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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 16, v. 1: "Va'yikach Korach" - And Korach took - Rashi translates "va'yikach" as "and he split himself off from the congregation," as per the words of Targum Onkelos, "v'is'p'leig."

Perhaps the words of Targum Onkelos can be understood as follows: The gemara Sanhedrin 100a relates that Korach's wife ridiculed her husband for going along with the leadership of Moshe, pointing out numerous commands that Moshe gave, which were in her eyes very belittling of her husband and all the other Levites. He fell prey to her words, and strengthened by them, proceeded to start a rebellion against Moshe's Heavenly ordained leadership.

The Holy Zohar 3:296a writes that he who is without a wife is a "plag gufa," - half a person. Husband and wife are each considered half a person, and when joined in marriage they are considered a complete unit. This could be understood on a simple level. Every person has values and opinions that others would differ with them. By running one's ideas past his spouse and being receptive to feedback, his opinions are often corrected or somewhat adjusted. This is also the idea behind the "chavrusa," partner, learning system.

However, this is only true when one is not totally subservient to his spouse's opinions. We find that Korach totally accepted his wife's very bad advise, hook, line, and sinker. Thus, even though Korach was married, he did not have the advantage of a two-opinion home. He remained half a person, "plag gufa." This might be the intention of Targum Onkelos with his translation "v'is'p'leig," and Korach "remained a half."

Ch. 16, v. 1: "Ben Yitzhor ben K'hos ben Levi" - Rashi (gemara Sanhedrin 109b, Tanchuma #4) says that Yaakov prayed for mercy that his name should not be mentioned with Korach at the time of his uprising against Moshe and Aharon. Indeed, this is why our verse stops with Levi when mentioning the ancestors of Korach, while in Divrei Ha'yomim 1:6:23, where it lists the generations of the bnei Yisroel, Yaakov is mentioned an ancestor of Korach. This is most difficult to understand. Once Levi is mentioned, absolutely everyone knows on his own that Yaakov is the father of Levi, so what is gained by overtly leaving out Yaakov's name? Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin in Oznayim laTorah answers that the intention of Rashi is that Yaakov's name being mentioned means that Korach would incorporate Yaakov in his campaign to unseat Moshe and Aharon. Korach would claim that there was a precedent for his actions. Just as Yaakov was born after Eisov, and wrested the privileges of the first-born and priesthood from the hands of his older brother Eisov, so too, he had the right to do the same with Moshe. Had he used this claim he would likely have convinced many more people to join his camp. It was to avoid this scenario that Yaakov prayed that his name not be mentioned, i.e. that Korach not avail himself of this claim.

Ch. 16, v. 6: "ZOSE asu" - Do this - What is the antecedent of the female form pronoun "zose"? The Ibn Ezra says that it refers to this test, "habchinoh." Perhaps we can say the same by the words "b'ZOSE teidun" (verse 28). With this TEST of a supernatural death coming upon Korach and his family, you will know that Hashem has sent me.

Ch. 16, v. 7: "RAV lochem bnei Levi" - Much for you the sons of Levi - You have taken upon yourselves a great responsibility (audacity as per the Sifsei Chachomim) to argue with Hashem. (Rashi)

You have taken a greater risk upon yourselves if indeed you will be Kohanim, as Hashem is quicker to punish those who are chosen to do the Holy Service. (Sforno)

Ch. 16, v. 8: "Va'yomer Moshe el Korach shimu noh bnei Levi" - And Moshe said to Korach, you, the members of the tribe of Levi, please listen - Rashi (Tanchuma #6) explains that Moshe began his conversation with Korach, and upon making no inroads he feared that the rest of the tribe of Levi would be negatively influenced. He then spoke to the bnei Levi.

Rabbi Chaim of Tchernovitz in B'eir Mayim Chaim explains that when someone tries to persuade his friend and his friend counters his claims with a ridiculous rebuttal, he will say to those standing around, "Hear the ludicrous words he has said." So too, upon hearing the ridiculous claim of Korach, Moshe said to the bnei Levi who were listening to their dialogue, "Hear the foolish words of Korach."

Ch. 17, v. 3: "Tzipuy lamizbei'ach" - Cladding for the altar - Rashi comments that although the verse does not specify for which altar the pans were to be used as cladding, the intention is for the copper altar. How does Rashi know this? Perhaps they are to be used to cover the golden altar. The Mizrochi answers that it is illogical to use copper as a coating for gold. The Imrei Shefer answers that since verse 5 tells us that this is to serve as a remembrance to not stage an uprising against the leadership, it would only be so if used on the outer altar, which is visible to all, and not on the inner altar, which is not visible to the public.

Ch. 17, v. 4,5: "Va'y'rakum tzipuy lamizbei'ach, Zikorone livnei Yisroel" - And they hammered them into flat plates as cladding for the altar, A remembrance for the bnei Yisroel - Rashi on the words "V'tzipiso .. es gagO" (Shmos 30:3) says that the top of the golden inner altar was clad with gold, but the outer copper altar had no cover on its top surface. It was a wooden box open on top and bottom that was clad with copper. When set in place it was filled with sand.

The Chizkuni on our verses says that this was only so up to this point. Once Hashem commanded that the copper pans that were used by Korach's cohorts for incense were to be used as cladding for the copper altar, they were beaten flat and made into a top for the altar. Thus, when people would notice that the copper altar now had a covering this would be a vivid reminder of what happened and would serve as a deterrent against further uprisings.

Symbolically, we might say that since the altar originally had an earthen surface and now had a solid metal top, so too, one should remember that Korach and his clan were swallowed up by the earth because of their fomenting argument and rebellion. If we refrain from doing this we will be saved from a similar fate, symbolized by the present-day solid metal cover.

It is not clear to me how this copper cover functioned. Perhaps it was a separate unattached lid, thus allowing for the original four-walled altar to be filled with sand as in the past, and once filled and compacted, the lid was placed on top. Another possibility is that it was attached and hinged, thus also allowing for the altar to be filled with sand. Alternatively, it was attached and fixed into its position, and once a location for the placing of the altar was determined, a pile of sand was formed and the altar was slipped onto the mound of sand.

The Shaa'rei Aharon suggests that the flattened pans were not used as a roof for the altar, but rather, were attached to the already existing wall coating. This still served as a visual reminder of what had transpired, as until now the walls had solid smooth sheets of copper cladding and now they were covered with sections of copper, somewhat like tiles.

Ch. 17, v. 25: "L'mishme'res l'ose" - As a permanent commemoration as a sign - The reason that it was necessary to place Aharon's staff in full public view as a permanent commemoration was to avoid the possibility of some people saying that it was only through the power of magic that Aharon's staff blossomed while the others didn't (shades of Paroh). However, the power of magic to change something in a supernatural manner is not permanent. Thus if his staff would be permanently on display and would not change, even such a claim would be refuted. (Sha"ch and Tiferes Y'honoson)

Ch. 18, v. 16: "Ufduyov mi'ben chodesh" - And his redemption is from the age of a month - Rabbeinu Bachyei on Shmos 34:20 writes that a firstborn has a greater responsibility to involve himself with toiling in Torah study and instilling in himself the fear of Heaven than does a non-firstborn. The Midbar K'deimos (Chid"o) writes that if a father redeems his son without delaying the redemption money from reaching the Kohein and without giving it conditional upon its later being returned, "matonoh al m'nas l'hachazir," we can rest assured that the firstborn will be blessed with good health throughout his life.

The Holy Zohar in his preface to the Torah page 14a writes that as long as a firstborn is not redeemed he is under the control of the "sitro acharo," negative forces. Based on this the Otzar Yad Hachaim says that the question Tosfos on the gemara B.K. 80a d.h. "l'vei y'shu'a ha'ben" raises on Rashi is answered. The gemara mentions the event called "y'shua ha'ben." Rashi translates this as the redemption of a firstborn. He bases this on the Targum of "Va'yosha" (Shmos 14:30), which is "ufrak." Tosfos considers this quite far-fetched as the word "va'yosha" indeed means "and He saved" the bnei Yisroel from an imminent danger, but this does not apply to the redeeming o a firstborn who is in no danger. However, according to the Holy Zohar Rashi is well understood, as the firstborn is indeed redeemed from the danger of being under the control of evil forces. He also uses this insight to explain the opening words of the Kohein at the firstborn redemption ritual, "Mai bo'is t'fei," normally translated as, "Which do you prefer, retaining your 5 shkolim, or your firstborn son?" We can translate "bo'is" as "fear." Which do you more fear, when you are now about to redeem your firstborn? Is it the word of Hashem, the commandment to redeem your son, or are you motivated to do so because you fear leaving your son without redemption and remaining under the supervision of evil forces?

The gemara B.K. 80a states that a redemption of a firstborn was delayed and in the interim a cat bit off the hand of the baby.

Sefer Chasidim #334 relates that there was a single man who was deathly ill. He repeatedly said, "Redeem me." Not understanding his intention, those who heard his request mentioned this to their Rabbi. He asked if the ill person is a firstborn, and upon receiving a positive response he said that 5 shkolim should immediately be given to a Kohein as a redemption of this person. It was done and he returned to good health and lived for another 25 years.



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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