B parashat hashavua b parasha : korach

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Date :28 Sivan 5763 28 June 2003

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (Editor: Arieh Yarden)

Dedicated to the loving memory of Avi Mori

Moshe Reuven ben Yaakov z”l

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Extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel

STARTING POINT: What Did Korach "Take"?

by Rabbi Amnon Bazak

This week's Torah portion begins, "And Korach took" [Bamidbar 16:1]. The commentators wonder exactly what it is that Korach took, since there is no object in the sentence. Perhaps the ambiguity stems from the unusual combination of people that Korach gathered together in his "community".

First, Korach and his people complain, "It is enough, for the entire community is holy, and G-d dwells among them. Why should you take over the leadership of G-d's congregation?" [16:3]. This seems to imply that Bnei Yisrael do not really need a leader at all, since all the people are holy. This is alluded to in a very graphic way in a well known Midrash. "What is written before this affair? 'They shall make tzitzit for themselves' [15:38]. Korach jumped up and asked Moshe: What about a garment that is made completely out of techelet, blue wool, shouldn't it be free from the obligation of tzitzit? And Moshe replied: it is required to have tztitzit. To which Korach answered: If a garment that is made completely of techelet is not free from the obligation, how can four threads of techelet free it from further obligation?" [Bamidbar Rabba 18]. That is, Bnei Yisrael, who can be compared to a garment made completely of techelet, do not need any extra threads. They do not need leaders like Moshe and Aharon.

Immediately after this, a new claim is made, the complete opposite of the first one. Moshe turns to Korach and his group, saying, "Is it not enough for you that the G-d of Yisrael separated you from the community of Yisrael to make you closer to Him by serving in the Tabernacle... And yet you also demand the priesthood. Therefore, I say to you and all your community, you are gathering together against G-d. What is Aharon that you should protest against him?" [16:9-11]. Suddenly, we find that the community of Korach criticizes the fact that Aharon was made a priest, and they want to have the task for themselves. Thus, the claim that "the entire community is holy" was only a cover for their real demand - they wanted to be the leaders themselves. Therefore, to counteract those who criticized Aharon's priesthood, people who in reality were complaining about G-d, Moshe proposes the trial of the pans. "Do the following. Take pans, Korach and his entire community, place fire in them, and put incense in them tomorrow. And the man that will be chosen by G-d is the holy one." [16:6-7].

And now, there is immediately a new criticism. Datan and Aviram protest the leadership of Moshe himself. "Is it not enough that you took us up out of a land of milk and honey to have us die in the desert, that you should also dominate us? You have not brought us at all to a land of milk and honey to give us a heritage of fields and vineyards. Will you gouge out the eyes of these people?" [16:13-14]. Moshe, who was personally hurt by these words of slander proposed yet another trial, since these men are in fact protesting against G-d. "If these men die like all others, and if they will be treated like all men, I was not sent by G-d! But if G-d creates a novel event, and the earth opens up and swallows them and all of their possessions, so that they descend while alive into the grave, then you shall know that these men have blasphemed against G-d." [16:29-30].

In the end, the various members of the opposition were punished in different ways. Those who protested about the priesthood died in the test of the pans: "And a flame came forth from G-d and devoured the two-hundred and fifty men who had offered incense" [16:35]. Datan and Aviram were swallowed up in the earth: "And it swallowed them and their homes" [16:32]. What was the end of Korach, the leader of the opposition? "Korach was among those swallowed up and burned" [Sanhedrin 110a].

SERMON OF THE WEEK: "He Will See You and he Will be Happy in his Heart" [Shemot 4:14]

by Rabbi Asher Binyamini, Head of Mercaz Neria, Kiryat Malachi

In spite of being a source of controversy, our sages noted another aspect of Korach's character by telling us that he "was one of the people who carried the Ark." Rashi wonders, "Why should Korach, who was smart, be involved in such foolishness... His eye fooled him. He saw that a large family would be descended from him, including Shmuel, who was as worthy as Moshe and Aharon." [Rashi, Bamidbar 16:7]. This shows that Korach had insight and could see the future, and perhaps he was even imbued with the holy spirit. What did our sages want to teach us by noting the positive side of Korach's character? In addition, according to the verse Korach protested about Aharon's task as High Priest, which was the second highest position, after Moshe. However, why did the sages emphasize his interest in a lesser position, "He was jealous that Elitzafan Ben Uziel was named leader of his tribe"?

Perhaps the sages wanted to suggest why Aharon was chosen and not Korach, even though Korach was at a very high spiritual level. The reason is related to his jealousy of Elitzafan. Aharon and Korach had similar experience. Before Moshe was appointed leader, he refused the post and said, "Send whomever you will" [Shemot 4:13]. The sages explained, "send the person that you usually send, Aharon" [Rashi, ibid]. Thus, it seems that Aharon had already been sent in the past as a messenger to Bnei Yisrael, even before Moshe was appointed, in addition to his being Moshe's older brother. How would Aharon react to the new appointment? The reply of the Almighty, who knows the innermost feelings, was: "Here, he comes out to meet you, and he will see you and he will be happy in his heart" [2:14]. Not only will he not be jealous, he will be happy about your position, with all his heart! This character trait showed that he should have the privilege of having the Choshen Hamishpat rest on his heart, so full of love (see Rashi).

However, in spite of his great intelligence, when Korach saw that his cousin Elitzafan was appointed as the head of the tribe, he did not accept him with love, like Aharon accepted Moshe. Rather, he became jealous of him, and this led him to also protest about the task of the High Priest. Thus, the difference between the two men is clear. Aharon would overrule his heart to what he could see in his mind's eye, while Korach's heart disagreed with him, as is quoted by Rashi, "Where will your heart take you?" [Iyov 15:12]. Perhaps this is what Onkeles meant when he translated the first two words of the Torah portion, "And Korach separated himself - 'itpalig'." A better translation would seem to have been "And Korach took - 'palig'," which would mean that he started a controversy with somebody else. The term used by Onkeles, on the other hand, implies that he was divided within himself. The conflict was in his own personality, caused when he followed his heart and not his inherent wisdom. Perhaps this is also the inner meaning of the verse with its double warning, "Do not be like Korach and his community" [Bamidbar 17:5]. That is, do not be like Korach, a man divided within himself, or like his community, who argued against others. Rather one should choose the path of Aharon, who "will see you and be happy in his heart."

POINT OF VIEW: Support Groups - the Good and the Bad

by Rabbi Yisrael Rosen

"Leaders of the community, prominent people, famous men..." [Bamidbar 16:2]. "The people of the community are all holy" [16:3]. "And he spoke to Korach and his entire community, saying..." [16:5]. "The G-d of Yisrael separated you from the community of Yisrael... to stand before the community, to serve them" [16:9]. "Therefore, you and your entire community, who are gathering together against G-d..." [16:11]. "And Moshe said to Korach: You and your entire community should appear before G-d..." [16:16]. "And Korach gathered the entire community... And the glory of G-d was revealed to the entire community" [16:19]. "Separate yourselves from this community" [16:21]. "If one man sins, will you be angry with the whole community?" [16:22]. "Speak to the community, saying: Rise up from around the dwelling places of Korach, Datan, and Aviram" [16:24]. "And he spoke to the community, saying: Turn away from the tents of these evil people" [16:26]. "Let him not be like Korach and his community" [17:5]. "And it happened, when the community gathered against Moshe and Aharon" [17:7]. "Lift yourselves up from among this community, and I will destroy them in a moment" [17:10]. "Go quickly to the community and atone for them" [17:11]. "These are the same Datan and Aviram, leaders of the community, who argued against Moshe and Aharon, in the community of Korach" [Bamidbar 26:9]. "And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and Korach, when the community died" [26:10].

Count how many times the word "eidah" - community - appears in the verses quoted above, all related to the affair of Korach. It is also interesting to note how often this refers to the community of Yisrael and how often it refers to the community of Korach. In fact, in looking over the passages, it quickly becomes clear that the two communities are intertwined, and in the first reading of a passage it may not be clear exactly which community is being considered. One example of this ambiguity can be seen in G-d's demand, "Separate yourselves from this community," and Moshe's response, "If one man sins, will you be angry with the entire community?" From whom should Moshe separate himself? Which community is the one causing anger? Is it Bnei Yisrael as a whole, as in the sin of the Golden Calf, or only the community of Korach (see Ramban)?

The Effect of the Neighborhood

The common phrase "Korach and his community" appears several times in the verses quoted above. It is also used in the well known Mishna: "What controversy is not divine? It is the controversy of Korach and his community" [Avot 5:16]. This clearly implies that "his community" plays a central role in the events. The phrase means to me that in terms of both education and responsibility the close support group of a person is very important. This corresponds to the well known folk saying, "Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are!" Man does not operate in a vacuum, and "his community" is always in the background. Without its support, he would not be able to revolt, to rise up, or to cause harm.

In this area of the relationship between a man and his social surroundings, there is another well known saying by the sages: "Woe is to an evil person and woe is to his neighbor" (see Rashi, the first verse of the portion). This motto also emphasizes the link between a man and his surroundings, but now the sense has been reversed: "Tell me who you are, and I will tell you who your friends are!"

In any case, it is clear that one lesson to be learned from the affair of Korach is related to the issue of "group punishment of the surroundings." Punishment can be expected for any of those who provide support, give encouragement, join the group, are convinced to participate, or simply "do not protest." All of these are judged together, "Let him not be like Korach and his community."

"The Community Will Judge and the Community Will Rescue"

As we wrote in the beginning of this article, the "community" plays a prominent role in this week's portion, not only from the point of view of the sin of "Korach and his community" but also in the outer circle, which meets with approval: "All the community is holy... The leaders of the community... The community of Bnei Yisrael..." As is written, "G-d has created this one as opposed to the other" [Kohellet 7:14].

Judaism gives a high level of recognition to the "community," the "congregation," and the "tribe." The entire book of Bamidbar is filled with blessed tribalism, and the Midrash in general has much to say about groups. The "community" where a person lives, the "congregation" of which he is a part, plays a central role in the service of G-d and in the principle articles of faith. One of the most basic actions of Jewish life is to participate in a minyan of ten men. (Note that even women, who for reasons of modesty do not formally join the minyan, are considered part of the community. Every Jewish gathering has its "women's section." An example was in the Temple itself, where the "women's courtyard" was larger than the "courtyard of Yisrael" and the "courtyard of the Kohanim.")

Chassidic Jewry has refined the concept of the "community," with a righteous Tzadik at the center. This type of community group developed into different types of holy communities during recent generations. Every generation had its corresponding blessed communities, while there were also the opposite - the communities of Korach that gathered around.

"The community will judge, and the community will rescue" [Bamidbar 35:24-25]. The sages interpreted this as, "The community judges, and the community rescues" [Sanhedrin 1:1]. In other words, the surrounding community can have a good influence, it can save somebody or bring about judgment (evil). Let us be part of the "leaders of the community" who meet in the Tent of Meeting, and not part of "Korach and his community, who criticized G-d."

THE WAYS OF THE FATHERS (Pirkei Avot): Mishna 16

by Rabbi Yehuda Shaviv

"Rabban Gamliel said: Make a rabbi for yourself and remove yourself from doubt, and do not exaggerate by using an estimate to separate maaser."

This Mishna is different from the previous ones in two ways: One thing that is missing is the note that the rabbi "received the Torah from..." In addition, the title Rabban is used here for the first time. Until now, each rabbi was called by name, without a title, sometimes adding the place where he lived. And here, for the first time, we are not told explicitly that the rabbi "received the Torah" from his predecessors.

In addition to the above, until this point the rabbis were presented in pairs, and the period was known as the "era of the pairs." Now Rabban Gamliel appears in the Mishna alone. The era of the pairs has ended, from this point on a single leader guides the path of Torah. This individual is not necessarily the greatest of the Torah sages of the time, but leadership is passed on from father to son. The effect of his words depends on the rabbi's title and on the authority passed on to him (see the Tosefta at the end of Eiduyot and the Rambam's introduction to his commentary on the Mishna).

This may well be the background of Rabban Gamliel's first piece of advice, "Make a rabbi for yourself," with emphasis on the first word, "make." While it is true that the same call was made generations before (see Mishna 6), the two cases are different, as can be seen from the other accompanying advice. Earlier, Yehoshua Ben Perachia was referring to relationships between one man and another. He discussed the proper relationship with somebody who is on a higher level ("make a rabbi for yourself"), somebody who is on the same level ("possess a friend"), and with the entire world ("judge every man favorably"). In the current Mishna, on the other hand, the emphasis is to establish an authority that will help a person find the right path, leaving no room for doubts. This can offer an answer to the question asked by the Meiri, among others, looking for an explanation of the phrase, "do not exaggerate in using an estimate." This would seem to imply that there is no problem in using an estimate, but what is not good is to do this too often. However, this is the opposite of the law, which demands that a person carefully use exact measurements when separating the maaser from the produce.

A related question is concerned with general principle. It is quite unusual for a Mishna in Avot to discuss practical aspects of performing a mitzva rather than the general need for ethical and proper behavior. Anybody who wants to know exactly how to perform the acts of maaser should turn to the proper halachic sources. Why is this rule relevant for Avot?

In view of the above questions, it is reasonable to accept the explanation of the Meiri, that this third rule is not to be taken literally but rather is meant to imply that "one should not try to teach a subject that he does not know by forming a hypothesis based on logic, but he should study all the laws until the matter is perfectly clear to him, or as an alternative he should consult other people." Based on this, we can then see the entire Mishna as a logical sequence: a person who does not have a specific rabbi to consult will always be in doubt. His performance of mitzvot is therefore based on assumptions and not on clear and definite knowledge. Thus, what Rabban Gamliel says is as follows: Make a rabbi for yourself - then you will not have any doubts, and you will not have to use estimates to separate maaser.

With respect to the break in the sequence of passing Torah from one generation to the next, we note that from this point on in Avot there is a second sequence, the disciples of the leaders of each generation. This appears in Chapter 2 of Avot, "Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai received the Torah from Hillel and Shamai... He had five students..." [2:9]. In fact, in Avot D'Rebbe Natan, the sayings of Rabbi Yochanan and his students (Chapter 4) are brought right after the Mishnayot of Hillel, while the words of Rabban Gamliel are delayed until much later (Chapter 22).


by Rabbi Uri Dasberg

We have been taught in this week's Torah portion that "woe is to an evil person, and woe is to his neighbor" [Rashi, Bamidbar 16:1]. However, it sometimes happens that one suffers from a neighbor even though he is not evil. There was once a new occupant in a co-op building whose children disturbed the neighbors by playing on the outdoor terrace of his new apartment. Not only were the children noisy, it was also possible for them to peek at the neighbors' windows through slits in the fence on the terrace. The new occupant replied to the neighbors' complaints that the children were playing during regularly accepted hours and not during a rest period. In addition, even though the children would have needed a special effort to look at the neighbors, they had covered the slits with cloth to guarantee that the children could not look outside. We should note that from the legal point of view the terrace belonged to the new occupant, even though it had been built on the roof of his downstairs neighbor's apartment, since this is characteristic of living in a co-op apartment building. One occupant's roof is the floor of the next higher neighbor, and the ownership is shared.

In the Mishna in Bava Batra, there appears to be a contradiction with respect to this issue. On one hand, it is possible to prevent a neighbor from opening a store in his apartment because of the claim that "I cannot sleep because of the noise of those who come and go." On the other hand, a neighbor is permitted to open a workshop, and the other neighbors cannot complain about the noise of the hammers and grindstones. Several explanations have been given to resolve this apparent contradiction.

(1) Rambam: The second case refers to noise that has existed for some time, so the neighbors cannot now begin to complain about it. However, customers who enter and leave are new people every day, and the fact that there was noise one day does not in any way allow noise on the following days.

(2) Ramban and Rashba: The problem is not with noise, which is not a valid complaint under these circumstances, but rather with the physical disturbance caused by people freely moving in and out of the building.

(3) Tosafot: The hammer and the grindstone are in the private apartment and therefore the neighbors cannot complain about their noise. People coming and going to a store create a disturbance in the entrance to the building, which is shared by all the occupants.

(4) Meiri: There is no way to prevent a person from normal use of his own apartment, even if this causes a loud noise. However, transforming a private apartment into a store cannot be considered a common use.

The noise of children playing is an accepted fact, and perhaps the Rambam is the only one whose reasoning might support a complaint against them, since until now there has not been any such noise. However, what if the downstairs neighbor complains that his wife is in an advanced stage of pregnancy, such that noise might disturb her and even cause her to lose her child? According to the Rivash, this is a serious claim that must be considered (see Choshen Mishpat). However, the Chazon Ish wrote that even this fact is not strong enough to prevent a person from performing normal acts in his own home, and there is no way to stop a person from bringing into his own house "young babies that cry at night."

The conclusion is that if it is common practice to forbid playing on an outside terrace during normal periods of rest and sleep, the new neighbor must also stop his children from playing outside.

One other point can be noted with respect to possible damage due to the children peeking at their neighbors. Even though it takes a special effort for the children to look through the slits, the fear that they are looking might inhibit a person from performing normal activities in his own home. The existing neighbors feel that the new cloth cover over the slits is not enough to give them confidence, but if so they can close their own blinds to prevent the children from looking in.

Reference: Rabbi Mordechai Ralbag, "Techumin," volume 23, pages 434-442

THE LAND OF OUR BIRTH: The Yarkon National Park

by Penina Weinreb

In the center of the country, at the city limits of Petach Tikvah, is the site of the Yarkon National Park. This park is rich in vegetation and in birds, and - the main thing - the Yarkon River passes through grassy lawns and shady trees.

Our visit will start at Tel Ofek (Antipatros). Coming from the north, turn left at the Segula Junction to the Ganim Junction, and once again left towards Kibbutz Givat Hashelosha. Before the turn to Rosh Ha'ayin, follow the signs to Afek Park.

At the site, there is an Ottoman fort, which provides a view of the sources of the Yarkon River, covering the area from Tel Ofek to the Morasha Junction. At the foothills on the eastern side of Tel Ofek, we can see pumping stations that were used in the time of the British Mandate to pump water to Jerusalem. In ancient times, the city of Ofek guarded an important section of the route from Egypt to Damascus. It is mentioned in the Tanach as the place where Goliat prepared his troops for the battle with David, and Bnei Yisrael settled there after their victory. South of the Ottoman fort, streets of the Roman city Antipatros have been uncovered.

We can walk along the Yarkon on a path that will take us to the sources of the river. On our walk, we will be accompanied by the flowing river and by a rich selection of water vegetation. If we make advance arrangements, we can visit the Mekorot pumping station at the site. Special things to note include the flourmill with a series of arches and the Kassar courtyard, the remains of the farm belonging to Salim Kassar, which was sold to the first settlers of Petach Tikvah.

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