JUNE 11-12, 2010 30 SIVAN 5770
"There is much to you, sons of Levi." (Bemidbar 16:7)
The rebellion of Korah against Moshe stands out as the most incredible episode in the Torah. I use this description because there is an aspect of this story that almost defies our logic. In this story the rebels accuse Moshe of inventing on his own the fact that his brother Aharon is the Kohen Gadol. Moshe insisted that this decision was not his own but Hashem's. So Moshe proposed a test. "Take for yourselves fire-pans - Korah and his entire assembly - and put fire in them and place incense upon them before Hashem tomorrow. Then the man whom Hashem will choose, he is the holy one. There is much to you, sons of Levi." Rashi explains what Moshe meant when he said, "There is much to you." He meant, I have told you a great serious matter. Moshe could have chosen a test like Kayin and Hebel, where Hashem would accept one offering and reject the others. In such a scenario the rebels wouldn't have much to lose. If they lost they would only lose their claim to greatness. But Moshe didn't choose this test; he went for broke. He said that only the one that Hashem chooses would survive. They stood to lose their lives. Rashi continues, "Were they fools? For Moshe warned them in this manner, yet they still undertook to offer the incense. But they sinned against their souls. They were responsible for their own deaths because of their sin."
Rabbi Tzvi Feldman (of the Mirrer Yeshivah in America) learns from this an almost frightening lesson. A person can be so convinced he is right that his arguments can even convince Hashem! Korah and his men were so sure they were right that they came to the conclusion that there is no danger to take this challenge from Moshe. That even Hashem, Who normally prohibits the offering of the ketoret (incense offering) with the death penalty, would agree with them and they would survive. But, in actuality they all died and bottom line they are considered as if they took their own lives. Their sin was that they allowed the justification of their arguments to get the best of them, because of their great desire to get closer to Hashem, to such an extent that they were convinced that they were righteous and were ready to prove it by offering the ketoret.
This character trait, that a man justifies himself, is embedded in every man, due to his flawed character, his sins and shortcomings. It takes a lot of learning of musar (discipline) to free oneself from this entrapment of self-justification. This is why the episode of Korah is the most incredible, because it contains this lesson. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Speak to the nation saying: Get yourselves up from about the Mishkan of Korah." (Bemidbar 16:24)
The episode of the rebellion of Korah and his men is shocking, but at the same time full of lessons for our own day and age. Korah rebelled against Moshe and Aharon which led to a most dramatic end. The ground opened up and swallowed all of them alive! Why the drama? Why the harsh end? The answer could be found in the pasuk quoted above.
Hashem tells Moshe to tell the people to separate from the "mishkan" of Korah. Of course, the word mishkan can be interpreted to mean the dwelling place of Korah. However, Rabbi Mordechai Gifter says that it has a very profound implication which perhaps tells the whole story. A mishkan is a temple. The ideas that Korah had were not just something he spoke about in the privacy of his home. He spoke about the necessity to rebel and negate the authority of Moshe to everyone. His tent became the "Temple of Korah," the source of a new movement, and a new religion. This aspect of Korah's ideas was most dangerous and struck at the heart of our people and their devotion to Hashem. This had to end in a way that all would agree that Hashem Himself intervened to establish the truth of the mission of Moshe.
Today we are not likely to see the ground open up. However, there are movements just as dangerous and destructive to our people as the "Temple of Korah." The temples of Reform and Conservative Judaism are the modern day Temples of Korah. The greatest rabbis of this and the previous generation forbid us to conduct any interaction with their rabbis, which gives a clear message that what they are offering is not Judaism. May Hashem shine a great light of wisdom on all of our people to return to the true Torah way of life, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"He spoke to Korah…'In the morning G-d will make known the one who is His own and the holy one.'" (Bemidbar 16:5)
Why did Moshe push them off until the following morning?
When the Jewish people were in the wilderness their source of food was manna from Heaven, and each morning they would go out and find their daily allotment. According to the Gemara (Yoma 75a) the righteous (sadikim) would find their manna on the doorsteps of their tents. An intermediate person (benoni) had to leave camp to gather it, and a wicked person (rasha) had to go some distance and expend considerable effort to gather his portion.
Therefore, Moshe told Korah and his followers that, "In the morning G-d will make known - according to where you find your manna it will be obvious if Aharon is the saddik or you and your followers.
Alternatively, the Gemara (Berachot 19a) says that if one sees a Torah scholar commit a transgression during the evening, one should not have suspicion about him the next day because it is definite that by morning he will have done teshubah.
Korah and his people were Torah scholars and, in essence, great men. Moshe was confident that during the night they would realize their mistake and do teshubah. Hence, their rebellion against him, which in reality was a rebellion against Hashem, would cease. (Vedibarta Bam)
"And Moshe was very pained and he said to Hashem, 'Do not turn to their offerings. I did not take even one mule of theirs, and I did not harm even one of them.'" (Bemidbar 16:15)
Rabbi Meir Simcha Hacohen explained that if a person has false humility, he will be willing to act in a humble manner when interacting with people who are much lower than him in stature or intellect. He knows that everyone realizes he is above those people and is not worried about losing honor in the eyes of others. But with those who are equal to him in stature or above him he will not act humble at all. He fears that others will think that he is below these people and since he is really an honor-seeker he does not want people to think he is lower than anyone else. With these people he will do everything he can to show that he is above them. This is what Moshe, the truly humble man, said. I did not do anything negative to anyone, even those who are distinguished. I did nothing to belittle the stature of any person .
When a person is able to show honor and respect to competitors, that is a sign of true humility. The arrogant person thinks, "If I honor this person, what will people think of me? Will it raise or lower my stature in the eyes of others?" But the humble person makes no calculations of this kind. He treats each person with according to the Torah ideals of how people should be treated. Ultimately this only elevates a person's true stature regardless of how other people might react.
Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer used to give a weekly Talmudic lecture in his yeshivah. One of the students who usually remained silent during the lecture once spoke up and said, "The Sefat Emet explains this section differently than what was just said." The Rosh Yeshivah replied, "If the Sefat Emet explains the Gemara differently, I should really stop my lecture right away. But I ask of you a favor. I worked hard to prepare this lecture. Do me a hesed and give me permission to continue the lecture which I prepared with so much effort. "
The statement of Rabbi Meltzer seemed a bit strange. Even if another scholar explained the passage differently, he had a right to offer his own interpretation. As Rabbi Meltzer frequently said about similar situations, "He explains his way and I explain my way."
Immediately after the lecture, one of the top students ran to the yeshivah's library and looked up the Sefat Emet's commentary. He saw that the Sefat Emet's explanation was really consistent with the Rosh Yeshivah's interpretation. The student ran over to Rabbi Meltzer and told him this. "I am familiar with what the Sefat Emet wrote," said Rav Isser Zalman, "and you are right, there is no contradiction there to what I said."
The student was very curious about the Rosh Yeshivah's reaction and walked him home. On the way Rav Isser Zalman explained, "During the lecture I noticed a businessman who never before came to my lectures. Also, this fellow who asked the question usually does not ask questions during the lecture. I assumed that there might be a possible shidduch between the young man and the businessman's daughter. I'm not certain that this man has a daughter but most likely he does. Probably the fellow asked the question to impress the businessman that he knows how to learn. I replied the way I did to raise this student in the eyes of his prospective father-in-law."
A few weeks later this young man actually became engaged to that person's daughter. (Growth through Torah)
The "If-I-only-knew-then-what-I-know-now" syndrome is a malady of the aged. It is not a form of Alzheimer's disease or arthritis. It is a frustration which is a by-product of the wisdom that people acquire over the years. Individuals find it difficult to accept that when they were physically vibrant and full of energy they did not understand what they ultimately figured out after years of life-s ups and downs, after absorbing the countless lessons culled from every experience. Young people may think that they know it all, but only time can reveal how mistaken a notion that really is.
We may wonder why a perfect Creator would make it so that both old and young are lacking. The physically fit young don't have wisdom, and the wise elderly people don't have enough energy to put their ideas into practice.
The plan, however, is to bridge the gap between the generations. Neither the young nor the old can reach maximum efficiency without the cooperation of the other. The counsel of the wise, combined with the energy of the young, is a true formula for success.
When you want to get something done, look for your "partner." If you are a young go-getter, check your plan with someone older and wiser. Ask about pitfalls you might have overlooked and seek solutions to overcome the obstacles in your path. If you are elderly, swallow your pride. Face reality and ask for the physical help you need to effectuate your bright idea.
It only takes a minute to ask, but it can compensate for any shortcomings you may have that can sabotage the success of your ideas. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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