rashi 16:7), he saw R. Eleazar, R. Akiva, and every Gadol hador, and he is the only person that G-d reveals the secrets reason of Parah Aduma, and in him continue the fifty gates of Holiness and the light of Torah (Bat AyinTetzave), all this come to teach us that Moshe is the leader of Jewish people in every generation (See also Bereshit Rabbati).

It seems according to this G-d showed Korakh his descendant Shmuel, hinting that Moshe is the leader of all Israel, thus he needs to ask Moshe about the nature of Shmuel, in that way Moshe can reveal to him the root source of his soul, and that of Shmuel, and he will not oppose Moshe, thus he will be able to rectify the evil spark of Cain embedded in his soul. Since Korach didn’t ask Moshe, his eyes deceived him and he meted his punishment. And it seems to me that this is what our sages mean, “Korach took evil for himself” and our sages said, “what did Korach see that he oppose Moshe, he saw the red heifer,” and it seems to me that G-d shows the Red Heifer to Korakh, to hint him that he is evil, and he needs to repent, and not oppose Moshe, as written in Psalm (119:155-156) “Salvation is far from evil-doers, because they did not seek your Khok (laws), and Khazal said “Khok” is Parah Aduma (Red heifer) that did not have an explanation, but we find in Midrash that G-d reveals only to Moshe the secret explanation of Parah Aduma (Midrash Rabba Bamidbar 19:6), if then when Korakh saw parah aduma he needs to seek Moshe immediately in order rectify his soul.

In “Matan Torah,” death was rectified. But after they worshipped the golden calf and said “these are your god Israel” death returned to the world again (Shemoth Raba 32). Our sages said, Korach thought that the sin of the Golden calf, has been rectified by “Parah Adumah”, “the mother shall come and clean her child excrement” (Tankhuma Khukat 8), if then according to Korakh there shall be no more death since it was rectified by Para Aduma. Therefore, in order to point out his error, G-d showed Korach Parah Adumah because he should have learned from the spy in Prasha Shelakh lekha, that there is still death and sin of the Golden calf is still imminent in the world, moreover, our sages taught “every calamity in the world come because of some sin of the golden calf” (Rashi Shmot 32:34, Yerushalmi Tanith 4:5).

Therefore, when G-d Show Para Aduma to Korach, he should have understood that the secret meaning was known only to Moshe if then he should have honored Moshe, but he didn’t learnt, he contradict and go against Moshe, and said the whole nation is holy because the sin of the golden calf has been rectified by Para Aduma, this is the greatest mistake of Korach that he didn’t take counsel from Gadol Hador. PARASHAT KORAKH BY AVREKH RAKHEM HAOKIP

And Korach gathered Datan and Aviram and On ben Pelet and they stood defiantly before Moshe, and with them were two hundred and fifty important men from Bnei Yisrael (Korach 16: 1-2).

The great poet and kabbalist Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz known writes in his Lekha Dodi that is sung in every Jewish Beit Keneset every Shabbat Eve, writes "סוף מעשה במחשבה תחילה" "The End is action, however it begins with the mind".

A person with a wrong mindset and outlook towards different circumstances will ultimately lead to destruction.

One of the most important sage of our days when it comes to jewish Ideology is Rabbi Avigdor Miller ZT"L who was one of the gedolim in the US.

He asks, "Why would these two hundred and fifty people join Korach? We’re talking now about the wisest of men who surely knew that there was nothing to gain by attaching themselves to Korach in challenging Moshe; the one chosen by Hashem to lead the nation."

In order to understand this, the Rav brings us to a gemara in kiddushin 59a, which tells about an empty lot that stood in the middle of a town and was never used. It was a good piece of real estate, arable and capable of cultivation but nobody ever used it. It was called Ara D’rabanan – the piece of land that belonged to the rabbis. That’s how it was known.

Now, What does, "The land of the Rabbis " mean?

An underlying story uncovers a happening, .

There was a certain sage who had purchased a lot, which a little while after somebody complained to him: “How could you buy this piece of land? It’s not right! There was another sage – a poor man – who was trying to buy it; he was negotiating with the owner and you snatched it from right under his nose.”

Now, when this first sage discovered that the second sage had already been negotiating and wanted to buy it, he was distressed. And as soon as he heard he went over to the poor sage and he said, “If that’s the case, take it. I’m giving it to you. I want to give you the field as a gift.”

But the second sage said, “A gift?! I don’t take any gifts.” He refused to take it. It went back and forth; the sage who bought the field refused to use it because it was a case of Ani hamehapekh bekharara – a poor man had negotiated for it, so he felt it was wrong for him to take it. But the poor man refused to take it — he didn’t want any gifts.

So this one didn’t take it and this one didn’t take it – they both retired to their corners and nobody used it; it remained bare and uncultivated for generations. A remarkable thing! The field remained unused for generations. It was a big plot of land that stood empty in the middle of the town like a monument. People called it ara d’rabanan – the land of the two rabbis, and they always used to talk about the story of the two rabanan who had an argument about who should take the field.

The question is why? The first sage said, “I’m not going to use it anyhow! Just take it please.” But he wouldn’t take it. It’s a question: What’s so wrong with taking a gift?

He answered, Lo nicha lach d’echyeh – “You don’t want me to live?! You want me to take a gift?! Are you trying to kill me?!” And he quoted the following possuk in Mishlei: שׂוֹנֵא מַתָּנֹת יִחְיֶה – He who hates gifts is going to live (15:27).

It seems to be more confusing now, What's so bad about taking a gift that the wisest of all man have to say He who hates gifts is going to live?

Another statement that connects with the first two is, The Gemara in Beitza tells us that שְׁלֹשָׁה חַיֵּיהֶן אֵינָם חַיִּים – There are three kinds of people whose lives are not lives. One of them is a person who hopes from someone else table. Again,WHY?

Rav Miller bombs us with his astounding answer and thus his words, "And the answer is bechira! Free will! That’s the only thing we can really get out of this world! The gift to do according to the dictates of our seichel – that’s true life."

Freedom is only valuable because you’re free to choose to be an eved Hashem; you have the freedom to create a Torah mind: וּבָחַרְתָּ בַּחַיִּים – You should choose life (Devarim 30:19). The purpose of life is to exercise our free will. That’s what we’re here in this world for – to make use of this great gift and spend our days, our minutes, choosing between good and not good, and between good and better.

But when a person is subjected to someone else gifts, someone else table it is as if he has lost his free will. It is as if he has to think according to this master.

"Korach arranged banquets for his friends and his neighbors; he was a wealthy man and he found occasions to make celebrations. All kinds of repasts he made – seudos mitzvos too – and he invited people to eat at his table.

And it was at these feasts, when his guests were seated at his table eating and drinking, that’s when their host brought up the subject of a certain person whom he didn’t like – Moshe ben Amram.

Now, there was no reason to dislike Moshe Rabeinu. He was a very likable person – what’s there to dislike about Moshe? But Korach had his reasons, and in order to persuade his guests he made sure to bring up the subject while they were partaking of his pastries and of his wine. As they were sitting at his table eating he said something to ridicule the one he considered his nemesis, Moshe Rabeinu."

In the beginning, they didn't pay much heed to his words however when it went on again and again, the words entered their hearts.

"That’s the great danger of shulchan acheirim – there’s a certain price we pay by sitting at their table; we are becoming meshubad, enslaved to their ideas. It can’t be helped. We’re eating their cake but we’re losing our independence of mind; we laugh at their jokes and we approve of their mannerism. Instead of Korach talking, the President is talking to us. The mayor and the newspapers and our gentile neighbors are talking to us. And we’re lapping it all up because we’re sitting at their table."

Hashem should help us connect to kedusha and save us from the unholiness of the gentiles in our days. Amen.

Shabbat Shalom

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