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Parashat Korah


The Torah is eternal. "The sons of Korah didn’t die." Indeed, they have trustworthy successors, people who are jealous of the Moshe of every generation and speak against Aharon. There are those who fight and bicker, bringing about downfall for, first and foremost, themselves. They cut themselves off from the tree of life, they further distance themselves from the fountain of Torah, risking punishment in this world and tenfold in the World to Come.

Korah was jealous of Aharon’s stature, say Hazal. In the end, what did his hatred accomplish? Did he undermine Aharon’s prominence in any way? Did he damage Moshe’s honor? Not at all. He hurt only himself, his family, and followers.

"Korah, who was a wise man - what did he see that he resorted to such nonsense?" Didn’t he know that Moshe was the appointed messenger of God, that with his stretching of his arm miraculous plagues befell Egypt and the walls of the Red Sea came crashing down, that when he lifted his hands Amalek lost the battle?

Korah was a prominent member of the community, wise, well-respected, and wealthy. Why did he resort to such foolish behavior?

Rabbi Yosef Hayyim zs”l, the Ben Ish Hai, explains, that one cannot ask rational questions regarding the behavior of one stricken with jealousy. An individual who is overcome by the passion of jealousy has the capacity to destroy everything, to lose everything he has, for the sake of hurting the other.

The author of "Reishit Hochmah" (in "Sha’ar Ha’anavah" ch. 7) presents the parable of two people walking together, one of whom was gracious and giving whereas the other was always jealous of those around him. A certain king crossed their path and said to them, "One of you request something, and I will give the other double. Which of you is ready to ask?"

The gracious one thought to himself, "if I place a request, I will get only one portion. But if my friend asks, I will get double!"

And so, he asked for nothing.

The jealous one thought to himself, "If I ask, he will receive double." He was already disturbed by the possible success of the other, and so he, too, asked for nothing.

The king smiled, as the events turned out just as he had predicted, and continued along his way. The jealous traveler saw the king leave and finally called, "Your majesty! I have a request!"

The king stopped to listen what the man had to say.

The jealous person continued, "Your majesty, please order that one of my eyes be removed."

… Indeed, this is how jealousy works. He would agree to have one eye pulled out so long as the others would lose two eyes.

"The sons of Korah didn’t die." We see today with our own eyes how jealousy blinds all forms of reason, how it causes people to launch attacks against successful people and movements who work to restore the glory of Torah. They attempt to undermine the authority and dignity of Torah leaders, to fabricate accusations against a leader of Torah and teshuvah in our generation. They try to stifle the growth of this great movement of repentance and return, the growth of sanctity and purity. They risk meeting the same tragic end as Korah, who brought about their own destruction, and who eventually conceded, "Moshe and his Torah are true, and we were wrong."


The population of observant Jews can be divided into two groups. There are those who rejoice in their commitment, who sincerely feel in their hearts, "Blessed is our God Who created us for His honor, Who separated us from the mistaken ones, Who gave us a true Torah, and implanted within us eternal life." They experience the great joy of Shabbat, the uplifting sensation of tefilah, the sanctity of tefilin, and the radiance of the Torah. But there are those for whom the misvot are a burden, Heaven forbid, who see themselves as forced against their will to abide by the rules. They are even jealous of those who do not follow our guidelines, who have removed from themselves the yoke of heaven and carry on with no restraint. One must never feel this way. The Torah warns us against such an attitude in a pasuk in this week’s parasha. When Benei Yisraell expressed their fear over the harsh punishment for those who come into contact with the sacred objects in the mishkan, and thought to themselves that they would have to serve Almighty with a sense of awe of dread, Hashem commanded, "I will make your priesthood a service of a gift." Meaning, do not serve with a feeling of coercion, and not out of a sense of fear. Rather, our observance must emerge out of a feeling that we are given a precious gift, a priceless opportunity."It is not service of slavery for you, but it is rather a great gift which I have given you through this service, for honor and glory from Me" (Ramban). So must each and every Jew feel about Torah and misvot.

The Wonders of the Creator

Anyone who looks at his fingers immediately notices a series of lines drawn in a most interesting shape. One who has trouble seeing the lines can touch a clear window and see the design which he has created. Some people’s fingerprints have the shape of an inverted Hebrew letter "pei," while other prints consist of lines extending one next to the other like waves in the ocean. In short, there are many different shapes and classifications of fingerprints, and each classification breaks down further into sub-categories. What’s most fascinating about fingerprints is that no one in the world has the same fingerprint as anyone else, a fact which testifies as strongly as one thousand witnesses to the infinite greatness of the Creator. One institution which is greatly assisted by this physiological fact is, of course, the police. Even in instances when a person cannot see a fingerprint it is, of course, there, and investigators will then use a special dust which they throw over the area which was touched to find the fingerprint on the given object. However, this mechanism is used not only to identify criminals. Many people will give their prints to the police knowing that they can be very useful for identification purposes in an unfortunate situation of memory loss or other tragic situations where the identity of a person cannot be determined by his face. In some countries, all visitors must submit their fingerprints to the police.

When someone’s fingerprints are found, there are no longer any possibilities of denial. He can no longer claim that he did not touch the object. How much more so does this apply to our spiritual lives, as well. When a Jew goes to sleep at night, his soul departs, as it were, and stands trial for everything it did over the course of the day - the misvot and averot - and then signs the account. Any intelligent person would undoubtedly prefer to sign on having done that of which he is proud, behavior for which he will not be ashamed. How does he ensure this? Very simply, the Torah guides us along every step, how to find favor in the eyes of both man and G-d.

The Golden Column
Rabbi Yosef Shelomo Dayan zs"l

This Friday marks the anniversary of the death of the sadik Rabbi Yosef Shelomo Dayan zs"l, a Kabbalist who lived in Yerushalayim and passed away just thirteen years ago. He was well-versed in the secrets and hidden mysteries of the Torah. We cannot fully comprehend his genius and depth, his sanctity and purity, and we cannot know the full extent of his righteous deeds.

We can, however, strive to be among his students, and in this way merit our portion in the World to Come. Specifically, he stressed the importance of tefila, to pour one’s heart before the Al-mighty for any problem which may arise, with the full recognition that Hashem hears our tefilot.

Rabbi Yosef was the spiritual leader of Bet Keneset Nezer Aharon in the Bayit Vagan section of Jerusalem. He would always pray, "Master of the World, build my ‘hechal!’" He finally found a contractor whom he liked, and would still pray, "Build my hechal!" He needed money, and prayed, "Please, provide the funds for the construction of the hechal!" In the front was placed a triangle, symbolizing Har Sinai, with two tablets on top. The triangle was to be affixed with nails, but Rabbi Yosef insisted on nails that wouldn’t rust. He pleaded, "Please, provide for me special nails, suitable for our holy hechal!" He beseeched the Heavens the provide a marble crown. The contractor suggested a metal crown, made with just a thin layer of marble. Rabbi Yosef didn’t give in. He recited Tehilim passionately, pleading, "A crown, a crown for my hechal, a crown for my hechal!" Suddenly, the contractor thought of a way to build a beautiful crown from high quality marble. In such a manner he prayed for beautiful doors, magnificent handles, and even a lock for the hechal. All his tefilot were answered. Let us learn from him and follow his lead, and may Hashem accept our tefilot and fulfill all the wishes of our heart graciously.

The Rabbi’s Blessing
a continuing saga (part six)

FLASHBACK: Yis’hak Goite, the young, innocent boy, who served as a house attendant for a wealthy family in Triast, Italy, gave over his life’s savings to a sadik who was visiting the home to raise funds for the Jews in Yerushalayim. The sadik gave him a beracha in return, that by his next visit the boy will be among the wealthiest people in the community. After some time the boy found himself at a public auction of pirated goods, and leaned against some barrels, which, little did he know, indicated his willingness to purchase them. The barrels were brought to the home of his master who was now expected to pay for the merchandise..

The wealthy man looked back and forth at the workers and then at Yis’hak, and asked, "What is in the barrels?"

"I don’t know," responded the dumbfounded boy. "They didn’t say, they claim that they themselves had no idea."

"Then why did you agree to pay fifty gold coins for them? Maybe all they contain is water, which was taken on the boat for drinking. Maybe they contain wine from which we are not allowed to drink or sell. How did you buy this without consulting with me, without my permission? Who appointed you as my representative at this auction?" "Nobody..I.." stuttered the poor servant.

"Who - you?! Good, because if you bought it, then you must pay for it. You will work a full year to pay the price, an entire year during which you will earn nothing!"

"No, this is not what I was going to say. I didn’t buy anything, I didn’t even participate in the auction!"

"What?" cried the man. "If you didn’t participate, then what are these barrels doing here? How did they get to my house? Tell me!" Turning to the workers, he asked, "Did he buy these or not?"

"Of course he bought them, Sir. Everybody in the market can testify to that. Fifty gold coins, sir, plus shipping expenses."

"Here," said the man, disgusted, "Enough words. Take the fifty gold coins, and they will be deducted from your salary. Maybe then you will learn for the future never to buy for me without asking."

He counted for them fifty gold coins and added payment for shipping. "Bring the barrels into the storage room," he instructed the workers. Yis’hak, the servant, turned to his boss and said, "I’m sorry Sir, I think you should conduct a ‘heshbon hanefesh’ [introspection]."

"For what?" exclaimed his boss.

The boy responded sincerely, "I was punished from Heaven for having tarried along the way, which a servant is never allowed to do. I should have come back from my errands immediately, not to stop and rest on these barrels watching the auction. But you were also punished, by having to pay now my salary which you would have paid over the course of an entire year."

The man smiled and said, "I’m glad that you diverted my attention away from all this. I will see to it to look into my behavior and do teshuvah."

"Yes, Sir, and if you do this then all your money will be returned in full," answered the boy innocently.

to be continued...

From the Wellsprings of the Parasha

"Korah took"

Rabbi Shimon Veknin zs"l of Tiberias explains the juxtaposition between the end of last week’s parasha and this week’s parasha. Hazal say (Sanhedrin 109) that anyone who argues on his rebbe is considered to have argued against the Shechina, as it were, as the pasuk says regarding Korah and his followers, "..when they fought against Hashem." Last week’s parasha concluded, "I am Hashem your G-d," and this week’s parasha begins, "Korah took.." Meaning, Korah’s rebellion against Moshe was tantamount to a rebellion against the Al-mighty Himself, as it were, as if he was refuting the authority of the Shechina.

"Korah took"

The Midrash says, "Why did Korah rise up against Moshe? Because he saw the ‘para aduma’ (red heifer). Rabbi Yehudah Albez zs"l explains that, as we know, the first-born were to have been the priests serving in the mishkan. But due to the sin of the golden calf, this privilege was taken from them and given to the kohanim, who refrained from worshipping the egel hazahav. Hazal say that the para aduma serves as an atonement for the sin of the golden calf. Korah therefore reasoned that now that the sin had been atoned for, the rights of priesthood return to the first-born. His mistake, obviously, was in his failure to realize that a sin is not atoned for in a single instant; rather, it involves a long, difficult process of forgiveness.

"Korah took"

The author of "Darchei Shalom" zs"l explains the aforementioned Midrash differently. Elsewhere, Hazal point to the fact that Korah ridiculed the misvot, Heaven forbid. He asked, why does a room filled with Sifrei Torah require a mezuzah? Why would a talit made entirely of techelet require a string of techelet with the sisit? Thus, his argument was sparked by the para aduma, a halacha which defies all human logic. We must remember that we cannot possibly understand everything, for our minds will never fully comprehend our Creator. We must simply do that which we are commanded.

"Korah took"

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 109) explains this expression to mean that Korah purchased a bad acquisition for himself. Rabbi Moshe Alush of Titawin zs"l notes the peculiarity of Hazal’s usage of term, "for himself," and explains that this statement is based on another comment of Hazal, that the wife of On Ben Pelet (one of Korah’s cohorts) saved her husband from his alliance with Korah. Korah’s wife, on the other hand, turned her husband against Moshe, and she was therefore destroyed together with him. As we know from Beresheet, the woman was created from man’s rib. Therefore, Hazal use the term, "le’assmo" (for himself), which is related to the word "essem" (bone), indicating that the uprising was triggered by his wife.

"They Shall Not Be Like Korah And His Followers"

It is worthwhile to pay attention to the difference between the way Korah was punished and the other punishments about which we read in the Humash.

The Jewish scholar was asked by the Khazar, how is it possible that the generation of the desert, the people who received the Torah, who experienced miracles on a daily basis, surrounding by Clouds of Glory and fed by mann from the heavens, how could they have sinned such serious sins? The scholar answered, "Fortunate is the generation whose sins can be counted." Over the course of forty years, they sinned ten times. This is far fewer than our sins on any given day! And yet, they were punished in a variety of ways. The worshippers of the golden calf died by swords, the spies died in a plague, those who complained for meat were killed by a divine fire, those who complained in Parashat Hukat were bitten by poisonous snakes, those who violated Hashem’s order not to go to Eres Yisrael after the incident of the spies were wiped out in battle. The only similarity between all these tragedies is that the people died as a result of their sins.

Regarding Korah and his followers, however, the situation is different. Hashem caused the ground to split, swallowing them alive. Around fifteen hundred years later a small opening opened for Rabbah Bar Bar Hannah to see them, and he saw them turning over in Gehinnam like meat in a pot, without any respite.

Why? What is behind this horrible punishment? What does this teach us?

There are two types of sins, and, corresponding to them, there are two types of punishments. There are sins which a person can transgress while still remaining essentially part of the Jewish camp, without dissociating himself from the nation. His punishment will therefore come, as well, in the midst of the Jewish camp. He will achieve atonement through his punishment, unless he avoids punishment through the process of teshuva.

But there is a different type of sin through which the sinner removes himself from the whole, he detaches himself from the nation. Korah’s sin can be classified in this second group. He denied the authority of Moshe, the one who gave us the Torah from Hashem, and he refused to accept Moshe’s rulings in all areas of Torah.

All the movements which have followed Korah’s lead, be it the Sadducees, the Karaites, or the European Reformers, they all cut themselves off from the nation, and they have disappeared. Either they were simply lost or they assimilated.

In this way, their punishment was very appropriate. The ground, as it were, opened its mouth and swallowed them; they were lost from the rest of the nation. In the place to where they were lost they have no peace; but from the sacred nation they are cut off entirely.

This serves as a warning to all of us. First of all, we all must live our lives attached to the nation, recognizing its heritage, the authority of the Torah, and the authority of its scholars. If a person does attach himself in this way, even if he may not be perfect, even if he commits averot, he is still attached, he is like a limb of a body which has been injured but will be healed through its connection to the rest of the body. But if one turns his back to the authority of the Torah, he may then be considered a detached limb, G-d forbid, lost from the rest of the nation.

This is especially pertinent during this season, as parents plan their children’s education for the coming school year. The basic responsibility of parents towards their children involves providing for them an education based on Torah authority, faith, and a strong link to our heritage, to the glorious chain of generations extending from Avraham, to Moshe, straight to us.

Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
Arranged by Rav Moshe Yossef shlit"a
Rosh Bet Midrash "Meor Yisrael"

The Beracha For Wine Fulfills the Obligation for Other Beverages

One who recites "borei peri hagefen" over wine and drinks, and afterward wants to drink other beverages, does not need to recite a shehakol. The Rosh (Berachot 41) explains that wine is the most prominent among all beverages, and therefore it is the most significant as opposed to the others which are considered secondary in relation to wine. Therefore, other beverages have their requirement fulfilled by the beracha over wine, as long as the individual had intended during the recitation of the beracha that the beracha should apply to other beverages, as well, or at least if the other beverages were in front of him during the time of the recitation. The "hagefen" then fulfills the requirement for the other drinks, and he may not recite another beracha, as it would be an unnecessary beracha. (Similarly, regarding beracha aharona, one who is required to recite an "al hagefen.." no longer requires a beracha aharona for other beverages which he has drunk.)

Even though the halacha is that when one who recites a "ha’ess" over a fruit, and then another fruit requiring a ha’ess is brought before him, he does need to recite another ha’ess despite the fact that the fruit was not before him when he recited his beracha, and he did not have intention to eat more fruit (Shulhan Aruch 206:5), nevertheless regarding one who drinks wine and then decides to drink other beverages, the beracha of hagefen is effective for the other beverages only if they were before him during the time of the beracha or if he had intended that they be included in his beracha. The reason for this distinction is that Hazal instituted separate berachot for wine and other beverages - hagefen and shehakol, respectively. Therefore, in order for hagefen to be effective for other beverages, we require one of these two conditions, either that he intended for the other beverages to be included in his beracha or that they were there before him when he recited the hagefen. However, regarding the aforementioned case with the fruits, since all fruits have the same beracha, these conditions are not required for the original beracha to fulfill the obligation for the subsequent fruits.


  1. One who eats foods which require different berachot, such as grapes and wine, or fruits requiring ha’ess and vegetables requiring ha’adama, he should recite each appropriate beracha for each species. But if he intended for his "hagefen" to fulfill the obligation for the grapes, as well, or that his "ha’adamah" should fulfill his requirement for the fruits, he has fulfilled his requirement "bedi’avad" (only if he had done it in such a way, but optimally this should not be done).
  2. One who drinks wine and other beverages may (even optimally) recite the beracha for the wine and thereby fulfill the requirement for the other beverages, despite the fact that they have different berachaot, provided that he had intended during the recitation that the beracha should apply to the others beverages, as well, or that the other beverages were in front of him during the beracha. Needless to say, this applies only if he did, in fact, drink wine after the recitation of the beracha.
  3. If one eats from two different foods who have the same beracha, such as one who eats an apple and then decides to eat an orange, as well, he does not require a new ha’ess over the orange, even if the orange was not in front of him during the time of the beracha and he did not intend for the beracha to apply to the orange.

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