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Posted on June 7, 2002 (5760) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz

Contributing Editor: Daniel Dadusc


Volume XIV, No. 39
5 Tammuz 5760
July 8, 2000

Today’s Learning:
Yoma 8:6-7
Orach Chaim 306:13-307:1
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Ketubot 100
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Gittin 49

The midrash says: “Korach rebelled against the Torah, which is called ‘strength.’ He did not know that his opponent was as hard as the bar on a door.” Why does the midrash say that Korach rebelled against the Torah; wasn’t his quarrel only with Moshe? Also, what does it mean that “his opponent was as hard as the bar on a door”?

R’ Aharon Lewin z”l explains: The Sefer Ha’ikkarim says that the pillar on which our acceptance of Torah depends is the belief that Moshe was the greatest prophet who ever did, or ever will, live. Since we know that no one can replace Moshe, we know that no one can replace even part of the Torah. But Korach, writes Rav Lewin, did try to replace Moshe. It follows, therefore, that Korach in effect rebelled against the very Torah itself.

Moshe was like the bar on the door of a fortress, specifically the fortress of Torah, because it is Moshe’s legacy which holds the Torah together. Chazal teach that Korach remains in Gehinom reciting, “Moshe is true and his Torah is true.” Korach did not realize that his attack on Moshe could have destroyed the entire Torah, but now he understands. Because Korach now accepts Moshe, he also acknowledges that the Torah is true. Unlike a lie which appears true at times but is revealed as untrue at other times, the truth is always true. The Torah also, Korach says, is always true because Moshe is “the bar on the door.” (Hadrash Veha’iyun)


“And Korach took . . . ” (16:1)

Rashi asks: What lead Korach to enter into a dispute with Moshe and Aharon? The answer is that he was jealous of the fact that his cousin, Eltzafan, rather than he, had been appointed the Nasi / Prince of the family of Kehat (one of the divisions of the tribe of Levi).

R’ Leib Chasman z”l elaborates: What lead Korach, who was a wise man and was one of the porters of the Holy Ark, to argue with Moshe and to drag 250 of the greatest leaders of Bnei Yisrael down with him? It was the awful trait of jealously!

At first glance, Korach’s challenge might appear legitimate. He asked, “Are not all of Bnei Yisrael holy?” However, when he asked Moshe and Aharon, “Why should you be raised above all of us?” he revealed that his true motivation was only his jealousy.

Chazal couldn’t understand how a man as intelligent as Korach could go astray until they realized that Korach possessed the bad traits of jealousy and envy. R’ Chasman observes that character flaws are powerful tools, “like heavy artillery at the top of a mountain . . . they can dissolve stone and melt iron.”

Look how far a person can go under the influence of jealousy. The 250 men who sided with Korach were all judges and leaders of Bnei Yisrael. They too must have been intelligent and understanding men. Yet they knowingly went to their deaths because of their jealousy.

The rebels’ complaint was that Aharon should not be the Kohen Gadol, but rather, one of them should hold the post. Moshe responded by inviting Aharon, Korach, and the 250 rebels to participate in a test. “However,” warned Moshe, “only one of the participants will survive the test. The others will die.” Moshe reminded them that it was not possible to have 250 High Priests, and that they should reconsider their challenge. Nevertheless, all 250 of these men were blinded by their jealousy. (Ohr Yahel, Part III)


The midrash says, “What led Korach to rebel? The laws of Parah Adumah / the red heifer led him to rebel.” What does this mean?

R’ Chaim Yehuda Meir Hager z”l (died 1968; the “Vishever Rebbe”) explains that Korach was specifically misled by the law that the ashes of the Parah Adumah purify one who is impure, but temporarily defile the pure person who prepares them. Korach reasoned: “I know that ‘machloket’ / strife can defile a person, but isn’t it worth becoming temporarily defiled in order to bring about the pure results which I seek?”

Why was Korach wrong? Because one can never guarantee that the impurity of machloket will be only temporary. As the gemara (Sanhedrin 7a) states: machloket is like an overflowing canal — once the dike is breached, the opening gets wider and wider. (Zecher Chaim p.172)


R’ Nachman said: “I was once walking in the desert and an Arab said, ‘Come! I will show you where Korach’s gang was swallowed up.’ I saw two cracks in the ground and smoke rose from between them. He took a woolen cloth, dipped it in water, stuck it on the end of a spear and threw it into the smoke. When he took it out, the cloth was burnt. He said to me, ‘Listen to what they are saying.’ I put my ear to the ground and heard, ‘Moshe is true and his Torah is true, and we are liars’.” (Gemara Bava Batra 74a)

R’ Yaakov Lorberbaum of Lissa z”l (early 19th century; author of Nesivot Hamishpat) explains as follows: Korach was not a fool. His dispute with Moshe occurred because, like so many philosophers, his profound, but wrong, thoughts led him astray. Specifically, the two cracks in the earth represent the two foundations of Judaism which Korach and other philosophers denied: (1) The principle of prophecy; and (2) that Moshe was the teacher of Torah par excellence. The smoke which came from between the cracks represents the fact that Korach was blinded by his own logic.

The white cloth represents a mind which is a clean slate, and dipping it in water represents teaching it Torah. When this mind was hurled with force into the smoke, it was burnt because if a Torah scholar rushes into debate with a philosopher, the Torah scholar may lose. Rather, the arguments of a Korach (or any philosopher) must be thought through and refuted calmly and patiently. If you take the time to put your ear to the ground and listen very closely, then you can hear Korach saying, “Moshe is true and his Torah is true, and we are liars.” (Emet Le’yaakov)


In this week’s parashah, as well as in the parashot which precede it and follow it, we read of some of the occasions on which the Jewish people tested Hashem during the forty years in the desert. Many ask: How is it possible that a generation which was on such a high spiritual level, a generation which witnessed all the miracles that this generation saw, could falter so many times?

R’ Yaakov Weinberg z”l (Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel; died 17 Tammuz 5759 / 1999) explains that it was precisely the Jews’ high level which caused these problems. They reached such a lofty level that they could not maintain it all of the time. And when they slipped, the fall was so much greater.

We find a similar idea in Chazal’s teaching, “The best of doctors is destined to Gehinom.” Why? Because when a person is constantly on the high plane brought about by constantly serving others through truly dedicated medical practice, he is on a level which cannot be maintained all of the time. He is therefore at a greater risk of falling and needs to exercise extra care. (Heard from R’ Weinberg, 12 Sivan 5754)


“And the sons of Korach did not die.” (26:11 in Parashat Pinchas)

Chazal say that as Korach’s sons were falling into Gehinom with their father, they repented. Hashem therefore created a ledge above Gehinom where Korach’s sons were saved. Imagine that! says R’ Yechezkel Levenstein z”l. This whole process could not have lasted more than a few seconds, yet even a single brief, but sincere, thought of repentance can save a person. (Quoted in Nedivut Lev p.241)


“And you shall give G-d’s terumah from it to Aharon the kohen.” (18:28)

This is the mitzvah of terumah / giving a portion of each harvest to the kohen. The gemara notes, however, that this mitzvah did not become obligatory until Eretz Yisrael was conquered, some 14 years after Aharon’s death. How then can terumah be given to Aharon?

Here, says the gemara, we find an allusion in the Torah to the resurrection of the dead. It is after that event that we will give terumah to Aharon.

This presents a problem, writes R’ Yehuda Rosannes. The reason that terumah and ma’aser / tithes are given to the kohanim and levi’im is that they did not receive a portion of the Land. However, there are those who hold that, when mashiach comes, even the kohanim and levi’im will be given portions in Eretz Yisrael. Why then should they continue to receive these gifts?

The answer, explains R’ Rosannes, is that when Yehoshua, and later Ezra, conquered and settled Eretz Yisrael, the Land became sanctified. That event made the produce of the Land subject to the laws of terumah and ma’aser. And although we were expelled from the Land, the original sanctity of the Land never ceased. Accordingly, the obligation to separate terumah and ma’aser must continue, for where else will the sanctity go (in the phraseology of the gemara)?! It is, however, true that should mashiach conquer new lands and annex them to Eretz Yisrael, the laws of terumah and ma’aser will not apply there. (Parashat Derachim: Derech Ha’kodesh VI)

Sponsored by Irving and Arline Katz on the yahrzeit of mother, Sarah bat Yitzchak Hakohen Katz a”h

Avi Vogel in honor of the publication of his brother-in-law’s sefer.

Copyright © 2000 by Shlomo Katz and Project Genesis, Inc.

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