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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Korach (69)

This week's sedra tells of the major rebellion that Korach organized against Moses and Aaron.

Numbers 16:1

And Korach, the son of Yitzhar, the son of Kehath, the son of Levi took and Dathan And Abiram, the sons of Eliab and On the son of Peleth, the son of Reuben.


And Korach took: Rashi: This section is explained beautifully in midrash Rebbe Tanchuma.

And Korach took: Rashi: He took himself to one side in order to be separated from the midst of the congregation in order to complain about the priesthood , that is what the Targum Onkulus says: (in Aramaic) 'v'eispaleg' - he separated himself from the rest of the congregation to hold on to the dispute. .Another interpretation (of these words) 'And Korach took' the leaders of the Sanhedrin, he 'took' them with words (not physically, but verbally).

Looking at Rashi's comments on these words what would you ask?

Your Question(s)


A Question: Rashi tells us that there are beautiful midrashic explanations on these words. But he tells us nothing more!


Another Question: Rashi offers two meanings to the words "And Korach took". Why two? Whenever Rashi offers two interpretations in his commentary, it our job to understand why one interpretation was not sufficient.

Can you think of answers to these questions?

Your Answer:


An Answer: The words "And Korach took" are puzzling, because no where does it say what he took. His second comment addresses this puzzle.

But what about his first comment - that there are beautiful midrashim on this verse?

An Answer: Probably the simplest answer is that Rashi was enamored by the midrashim and wanted to share this with us. In fact, Rashi's following comments on this verse are all from Midrash Tanchuma. So it may be that he is just introducing us to the source of his following comments.

But why does he bring two interpretations of these words? Can you find a problem with either or both of them?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Rashi's first comment is that Korach took himself to one side. But "he took" is a transitive verb, meaning he took something, not himself. And even if we were to say that, in this case, what he took was himself, then the word 'himself' should have been written. Since it wasn't written, Rashi offers an alternative interpretation.

So why doesn't he just give us the alternative comment, without the first one?

Is something weak with the alternative comment too?

Your Answer:

An Answer: The second comment says Korach took the men of the Sanhedrin. In fact, these men are mentioned in the next verse. But that is precisely the problem! If the 250 men of the Sanhedrin were referred to, then either the words "Korach took" should be in that verse or alternatively the mention of the 250 should be in the first verse. Separating "Korach took" from the mention of the Sanhedrin causes a problem.

Therefore Rashi offered us both explanations. So, you'll say, two wrongs don't make a right! Two 'wrong' explanations do not make one good explanation. But, of course, the explanations are not 'wrong', though they may be weak. So the student decides which seems most reasonable.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.

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