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Parashat Korah


There was once a wealthy man whose fortune was matched only by his stinginess. His hands and heart would simply not open to anyone. His house was empty, and he allocated only two wooden plates and sets of cutlery for him and his wife. One day, he found his wife crying. Her parents informed them that they are coming to visit, but the couple has no setting for them - not even a plate and cup! "Do not cry," said the husband warmly, "I know a generous man who lends out utensils for celebrations. If you consider your parents' visit a celebration, then I will ask him to supply beautiful dishes and utensils of which you can be proud!" She heard and stopped crying.

He went to the benevolent donor and stuffed a box with beautiful, expensive utensils. He signed the form requiring him to pay for every broken dish, and asked, "How do I carry the box to my home?"

"In the center of town," he was told, "you will find Yosef the mover. For just a small payment, he will carry the load for you."

The man was dismayed at the thought of paying, but what else could he do?

There was no way he could take the box by himself. He went downtown and found the mover. "I see that you are standing here idle," said the miser, "and, as you know, idleness is the mother of sin. In so-and-so's home I have a box I need taken to my home. If you agree to bring it for me, I will give you three pieces of advice that are worth far more than gold and silver!"

The mover's curiosity was ignited. "Let's hear!"

"No," said the miser, who expended even his advice sparingly. "First carry the box, and I will walk alongside you. After we've walked the first third, I will tell you the first piece of advice, after the second third I will give you the next suggestion, and the third will come when we reach my doorstep."

The mover thought to himself, "In any case I have no work today. Who knows? Maybe his advice will prove worthwhile, maybe they are more precious than gold!" And so he agreed, and the two proceeded to the donor's home.

Grunting, he lifted the heavy load and began walking, the miser walking comfortably at his side, proud of the money he just saved.

The mover said, "I think we've covered one-third of the way."

"Indeed!" confirmed the wealthy man gleefully. "Here is my first advice to you. Never be led to believe, ever, that walking by foot is similar to riding!"

Proudly, he observed the look of confusion that overcame the mover's face.

His forehead was covered with wrinkles as he attempted to plunder the depths of this piece of advice. Eventually, the mover spoke up: "We've passed the next third."

"Indeed we have," said the miser. "Now listen carefully. Never, ever believe that hunger is similar to satiation." Again, he proudly took note of the mover's unresponsiveness. Unquestionably, his stinginess paid off.

"We're here," he said. "If you bring the box to the fourth floor, where we live, I will give you the third piece of advice."

Not saying a word, the mover began climbing the tortuous staircase. He went up flight after flight, until finally, huffing and puffing, he reached the man's front door. He wiped his sweaty brow and told the miser, "Don't bother telling me the next piece of advice. I already get the point, so I might as well tell you: do not ever believe that this box contains whole dishes!" He dropped the box over the railing, sending it to fall four floors below.

Here ends the story (which appears in "Avotenu Siperu Lanu" on the Selihot).

The question begs itself, how did the miser allow himself to take such unfair advantage of the mover, especially when the heavy load rested on his back? Perhaps before we question the miser, let's take a look at Korah, Datan, Aviram, and the two hundred and fifty followers. How did they rise up against Moshe and Aharon, and protest the divine will?

Perhaps before we ask about them, let's look at ourselves. We, too, are fully dependent upon Hashem. Our health, fortune, everything, are in His hands alone. Our families, livelihood and honor come from only Him. How can we not ask ourselves, "On whom did you rely, that you rebelled?" Y

A person drives in his car. He is a well-trained, experienced, safe, urban driver. The car is a new, sophisticated model, and all it systems are operative and in place. The road is paved and the traffic flows freely.

What could go wrong? Suddenly, a giant oil spot appears on the road ahead of the automobile. The car carelessly heads straight to the spill, and suddenly the driver's acumen and the engine's reliability are of no use.

The wheels skid on the slippery mess, and a ball of fire declares the end of the car and its driver.

A frightening thought, no doubt. Hazal tell us that Korah was a "pike'ah," intelligent and well thought-out. There was no one like him among the "drivers": he had "ru'ah hakodesh," and he was among the Levi'im who carried the Ark of the Covenant and one of the great leaders of this special generation. Hazal ask, "What brought him to this stupidity?" How did he end his life in the deepest recesses of the ground, in the earth's belly, down in She'ol? The answer is, "Korah took - meaning, his heart took him" (Ramban, citing the Midrash). The sophisticated automobile slipped on an oil spill of jealousy: "He was jealous over the appointment of Elissafan as tribal leader." He then lost all control, and was destroyed.

This parashah comes to teach us to beware of every oil spill in our path, not to delude ourselves into thinking, "This is only a small argument; I can retain control." The only way to survive is to step on the breaks before the slippery spot, and alertly steer out of the way.

The Wonders of The Creator

The Sea Elephant
Hazal teach us that "everything that there is on dry land there is in the sea, except the weasel" (Hullin 127). Meaning, many land animals have parallel creatures in the seas and oceans. One sea creature very much resembles the elephant, and, as such, it is referred to in many languages as the "sea elephant." The main feature of this creature resembling the features of the elephant is its two large front teeth that protrude forward, very similar to the front two teeth of the elephant. The length of the sea elephant's two front teeth often reaches a meter, and their weight can exceed five kg. Granted, the land elephant is much larger than the sea elephant, as it can weigh as much as six tons. Nevertheless, the sea elephant is clearly no small creature, as its weight can reach 1 tons, its length around four meters. The sea elephant, like its parallel on dry land, is equipped with thick skin that is not covered by any hair. It lives in very large families that group together into large herds. So long as they are not disturbed, sea elephants are quite placid creatures. Their demeanor changes drastically, however, when their rest is disturbed, or when they are woken from their afternoon nap, which they often enjoy while lying on sheets of ice. When one bumps into another, even if only by accident, the "attacked" sea elephant immediately wakes up and delivers a good smack to its "attacker." This often leads to a serious quarrel.

Such behavior seems to us strange, rash and irrational. However, before we smile and laugh, we should realize that some people, too, often exhibit this same irritability. They may seem relaxed and easygoing, but pity the one who comes too close. Nothing satisfies them, these irritable people, no matter how good the intention may have been. They always seem to translate things as negative. Any good advice, assistance, guidance or even smile, is interpreted as scorn, as an attempt to denigrate or just disturb them.

Clearly, it is awfully difficult to live around such people or make them happy. Needless to say, this is not the path of Judaism. To the contrary, we are required to improve our characters such that we become pleasant people, with whom it is enjoyable to spend time. Perhaps the first step to achieving this goal is to judge others favorably. In every situation, one should consider all circumstances relevant to the individual with whom one deals. Only when one puts himself in the other's place can he reach the standard of conduct of "finding favor in the eyes of man and G-d."

The Golden Column

Rav Efrayim Ankvah zs"l

Six hundred years ago, in Tammuz, 5151, the head priest in Spain, the wicked Martince - the name of the wicked shall rot!! - incited the masses of the city of Seville against the Jewish population. The Christians broke out into a frenzy and stormed into the Jewish neighborhood, burning down houses and killing mercilessly. Four thousand Jews died a martyr's death - may Hashem avenge their blood - and many others were sold into slavery, which was often worse than death itself. In a single day, one of the glorious, ancient Jewish communities of Spain was destroyed.

Yet, even this was not enough for the evil enemy. He turned his attention to other cities, and on the seventeenth day of Tammuz - the same day on which the walls of Yerushalayim were breached, the enemies broke into the Jewish neighborhoods in Cordoba and Toledo. Thousands of Jews gave their lives in sanctification of Hashem's Name, as they refused to convert from their faith, preferring instead to be slaughtered cruelly. Among those killed were the grandchildren of Rabbenu Asher, who served as the rabbi of Toledo one hundred years earlier.

The enemy sword killed the father of the young sage, Rav Efrayim Ankvah zs"l, and then sought to kill Rav Efrayim, as well. However, the sword met only his arm, leaving a serious wound that produced a lot of blood.

Alertly, Rav Efrayim fell to the ground and pretended to be dead. The murderers left him on the ground and moved on to continue their bloody rampage of terror. That night, Rav Efrayim got up, frail and seriously injured, and after innumerable adventures and obstacles, he arrived at the port of Malaga, where he boarded a ship on its way to North Africa. A week later he arrived in Morocco, and proceeded to the city of Marrakesh, which soon emerged as among the greatest of the western Jewish communities.

The Reward for a Missvah

A continuing saga
Part One

Rav Natan Pitusi zs"l told the following story about the great ssadik, Rabbi Ssemah Ssarfati zs"l, the rabbi of Tunis.

The ssadik Rabbi Ssemah zs"l lived next to a bakery. Once, on a cold winter night, he woke up, as usual, at midnight in order to mourn the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash with the recitation of Tikkun Hassot, and to study Torah until morning. He felt his way in the dark until he found a candle, but he could not find the lighter. Rather than giving up, he took the candle outside to the bitter cold and stormy weather, to knock on the door of the bakery and ask for some fire.

The fire of the bakery oven was lit day and night, but no one worked there at such a late hour. The baker had already gone home, and the Arab worker had already gone to sleep on the wooden cot inside the bakery. The door was closed and locked with an iron bolt to protect against the intrusion of thieves.

The ssadik knocked on the door, but the Arab worker was deeply asleep after a long day of hard work. The ssadik knocked louder, and eventually his knocking became louder than the thunder and crashing of the pouring rain on the roof. Slowly, the noise made its way into the worker's consciousness.

Still half asleep, he asked, "Who is there?"

Rabbi Ssemah identified himself.

He had earned the respect and veneration of Jews and gentiles alike, and they all reverently referred to him as "Al Paki Ssemah."

Out of respect for the great rabbi, the worker got up from his cot and opened the door, and the rabbi told him why he had come. The worker took the candle and lit it from the fire of the oven.

The rabbi thanked him, covered the small flame, and made his way home.

The Arab closed the door and locked the bolt.

The rabbi walked carefully, ensuring that the fire would not be extinguished by the wind and rain. He reached his home, and just as he pulled away his hand to open the door, the wind came and blew out the be continued

From the Wellsprings of the Parashah

"And the person whom I will choose, his staff will blossom" Many people think, writes Rabbenu Avraham Ibn Ezra, that Aharon's staff was made of almond wood, and it was thus able to produce almonds and flowers.

In truth, however, the blossoming of his staff was a miracle, and miracles are not bound by the natural order. Even a branch of an oak tree could produce almonds through a miracle!

The Siftei Kohen zs"l cites in this context the mishnah's comment that Aharon's staff was created at twilight on the sixth day of creation. This points to the fact that it was a special type of creation. Benei Yisrael accused the kohanim and levi'im of depriving them from the privilege of performing the service in the Mishkan. After all, before the sin of the golden calf, firstborns from the entire nation performed the avodah, and the people now sought to revert to the former state of affairs. Hashem therefore showed them that already from the time of creation it was determined that the tribe of Levi would be responsible for the avodah, as symbolized by the special staff. The flowers further underscore this point.

Just as within the flower lies the fruit that will grow in the future, so were the levi'im predestined to serve in the Mikdash. The Alshich Hakadosh zs"l notes the transition in the pasuk from singular to plural form: ". the staff of Aharon from the house of Levi blossomed, and it brought forth a sprout, produced a blossom, and borne almonds." While first the staff produced a "sprout" and a "blossom," it then proceeded to grow at least two "almonds." The Alshich explains that the staff symbolizes Levi, the fourth son of Yaakov. The first "sprout" represents Levi's son, Kehat, and the "blossom" alludes to Kehat's son, Amram. Finally, the plural form, "almonds" symbolizes the two sons of Amram, Moshe and Aharon. The Siftei Kohen, however, explains that the plural "almonds" refers to two different types of almonds. When one eats sweet almonds, he eats the inside, while when eating bitter almonds the shell is eaten. However, the shell can be eaten only until the fiftieth day, while the shell is still soft. This, too, symbolizes Hashem's selection of the kohanim and levi'im. The sweet almonds represent the kohanim, who serve inside the Mikdash, primarily the kohen gadol, who is even allowed entry once a year into the kodesh hakodashim. The bitter almonds, whose outer shell is eaten, symbolizes the levi'im, who work outside, guarding the Mishkan. Just as the almond's shell is eaten only until the fiftieth day, so do the levi'im work only until age fifty.

Why did Hashem select almonds over all other fruits to demonstrate His selection of the tribe of Levi? Rashi explains that the almond blossoms quicker than any other fruit, thus alluding to the speed with which one is punished for protesting the kehunah. King Uziyahu, for example, offered incense in the Bet Hamikdash and was immediately stricken with ssara'at, leaving him to live in solitude for the rest of his life. The Hid"a zs"l writes that the Al-mighty here taught us why He chose the kohanim for His service. They are to be the teachers of Torah for the rest of the nation, and the Hebrew word for diligence - "shekidah" - is related to the word for almond - "shaked." The almond thus symbolizes their diligence and devotion to Torah, for which they were rewarded with the crown of the avodah.

Additionally, just as the almond blossoms quickly, so are the kohanim quick and time-efficient when they perform the avodah. This, too, granted them the privilege of performing the sacred service in the Mikdash.


Something strange seems to occur in this week's parashah. Korah contests Aharon's designation for the kehunah. Two hundred and fifty followers also vied for the position and the right to offer incense, and they paid for this yearning with their lives. Even after their death, the movement lived on; the nation was not convinced. Another indication was needed, and so the tribal leaders were asked to bring their staffs and write their names on them. All the staffs were placed in the aron, and the one that would blossom would prove the selection of that tribal leader for the kehunah.

Still, the people might suspect Moshe of placing Aharon's staff in a specific spot where it is more likely to blossom. Therefore, Moshe wrapped all the staffs together, with Aharon's staff right in the middle. On the next day, when Aharon's staff was found to have blossomed, we would have expected the suspicion to end. However, it didn't. The people could still have insisted that in fact not a single staff blossomed, but Moshe took a blossomed staff (from who knows where) and engraved his brother's name on it. Therefore, writes the Hid"a in the name of Rabbenu Efrayim, yet another miracle occurred. Moshe took out the blossomed staff of Aharon, and right before the people's eyes more and more flowers emerged from the staff.

Now, it would seem, all doubts have been resolved once and for all. Well, this is not the case: "They saw, and each took his staff." The Seforno zs"l explains that the people insisted that the other staffs also blossomed.

How could they think this, after seeing their staffs with no sign of flowering?

They suspected that Moshe Rabbenu found all thirteen staffs in full bloom, so he took twelve regular staffs and brought them in place of the tribal leaders' staffs, writing their names on them. However, the tribal leaders had prepared for such a trick, and they engraved hidden symbols by which to verify the authenticity of the staffs. They therefore took their staffs after seeing Aharon's staff, to make sure that these staffs were indeed their own.

We can only wonder, from where does this suspicion evolve? This was the sacred "generation of knowledge"! The answer is that they knew how great and sacred each and every Jew is, how special the performance of every missvah is in the eyes of the Al-mighty, how precious each prayer is, and how much Hashem longs for our service. They therefore could not believe that any Jew could not approach the Sanctuary and perform the avodah. It is important for us to realize that they were, in fact, correct. They were correct in their recognition of the importance of every missvah and the love Hashem has for every Jew. Their only mistake involved the avodah in the Mikdash. For this special service only one tribe was chosen; the kohanim are our emissaries in the Bet Hamikdash. However, regarding tefilah - the substitute of korbanot, all Benei Yisrael stand on equal ground.

Torah is the most precious thing of all, even more than the kohen gadol's service in the kodesh hakodashim. From the suspicion of the tribal leaders, therefore, we can learn of the greatness of each and every Jew, an awareness that requires us to come before the Al-mighty and serve Him, and to sanctify ourselves through the performance of His missvot.

Halacha Berurah

A Series of Halachot
According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch

Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash "Yehaveh Da'at"

The Procedure for Placing the Tefillin

According to the Zohar, before placing the tefillin shel rosh one should look at the two "shins" engraved on the box of the tefillin. One should first look at the "shin" with the four heads, and then afterward look at the "shin" with the three heads.

If one touches his skin in the place where the tefillin shel yad is placed, he does not need to wash his hands, whereas this area is not considered a part of the body that is normally covered. Similarly, one who touches his hair while placing the tefillin shel rosh need not wash his hands. The Proper Location of the Tefillin Shel Rosh

The tefillin shel rosh is placed on the head, anywhere from the place where hair generally begins to grow, until the area of the soft spot on babies' heads. Hazal derive this location from the Torah's term "in between your eyes" in the context of tefillin shel rosh. This expression also appears in the pasuk prohibiting one from making a bald spot in his head as a sign of mourning. Just as "in between your eyes" in this context clearly refers to a place on the head where hair normally grows, so does this phrase denote a place of hair regarding the missvah of tefillin.

The entire tefillin shel rosh, including the wide section underneath (the "titura"), must be placed on the area where hair normally grows. Not even a slight part of the tefillin shel rosh may be placed on the forehead. It is preferable to place the tefillin even a little higher from the place where hair normally grows.

Hazal say, "If one places it on his forehead or hand - this is an act of heresy." Therefore, people should be warned not to allow even part of the tefillin to rest beneath the hairline, for doing so invalidates the missvah.

People who wear their tefillin in this manner do not fulfill the missvah and are included in Hazal's admonition that one who does not wear tefillin is considered a "sinner of Israel with his body," and his punishment is terribly severe.

One whose hair has fallen out and became bald places his tefillin on the spot where his hair used to be, as that spot defines the point where his head begins. Similarly, one who never grew hair over the forehead places tefillin on the spot where hair grows among other people, as this spot is considered the point where the head begins.

Furthermore, one who has hair growing on part of his forehead must place his tefillin only on the area where hair grows among other people; the forehead is not considered the head for purposes of tefillin. Not to mention that someone with long hair in front must place his tefillin on the spot where the roots grow, not further down.

As mentioned, the tefillin may be placed from the area of the hairline until the end of the soft area on a baby's head. This refers to the entire height of the head, but no part of the tefillin may be placed anywhere beyond that point. Some rishonim maintain that the area where tefillin may be placed extends until only halfway up the incline of the head. Therefore, it is preferable to ensure that one's tefillin are not too big, so that they may be placed in the appropriate location according to all opinions.

Eliyahu Ben Masudah & Yaakov ben Senyar

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