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Posted on June 22, 2023 (5783) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Volume 37, No. 34
5 Tammuz 5783
June 24, 2023

Sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Irving Katz on the yahrzeit of his mother Sarah bat Yitzchak Hakohen a”h, Nathan and Rikki Lewin on the yahrzeit of his grandfather Harav Aharon ben Harav Nosson Lewin z”l Hy”d (the Reisher Rav), and Mrs. Rochelle Dimont and family on the yahrzeit of son, husband, father, and brother Chayim ben Harav Avraham Mordechai a”h(9 Tammuz)

In this week’s Parashah, we read about Korach’s rebellion. Moshe’s first reaction to the rebellion is to tell Korach (16:5), “In the morning Hashem will make known the one who is His own and the holy one.” Why did Moshe tell Korach to wait for the morning?

R’ Avraham David Wahrmann z”l (1771-1840; rabbi of Buchach, Poland; prolific author) explains: We read (Eichah 3:23), “New every morning, great is Your Emunah / faithfulness.” The light of morning is associated with Emunah because it symbolizes our waiting with faith for dark times to pass. We read further (Tehilim 101:6), “My eyes are upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with Me.” Only those who are “faithful,” who possess Emunah, can dwell with Hashem and know His secrets.

Why is this so? R’ Moshe ben Nachman z”l (Ramban; 1194-1270; Spain and Eretz Yisrael) teaches that Emunah / faith in Hashem is an abstract concept whose concrete manifestation is Bitachon / placing one’s trust in Hashem. Trusting in Hashem necessarily means being content with one’s lot, for one recognizes that he can only have what Hashem has decreed he will have, and he cannot have that which Hashem has decreed he will not have. Bitachon thus enables one to be a “faithful” friend, for a person who possesses Bitachon is never jealous. Moshe told Korach to wait for morning because Moshe hoped that reflecting upon the “morning” would lead Korach to revisit his jealousy and repent. (Machazeh Avraham)


“Korach son of Yitzhar son of Kehat son of Levi separated himself . . .” (16:1)

Rashi z”l comments: The verse does not, however, mention Levi being “the son of Yaakov,” because Yaakov offered a prayer that his name not be mentioned in connection with Korach’s quarrels, as it is says (Bereishit 49:6), “With their assembly let my honor not be united.” [Until here from Rashi]

R’ Menachem Mendel Hager z”l (Rebbe of Kosov; died 1825) writes: We read in Tehilim (3:1), “A song by David, as he fled from Avshalom his son.” The Gemara (Berachot 7b) asks: Given that King David was fleeing from his son Avshalom, should it not say, instead of “A song”–“A lamentation by David”? The Gemara answers that King David was praising Hashem that the punishment for his sins involved being pursued by his own son, who surely would show him mercy if he caught him, rather than by a renegade slave, who would not be likely to show King David the same mercy. [Until here from the Gemara]

R’ Hager suggests another answer to the Gemara’s question: When King David saw Avshalom’s rebellious nature, he feared that his son had inherited that nature from him. King David then examined his own deeds with a fine-tooth comb and concluded that Avshalom’s rebelliousness was not due to any character flaw on his (David’s) part. Having thus “fled” from Avshalom, he gave praise to Hashem.

This, suggests R’ Hager, is the meaning of Yaakov’s prayer that his name not be connected with Korach’s quarrels. Yaakov was praying that he be saved from the negative character traits that lead to Machloket / being involved in disputes, so that Korach’s quarrels could not be associated with, or blamed on, his (Yaakov’s) character. (Ahavat Shalom)


“For the entire assembly–all of them–are holy and Hashem is among them; why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem? (16:3)

R’ Eliezer Dovid Gruenwald z”l (1867-1928; rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva in Oyber Visheve, Hungary and other towns) writes: Korach was asserting that Moshe was not special in his own right; rather, Hashem had chosen Moshe as a representative of Bnei Yisrael in their merit, not his own.

This, continues R’ Gruenwald, is the same mistake Bnei Yisrael made leading up to the creation of the Golden Calf. They said (Shmot 32:1), “This man Moshe, who brought us up from the land of Egypt–we do not know what was with him!” They meant: We do not know what was so special about him. This is why our Sages say that the Parah Adumah / red heifer atoned for the sin of the Golden Calf. Parah Adumah is a “Chok” / a Mitzvah whose logic we cannot understand, and it teaches us that there are truths in this world that are beyond our perception or understanding. (Keren Le’Dovid)


“Kel, the Elokim of the winds for all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with the entire assembly?” (16:22)

R’ Menachem Mendel Stern z”l (1759-1834; rabbi of Sighet, Hungary) explains Moshe’s prayer: Hashem, when You make storms with strong winds, You limit them so they do not destroy the world. If You do that for the nations of the world, who were created solely to facilitate Bnei Yisrael’s service of Hashem, certainly You should not destroy Bnei Yisrael! (Derech Emunah)


“They and all that was theirs descended alive to the pit . . .” (16:33)

R’ Chaim Tirer z”l (1760-1818; rabbi of Czernowitz, Bukovina) writes: The verse is informing us that not only did Korach and those associated with him descend to the depths of Gehinnom alive, even their belongings fell that great distance without breaking–contrary to what one would expect consistent with the laws of nature. In this way, Hashem demonstrated that not only does He have great power, He also is great in his ability to restrain His power. This was Middah-K’negged-Middah / a measure-for-measure response to Korach. [Apparently, R’ Tirer means that Hashem restrained His power in response to Korach’s argument that all of the Jewish People are holy and, therefore, they do not need a leader such as Moshe. Middah-K’negged-Middah Hashem taught them a lesson about reining in their potential–in this case, by accepting a leader even when they think they do not need one.] (Be’er Mayim Chaim)


Pirkei Avot

“Rabbi Elazar Ha’kappar says: ‘Jealousy, desire, and honor remove a man from the world’.” (Chapter 5)

R’ Gedaliah Silverstone z”l (1871-1944; rabbi in Belfast, Ireland and Washington, D.C.) writes: The traits listed here are three bad characteristics that ultimately bury those who possess them. It is true, he continues, that each of these traits can have a positive manifestation. Regarding “jealousy” we read (Mishlei 23:17), “Let your heart not envy sinners, rather [envy] those who revere Hashem all day.” When we use it as a tool for attaining reverence of Hashem, jealousy is a good thing. Regarding “desire” we read (Tehilim 42:3), “My soul thirsts for Elokim, for the living Kel–when shall I come and appear before Elokim?” And, regarding “honor” we read (Mishlei 3:35), “The wise inherit honor and fools generate disgrace.”

R’ Silverstone explains: When these traits are used in the service of Hashem, they can indeed be good. But, when personal “desire” gets in the middle of them, as in the wording of our Mishnah, they lead a person down the road to destruction. (Lev Avot)



“And the seventh day is Shabbat for Hashem, your Elokim . . .” (Shmot 20:10)

R’ Aharon Lewin z”l Hy”d (the Reisher Rav; killed in the Holocaust) writes: The reason the Torah adds the words “to Hashem, your Elokim” is to teach that Shabbat is not merely a day of rest from work. All week long, a person toils to support his family and does not have time for the more frivolous things in life. One might have thought, therefore, that the Day of Rest is a time to engage in such pursuits. No, says the Torah, the seventh day is Shabbat for Hashem–a time to pursue the spiritual perfection one does not have time for during the workweek.

R’ Lewin continues: We read (Yeshayah 56:2), “Praiseworthy is the man who does this and the person who grasps it tightly–who guards the Shabbat against desecration and guards his hand against doing any evil.” The prophet praises a person who not only observes Shabbat, but also takes care not to wile away the day in improper behavior. This, writes R’ Lewin, is also the meaning of the Gemara (Shabbat 118a): “Whoever observes Shabbat K’hilchato / as it was meant to be observed has all of his sins forgiven.” The Gemara refers to not just observing Shabbat in a technical way, but observing it as it was meant to be observed.

Midrash Rabbah makes a startling statement: “You might have thought that I, Hashem, gave you Shabbat to your detriment. No! I gave it to you for your benefit!” R’ Lewin explains that this Midrash is teaching the same idea: Shabbat was not given to us as a day to get ourselves in trouble, but rather as a day to improve ourselves. (Ha’drash Ve’ha’iyun: Shmot 167)