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by Daneal Weiner
Have we got mussar in all shapes and sizes!
opens with the words, "Vayikach Korach"- And Korach took. Rashi says Korach took himself aside, i.e., he separated himself. The Gemorah Sanhedrin knows there are plenty other words denoting separation, if that's all it wanted to say. This word means he took something. What did Korach take? Raish Lakish answers, "He took a bum deal!" Finally, an answer.
The B'eir Yoseph asks, what kind of an answer is that? Even in a bum deal, you get something! London Bridge, a pinto, swamp land in Guam. It may not work, it may break, it’s not what you expected, but you take away something! We still don't know what Korach took!?
The B'eir Yoseph's answer starts with a question. What made Korach think he could ‘take’ on Moshe in the first place? Rashi says Korach saw with Ruach HaKodesh- Divine inspiration, that 289 prophets would descend from him, one of whom was Shmuel Hanavi! If he has that much greatness coming from him than he must be right because if he were wrong… ouch! Would it be possible to erroneously challenge Moshe Rabbeinu and still merit such descendants?! In perfect hindsight we say, yes! Mussar lesson number one. We don’t know better than our Torah leaders no matter how much ‘proof’ we have that we do!
(17:32) "The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households and all the people who were with Korach, and their entire wealth." Well, that gives us a pretty clear picture of what's going on. The next verse continues, "Them and all that was theirs descended live into the pit." After having just said "their households" and "their entire wealth" went down, what did this next verse's "all that was theirs" add to our picture?
It added the shirt Korach left at the dry cleaners. It came right off the rack and went down into the pit. A needle the neighbor borrowed came darting through the crowds and headed south. All his single socks which disappeared in the laundry just reappeared, long enough to say good-bye. Bnei Yisrael witnessed the worlds first heat-seeking vacuum and if it belong to Korach, Dasan or Aviram it was HOT! [Rather than adding the episode of Korach to one of the six daily remembrances it’s been the custom of Jews to sort out their laundry and in memory of Korach say, “Where into hell did my sock go!?”]
How was it that Korach merited such a ‘grave’ punishment AND having such tremendous descendants? One could imagine witnessing this particular miracle would instill Bnei Yisrael with confidence in Moshe. Before, while Korach was trying to sway Bnei Yisrael away from Moshe’s leadership people were wondering “Moshe? Korach? Moshe? Korach? “ After this miracle it's, “MOSHE! MOSHE! MOSHE!” Hashem’s justice is perfect. He doesn’t reward or punish based on net figures. He rewards all to be rewarded and punishes all there is to punish. Someone deserved to be rewarded for bringing Israel to their level of faith. It happened to be the same guy who shook their faith in the first place. Mussar lesson number two, Hashem will work it ALL out.
Now that Korach and family were gone, who were all his descendants to descend from? From Korach's sons who did Tshuva! “TSHUVA! TSHUVA! TSHUVA!” This, according to the B'eir Yoseph, was the bum deal that Raish Lakish had in mind. Korach's sons lived and blossomed to bear the fruit of his merits and all he got was the PIT! [Hey! Who threw that heat-seeking tomato?]
Knowing that Hashem is not just exact in quantity but in quality as well, what is the measure for measure behind the heat-seeking vacuum? Perhaps ('perhaps' denotes warning- author is about to make something up) it starts back in Breishis when Yaakov took his family and fled Lavan’s, heading back for Israel. Breishis 32:26 says, "Yaakov was left alone..." Where did the family go? Rashi, based on a Gemorah in Chullin, says, "He forgot some small earthenware vessels and returned for them." Let’s bear in mind that our Sages dispute whether Yaakov left Lavan’s with 600,000 sheep or 600,000 herd of sheep! He personally returned for some small earthenware vessels?! Absolutely!
Yaakov knew every person has a purpose for which they were created and Hashem gives everyone exactly what they need to perform it. To neglect something Hashem gave us smacks of a negation of why Hashem put us here. Can you imagine… “Yaakov, you forgot some small vessels.” “I’m rich. Who needs ‘em?” Of course Yaakov went back for them. Jealousy and theft are so despised by our Creator because they deny His purpose of creation! Just coveting your neighbors possessions is telling Hashem He made a mistake. Mussar lesson number 3: Someone else's property has NOTHING to do with one's own mission. Nada! Nil! Zero! Zilch! Need I say, efes! That goes for the tangible and the intangible as well.
It even goes beyond having the right tools and strengths for the job. Mystically speaking, within every object resides a spiritual essence of its owner. If I give a friend half of my apple it actually had been pre-arranged since creation that within that apple would reside a spiritual essence of each of us. When we say blessings on our food or use any of our possessions for good, for kindness, for serving Hashem then we are elevating a part of ourselves. “Yaakov, you forgot some small vessels.” “No sweat, I have more.” “Yaakov, you forgot a finger.” “No sweat, I have more.” Of course Yaakov went back. If he didn't he would have forever missed out on the opportunity to elevate that aspect of himself contained within those vessels.
Rashi on “Korach, son of Yits’har, son of Kehas, son of Levi” says it doesn’t continue with, ‘Son of Yaakov’ because Yaakov asked for his name not to be mentioned with Korach’s dispute. Korach wasn’t satisfied with what he had. He wasn’t satisfied with his purpose. Rashi didn’t say Yaakov didn’t want to be remembered with ‘the wicked’ or with ‘a sinner’ but not with that dispute! Korach’s dispute was that Hashem made a mistake! Yaakov exemplified the very opposite of such foolishness. That claim has no connection to Yaakov. And measure for measure, every possession of Korach descended into the pit! Korach complained about his role. Hashem showed him and everyone exactly what his role was as defined by everything he possessed.
We said Korach felt he was correct in his rebellion against Moshe because he foresaw his descendants. The Sfas Emes asks what do they have to do with him?! What, no wicked parent ever had a righteous kid? No righteous parent ever had a wicked kid? There are no guarantees when it comes to our descendants. Why would Korach think what he saw in his descendants was a reflection of him? Let’s destroy the question and really make it stronger.
The Vilna Gaon, from Gemorah Niddah, says that while Hashem provides a child the soul, the mother provides the flesh and blood and the father gives his children the bones (or what some might call the osteo-bone component). What goes on in the physical realm is just an insight into what goes on in the spiritual realm. There are spiritual components that get passed on as well. The Jewish gene, for example. The mother provides the blood and the Torah tells us the soul resides in the blood. Ergo, only the mother determines who is a Jew.
We learn in Parshas Vayetse that when Leah spent all her years crying not to have to marry Eisav she merited marrying Yaakov and her tears also cleansed her of any spiritual impurities, She merited having all righteous children. A spiritual gene transmission (SGT) which affected the calibre of children born to her.
So case studies do show SGT does affect the calibre of the descendants. Korach was right! Wrong! Because in all those cases the spiritual state of the parent was PRIOR to the conception of the child! Why would Korach seeing 289 righteous descendants have convinced him he was right tchallengMoshe now? If his yetser horah defeated him now it would not retroactively affect the family line he already started years before!
The Sfas Emes says Korach had a piece of wisdom up his sleeve. Korach knew the physical is a manifestation of the spiritual. Physical inheritance is a manifestation of SGT’s! Just as the father’s property goes to the sons, acquired before or after birth, so too do repercussions of sins, before or after birth! When Korach saw his descendants were 288 prophets plus Shmuel Hanavi it had to be he was right because, as we said above but now we’ll be much more dramatic, if he were wrong he would have been so wrong, soooooo wrong, that the severity of the crime could not possibly enable him to have prophet descendants and the likes of Shmuel HaNavi. The burden of the transgression on his sons would have been too great even if they did not take a sinful path. That was the one thing Korach knew.
But there was one more thing that Korach didn't know and never would have imagined!
The language used for negative SGT’s is ‘pokaid’- visits. Hashem visits the iniquity of the fathers on the sons. What was the prayer Moshe said before Hashem in judging Korach and his cohorts? 16:29, "If these die like the death of all men, and the destiny of all men is visited upon them..." Did you catch it- visited upon them! Moshe was saying in his first words, “Korach, if you’re right and I’m wrong then you’ll die the death of normal men and your sons will inherit as usual, physically and spiritually! But if I am right and you are wrong,” Moshe's continues, “then [you will] descend ALIVE into the pit!" You and all your possessions! No death and no possessions means no inheritance, not physical NOR spiritual! Shmuel HaNavi could descend from Korach in spite of the magnitude of his sin!!! What an incredible mussar packed vort by the Sfas Emes!
Keeping in line with a theme in a few past parshas, what was Korach really doing? He saw the 10 plagues, the splitting sea, the revelation on Sinai. He was a member of the tribe of Kahat, a Levite family designated to carry the holy articles of the Sanctuary. He was not a wicked man. What was he really trying to do?
Parshas Korach has 95 verses. The mnemonic for a parsha is a word whose numeric value is the number of verses in the parsha and is also a hint to the message of the parsha. The mnemonic for Korach is Daniel. Daled, nun, yud, aleph, lamed adds up to 95. Of all the names that equal 95, why was Daniel chosen?
Unique to the Book of Daniel is the date of the final redemption which is buried in its text. Many Sages over the millennia have calculated dates if we were worthy of redemption. If we merited it coming before its time. But THE guaranteed time should all else fail is only in the book of Daniel. What does the time of the final redemption have to do with Korach?
Korach's complaint to Moshe was, "Who put you in charge?" At Mt. Sinai Hashem said "They [Bnei Yisrael] will hear Me speak to you [Moshe] so that they will also believe in you forever." Did Korach really think Moshe wasn’t in charge?
Rav Nota Schiller explains that Hashem gave us the reality of prayer and it links our desires and actions into the world. (Like we said about Leah!) If we desire and pray towards a particular end, we could bring about that end even if it might not have been Hashem's ‘plan A’ so to speak. Korach knew Hashem had chosen Moshe but maybe it was because of Moshe's incredibly strong prayers that Hashem agreed. Maybe that was plan B? “Who put you in charge, Moshe? Hashem or your prayers?” What did Korach feel was plan A? Korach's other complaint, (16:3) "It is too much for you! For the entire assembly, all of them are holy and Hashem is among them; why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem?!" Plan A was for the entire nation to be priests! Hashem called us "Ahm mamleches Kohanim!"- An entire nation of priests!
From an allusion in the Prophets it is learned that in the time of the final redemption, with the Third Temple built and with the entire world recognizing Hashem as King, the entire Jewish nation will become the Temple priests and we will service the rest of the world who will be like the new Israelites! The entire nation WILL be priests!
With this background Rav Wolfson brings from the Arizal that Korach was trying to speed up the end of days! After having just heard that the Jews were now to wander for 40 years in the desert, a microcosm of 2000 years of exile, Korach felt Moshe’s plan B was a failure. A show meant to close after a brief run was just booked for the next 2,000 years! The final curtain hidden in the book of Daniel. Our Sages phrase it, “[Korach] ate [the fruit] before it was ripe." He had a good motive. Call it good intentions. We know the road to our single socks is paved with good intentions. Mussar lesson number one was that we don’t know better than our Torah leaders no matter how much ‘proof’ we have that we do! The time wasn’t right and Korach should have waited. Perhaps this is why the book of Daniel concludes with, "Praiseworthy are those who wait..."
This Shabbos is the first in the month of Tamuz. Tamuz is a time of destruction. By reading Parshas Korach with its mnemonic, Daniel we are comforted knowing that although the exile has been decreed so too has the redemption been fixed.
Rav Wolfson continues saying Reuven, who was the forth flag in the camp, parallels the fourth month which is Tamuz. Part of Korach's plan was convincing members of the tribe of Reuven to side with him because when the redemption comes the month of Tamuz will revert to a time of festivity and celebrations.
The firepans of the 250 members of Reuven where beaten into a covering for the Alter called a "Tsipui" which shares a root word with "tsapit"- hope. In the third Temple, all of the vessels will be the same as those of the first two Temples except for one. The Alter will be a new size. The Alter, like the book of Daniel, is unique in relation to the final redemption. The message Hashem is giving by covering the Alter with the pans of Korach’s rebellion was to put a 'lid' on the push for the final redemption. But the lid is a lid of hope! It won’t come by rebellion. Only by following Torah leaders and doing mitsvos.
One mitzvah to come out of this parsha is not to be like Korach and his Cohorts. The exact language of the Gemorah is not “don't go looking for arguments” or “don’t get into arguments.” It says don't hold onto an argument or you’re considered as having the traits of Korach and his associates. Where does the Gemorah learn it from? From Moshe's SECOND attempt to make peace with Dasan and Aviram. I know I’m always right when I get into a fight with a friend but can I claim to be more right than Moshe Rabbeinu? Moshe had sent for Dasan and Aviram once already and they refused to go to him. The second attempt is where the Gemorah learns this mitsvah from and that time Moshe went to them! Arguments happen. They’re unavoidable. But how long will they go on for? After only one try to talk things out Moshe would have been considered to be holding on to the fight! He would have been guilty of being like Korach! What a mussar lesson in the lengths we must go.
One of Korach’s colleagues, his wife made him drunk. He passed out and slept through the whole show down. She saved his life. There are indeed some people out there who if they just went to bed they'd be much better off. All sorts of mussar in all shapes and sizes.
Have a Torah followed, mitsva filled, happy with your lot Shabbot Shalom!
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