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Posted on July 4, 2024 (5784) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Volume 38, No. 38
30 Sivan 5784
July 6, 2024

Sponsored by Zev and Marlene Teichman on the yahrzeit of her father Louis Leonard Esterson (Aryeh Leib ben Yonah a”h – 27 Sivan) and the Vogel family on the yahrzeits of Shemayah ben Moshe Kalkstein a”h (1 Tamuz) and Devorah bat Yehoshua Sheiner a”h Hy”d (3 Tamuz)

In this week’s Parashah, we read about Korach’s rebellion. Korach challenged Moshe’s leadership and the appointment of Aharon as the Kohen Gadol, arguing (16:3), “The entire assembly–all of them–are holy and Hashem is among them; why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem?”

R’ Yaakov Moshe Charlap z”l (1882-1951; rabbi of Yerushalayim’s Sha’arei Chessed neighborhood and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Mercaz Harav) writes: The special nature of the Jewish People is not attributable only to our good deeds, but also–indeed, primarily–to our lineage as descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. Anyone who denies this effectively lends support to those who assert that Hashem might reject us as His people when we sin.

Similarly, writes R’ Charlap, it was not merely Aharon, the person, who was chosen to serve as Kohen Gadol; rather, Hashem decreed that all Kohanim would come from the lineage of Aharon. By arguing that someone else could be as worthy as Aharon of being Kohen Gadol, Korach was denying the role of lineage. By extension, he denied the specialness that we, the Jewish People, have because of our lineage.

In this light, concludes R’ Charlap, we can understand Moshe’s response (16:5), “In the morning, Hashem will make known the one who is His own.” Rashi z”l explains: “Can you, Korach, turn morning into night? So, too, you cannot undo Hashem’s decree.” This refers, explains R’ Charlap, to the fact that the selection of Aharon is not based on his deeds, which could change, but rather on Hashem’s choice. Understanding Hashem’s choices, however, is beyond our grasp. (Mei Marom: Nimukei Mikraot)


“Moreover, you did not bring us to a land flowing with milk and honey nor give us a heritage of field and vineyard!” (16:14)

R’ Yehonatan Eybeschutz z”l (Central Europe; 1690-1764) writes that Datan and Aviram argued as follows: Perhaps you will say that thanks to Moshe we left Egypt with great wealth. However, we, Datan and Aviram, were wealthy in Egypt, and we lost that wealth (see Rashi to Shmot 4:19). We, Datan and Aviram, know that only real estate–”fields and vineyards”–gives a person true wealth. And that, Moshe has not given us. (Tiferet Yehonatan)


“The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households . . .” (16:32)

Why was this form of death appropriate for Korach? R’ Shlomo Alkabetz z”l (1505-1584; author of the Friday night hymn Lecha Dodi, among other works) answers:

The world exists in the merit of the Torah, as we read (Yirmiyah 33:25), “So says Hashem, ‘Were it not for My covenant day and night, I would not have established the laws of heaven and earth’.” (In other words, if man would not in the future study Torah day and night, Hashem would not have established the laws of nature that govern the heavens and the earth.) By denying Moshe Rabbeinu’s unique role and accusing Moshe of nepotism, Korach effectively denied the Divine origin of the Torah. Therefore, Korach deserved to disappear from the face of the earth in the fastest and most complete way possible. (Perushei U’derushei R’ Shlomo Alkabetz)

R’ Eliyahu Ha’Tzarfati z”l (1715-1805; rabbi of Fes, Morocco) offers another explanation: Korach’s death was meant to serve as a reminder to those who seek leadership positions that (in the words of Pesachim 87b) “Leadership positions bury those who hold them.” (Aderet Eliyahu)


“For the Ma’aser / tithe of Bnei Yisrael that they raise up to Hashem as a gift . . .” (18:24)

R’ Yitzchak Weiss z”l Hy”d (rabbi of Verbau, Slovakia; killed in the Holocaust) writes: The initials of the Hebrew words for “the tithe of Bnei Yisrael” (“את מעשר בני ישראל”) are also the initials of the phrase (Mishlei 21:14), “An anonymous gift will cover up anger.” (“מתן בסתר יכפה אף,” teaching that by giving charity anonymously so as not to embarrass the recipient or receive glory for oneself, one quiets Hashem’s anger.) Those same letters also are the initials of the four kingdoms that oppressed the Jewish People: Edom (Rome), Media (Persia), Babylon, and Yavan (Greece). This teaches, writes R’ Weiss, that even when we are downtrodden in exile, we should take care to give a tithe from our income as charity, and, in that merit, we will be saved from our oppressors. (Si’ach Yitzchak)



“You are One and Your Name is One, and who is like Your people Yisrael, one nation on earth.” (From the Shabbat Mincha Amidah)

R’ Shraga Feivish Hager z”l (1958-2024; Kosover Rebbe; he passed away last Shabbat) writes: When Hashem made the heaven and earth, He intentionally did not perfect His creation. Rather, His plan was to remove His Shechinah / Presence from the world and to have mankind bring it back through their service to Him. We, the Jewish People, merited to be the ones given this task.

The Kosover Rebbe continues: By withdrawing His Presence from this world, Hashem created a vacuum that allows a person to think there is more than one divine power. Man’s entire purpose in this world is to reveal the Oneness of the Creator and to cause this physical world to be a place where holiness resides. This is the meaning of the above prayer: “You are One and Your Name is One.” That is a reality! But who will reveal that to the world? We will, for “who is like Your people Yisrael, one nation on earth.”

The Gemara (Berachot 6a) states that Hashem dons Tefilin, so-to-speak (see below). The Gemara asks: “What is written in Hashem’s Tefilin?” and it answers: “And who is like Your people Yisrael, one nation on earth.” [Until here from the Gemara.] The Kosover Rebbe quotes R’ Zvi Hirsch Eichenstein z”l (1763-1831; Zidachover Rebbe) who asks: Who revealed to us what is written in Hashem’s Tefilin? The answer is that we, the Jewish People, make Hashem’s Tefilin; therefore, we know what is in them. As noted, what makes Hashem One? The fact that we, His people, reveal His Oneness through our acts of holiness. (Shabbat Malka Kadisha p.9)

What does it mean that Hashem “dons Tefilin”? Of course, He has no body and does not literally wear Tefilin!

R’ Shlomo ibn Aderet z”l (Rashba; Barcelona, Spain; 1235-1310) writes: Know that among the Aggadic / non-legal teachings of our Sages are some that allude to deep secrets, with which I have no business. [It is noteworthy that this statement was made by someone universally considered to be among the greatest Talmud commentators.] However, Rashba continues, some Aggadic statements include a revealed aspect also. When I come to those teachings, I will hint to the hidden part and explain the revealed part as I understand it.

He continues: This teaching (regarding Hashem’s Tefilin) contains a lofty secret, but the revealed part is also as beloved as gold. We are commanded to place Tefilin on our arms, near our hearts, so that love of Hashem and an awareness of His power will be like a sign affixed to our arms. And, we are commanded to place Tefilin on our heads to implant the same ideas in our brains and intellects. The Shel Yad (Tefilin on the arm) has one compartment, alluding to the Oneness of Hashem, while the Shel Rosh (Tefilin on the head) has four compartments, alluding to the multiplicity of ways Hashem is manifested in this world. (Within these compartments are verses referring to the Oneness of Hashem, most notably, “Shema.”)

This, adds Rashba, is why we always don the Shel Yad first and take it off last. Without a trunk, there can be no branches, but there can be a trunk with no branches. Likewise, without Hashem’s Oneness, there cannot be any manifestation of the Divine in this world, but even without this world, Hashem remains One.

Rashba concludes: Just as Hashem is One, so He created the world for the sake of a unique nation–the Jewish People. Of all His creations, we, the Jewish People, are the one in which He takes a unique degree of pride. This is what we mean when we say that Hashem “dons Tefilin”: Just as our Tefilin declare His Oneness and our awareness of, and loyalty to, Him, so He keeps in the forefront of His “Mind” our uniqueness and His desire to give us His attention and loyalty. (Be’ur Ha’Rashba Al Ha’aggadot)

A related thought:

R’ Moshe Isserles z”l (“Rema”; 1530-1572; rabbi of Cracow, Poland, and author of the glosses on Shulchan Aruch that adapt that work for Ashkenazim) writes: The one compartment of the Shel Yad alludes to the Oneness of Hashem. This is placed near the heart, which is the source of life, just as Hashem is the source of everything. The four compartments of the Shel Rosh allude to four “ingredients” that make up every thing: material, form, a maker, and a purpose. This explains why the Shel Rosh is considered to have greater holiness than the Shel Yad, even though the latter alludes to the Oneness of Hashem. Hashem is too abstract for us to perceive directly, but through His creations we can do so to some degree. (Torat Ha’olah II ch.2)