פ’ קרח תשע”ח
Volume 24, Issue 6
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholars’ Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
ויקח קרח…ודתן ואבירם…ואנשים מבני ישראל חמשים ומאתים…ויקהלו על משה ועל אהרון
“Korach separated himself…with Datan and Aviram…with two hundred and fifty men from the children of Israel…they gathered together against Moshe and Aharon.” (16:1-3)
QUESTION: Pirkei Avot (5:17) states that a controversy which is not for the sake of heaven will not have an everlasting result and cites the controversy of Korach and his followers. How is it evident that Korach’s controversy was not for the sake of heaven?
ANSWER: The Mishnah, in describing a “machloket shelo lesheim shamayim” – “a controversy not for the sake of heaven” – does not say “machloket Korach ve’adato im Moshe” – “the controversy of Korach and his followers with Moshe” – but “machloket Korach vechol adato” – “the controversy of Korach and all his followers” (with no mention of Moshe).
This indicates that, in addition, to the rebellion against Moshe, there was also quarreling and disagreement among Korach and his seeming allies. The phrase “Vayikach Korach” – “and Korach took” – is singular, as opposed to “Vayikechu” – “and they took” – because each of Korach’s allies had his own ambitions and desire for personal gain and they did not see ‘eye to eye’ among themselves. When unity is lacking among the people on one side of a dispute, our Sages in their wisdom teach us that such a controversy is not for the sake of heaven. (Ye’arot Dvash)
תפתח הארץ את פיה ותבלע אתם ואת בתיהם
“The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their houses…” (16:32)
QUESTION: Earlier in verse 27, their abodes are referred to as “tents”. Here the Torah calls them “houses”. Why does the Torah describe them differently?
ANSWER: A tent is a portable temporary residence. A house connotes a permanent dwelling place. When the Jews were in the desert, moving from place to place, their homes were referred to as tents. However, once Korach and his followers were swallowed in the ground their tents became their graves, permanent resting places. Their places of residence were then called houses. (Imrei Shefer)
והנה פרח מטה אהרון מבית לוי…ויגמל שקדים
“And behold the staff of Aharon of the house of Levi had blossomed and bore ripe almonds…” (17:23)
Why almonds? In his complaint against Moshe, Korach argued, “For the entire assembly is holy. Why do you exalt yourself over the congregation of Hashem?” (16:3) Essentially, he advocated a government of anarchy where there would be total equality.
Almonds blossom more quickly than any other fruit (Rashi). The message was that in every facet of the universe, there is a hierarchy. Just as some fruit ripen faster than others, likewise it is necessary to elevate some human beings over others in order that law and order prevail.
Alternatively, among the tribes it was Levi who was singled out to be closer to Hashem, because like the almonds which grow speedily, they responded with alacrity to Moshe’s call, “Mi laHashem eilai” – “Whoever is for Hashem join me” (Shemot 32:26) – executing those who would have brought chaos to the Jewish community through the golden calf. (Vedebarta Bam)
Rav Simcha HaKohen Sheps tz”l explains that the buds on the rod of Aharon allude to the Torah, which is referred to as Eitz HaChaim – Tree of Life. Unlike other intellectual pursuits where the many equations and steps only serve the purpose of determining the final answer, in the case of Torah learning, every moment of Torah study is an end unto itself. Each question, answer, proof and contradiction is, in itself, Torah study and pure, unadulterated avodat Hashem. Thus, with Torah study, the “bud” (i.e. the process of study) is equally as important as the “ripened almond” (the final conclusion). For this reason, the rod of Aharon was covered with blossoms and almonds. (Torah Tavlin)
כי תקחו מאת בני ישראל את המעשר…והרמתם ממנו תרומת ה’
“When you take the tithe from the children of Israel…you must set aside from it a portion for G-d…” (18:26)
Although the physical priesthood was reserved for the descendants of Aharon, the spiritual priesthood is accessible to all Jews. G-d calls the entire Jewish people “a kingdom of priests.” As the Rambam explains, “Any human being whose spirit moves him – and whose intellect has motivated him – to distinguish himself by standing before G-d, serving Him, and knowing Him…has become sanctified like the Holy of Holies…and will be granted all of his physical needs, just as they were provided for the priests and Levites…”
In other words, when we recognize the purpose of our lives – to serve G-d – and dedicate ourselves to accomplishing it, we are assured of the very best of everything, material and spiritual at all times. (Likutei Sichot)
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