• Dvar for Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32)

    After hearing the complaints of the rebellious Korach and his associates, Moshe cries out to G-d not to accept their offerings and insists that he had never wronged any of them in any way. As Moshe knew that his actions were legitimate, why was he so seemingly defensive about Korach’s criticism? After all, G-d knew that Moshe was in the right and had not wronged Korach or his allies – why did Moshe feel the need to make his case before Him?

    Daniel Lifshitz suggests that perhaps we can answer based on a comment of the Tiferet Yisrael to the Mishna in Avot, “Who is wise? He who learns from every person.” The Tiferet Yisrael notes that some of the most important people to learn from are those who dislike us. They are the ones who shine a spotlight on our every shortcoming. Their criticism may include much exaggeration or even outright falsehood, but often it also contains a grain of truth. Focusing on these grains of truth can help us learn what areas of our conduct or character could use improvement. Moshe understood this concept and when Korach hurled accusations at him, he took advantage of the opportunity for honest self-assessment. His conclusion was that the complaints were baseless and said as much to Hashem, but only after going through introspection and accounting before Hashem. This type of reaction goes against most people’s instincts, but it can help turn unpleasant situations into opportunities for personal growth.

  • Dvar for Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32)

    Parshat Korach relates the story of Korach, Datan, Aviram and 250 members of the shevet (tribe) of Reuven challenging Moshe’s choice for Kohen Gadol (high priest). The end result was that the 250 members were burned by a heavenly fire, and the three leaders were miraculously swallowed by the earth. From a motive perspective, Korach’s actions makes the most sense because he felt slighted for not having been chosen himself, and had something to potentially gain by complaining. But why would 250 people follow him to their certain death, with apparently little to gain?

    The answer can be found in Rashi, the great medieval commentator, who writes that just as Korach’s family camped on the southern side of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), so did the tribe of Reuven. Rashi quotes the words of Chapters of the Fathers, “woe to an evil person, and woe to their neighbor.” The 250 people met their demise simply because they were influenced by their neighbors. This points to the awesome influence that friends, neighbors and associates have on us. Who we surround ourselves with is a matter of life and death. Do we have positive friends and neighbors? And just as importantly, are WE positive friends and neighbors to others?

  • Dvar for Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32)

    After hearing the complaints of the rebellious Korach and his associates, Moshe cries out to G-d not to accept their offerings and insists that he had never wronged any of them in any way. As Moshe knew that his actions were legitimate, why was he so seemingly defensive about Korach’s criticism? After all, G-d knew that Moshe was in the right and had not wronged Korach or his allies – why did Moshe feel the need to make his case before Him?

    Perhaps we can answer based on a comment of the Tiferet Yisrael to the Mishna in Avot, “Who is wise? He who learns from every person.” The Tiferet Yisrael notes that some of the most important  people to learn from are those who dislike us. They are the ones who shine a spotlight on our every shortcoming. Their criticism may include much exaggeration or even outright falsehood, but often it also contains a grain of truth. Focusing on these grains of truth can help us learn what areas of our conduct or character could use improvement. Moshe understood this concept and when Korach hurled accusations at him, he took advantage of the opportunity for honest self-assessment. His conclusion was that the complaints were baseless and said as much to G-d, but only after going through introspection and accounting before G-d. This type of reaction goes against most people’s instincts, but it can help make unpleasant situations into opportunities for personal growth.

  • Dvar for Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32)

    After hearing the complaints of the rebellious Korach and his associates, Moshe cries out to G-d not to accept their offerings and insists that he had never wronged any of them in any way. As Moshe knew that his actions were legitimate, why was he so seemingly defensive about Korach’s criticism? After all, G-d knew that Moshe was in the right and had not wronged Korach or his allies – why did Moshe feel the need to make his case before Him?

    Daniel Lifshitz suggests that perhaps we can answer based on a comment of the Tiferet Yisrael to the Mishna in Avot, “Who is wise? He who learns from every person.” The Tiferet Yisrael notes that some of the most important people to learn from are those who dislike us. They are the ones who shine a spotlight on our every shortcoming. Their criticism may include much exaggeration or even outright falsehood, but often it also contains a grain of truth. Focusing on these grains of truth can help us learn what areas of our conduct or character could use improvement. Moshe understood this concept and when Korach hurled accusations at him, he took advantage of the opportunity for honest self-assessment. His conclusion was that the complaints were baseless and said as much to Hashem, but only after going through introspection and accounting before Hashem. This type of reaction goes against most people’s instincts, but it can help turn unpleasant situations into opportunities for personal growth.

  • Daily Aliya for Korach, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Levites, too, will not receive a share of the land of Israel. Instead they are entitled to a tenth of all the Israelites’ crops–this in return for the Tabernacle and Temple services which they render. Upon receiving this tithe, the Levites must, in turn, separate a tenth of this tithe and give it to the priests.

    So the Levites get 10% of everyone’s crops, and they must give 10% of that to the priests. This underscores the importance of giving, regardless of how or how much you have. As Rav Dessler explains, giving is what makes us love others, not receiving. The more you “invest” in those around you by giving them love, food, money, attention or respect, the more you grow to appreciate and love them, and the phenomenon grows exponentially from there. But it all starts by giving (this is where I should link you do the Donate page for Lelamed.com, but I won’t).

  • Daily Aliya for Korach, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d commands Moshe to return “Aaron’s staff” to the Holy of Holies, where it is to remain for perpetuity. The Jews express to Moshe their fear of mistakenly entering a restricted area of the Tabernacle, and dying as a result. In response, G‑d commands the priests and the Levites to carefully guard the Tabernacle, to prevent unauthorized entry by non-priests. The Torah then lists the various gifts to which the priests were entitled. These include the privilege of eating certain sacrifices, as well as select portions of other sacrifices; receiving the five shekels for the redemption of Israelite firstborn sons; a portion of all grain, oil, and wine crops; the “first fruit”; and more. Aaron is informed that his descendents will not receive a portion in the land of Israel–instead, G‑d is their inheritance and portion.

    The staff is meant to dissuade those rebellious ones from complaining, but the Passuk says that “their complaints will stop” (utechal telunotam), “complaints” being plural, but “stop” being singular. Why the discrepancy? Is it one complaint that this staff will deter, or many? Rashi analyzes the grammar and determines that the word used to mean “complaints” is actually a collective singular noun, so it makes sense that “stop” is singular. Nonetheless, logic would dictate that this staff should deter more than just one complaint. It could be, however, that complaints all come from the same lack of faith, and rather than focusing on the symptoms, the Torah focuses on the disease. How a staff can help deter someone from complaining is a discussion for another time (maybe next year’s Aliya?).

  • Daily Aliya for Korach, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya describes the “test of the staffs.” G‑d tells Moshe to take a staff from each of the twelve tribes, with the name of each tribe’s prince written upon their staff. Another staff was taken to represent the tribe of Levi, and Aaron’s name was written on that staff. These staffs were placed overnight in the Holy of Holies chamber of the Tabernacle. Next morning they were removed, and miraculously Aaron’s staff had budded with almond blossoms and almonds. This was further proof that Aaron was G‑d’s choice for High Priest.

    Of all the random miracles, ripe almonds growing overnight on a stick with a tribal leader’s name on it is pretty high on the list. But since we know nothing in the Torah is random, ripe almonds must represent something more. Rashi helps by saying that almonds are the fastest growing “fruits”, and it represents the possibility of immediate reward/punishment by G-d. G-d could have chosen to sprout fruits that normally take longer, but instead left the Israelites with a message of warning for those that question Him, and a lasting message for those that adhere to His word.

  • Daily Aliya for Korach, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d instructs Moshe and Aaron: “Separate yourselves from the community, and I will destroy them in an instant.” And indeed, a plague struck the nation, and many thousands were dying. Moshe tells Aaron to quickly take a firepan with incense and go into the midst of the congregation and atone for their sin. Aaron does so. He stands “between the living and the dead,” and the plague is halted.

    Apparently the thought process of Korach and his men contaminated some others, and a plague started to cleanse this evil. But why use the very firepan and incense to atone and stop the plague, when that was the very item used to sin? the Medrash Agaddah explains that the Israelites were slandering and vilifying the incense, saying that it was a deadly poison. G-d’s response is to show them that the very incense that was used to sin is the incense that will save them, proving that it was the sin that caused their demise. Same action, different results. And the only difference is the thought process behind them.

  • Daily Aliya for Korach, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d is angered by the Jews’ association with Korach, and wishes to destroy them. Moshe and Aaron pray on the Jews’ behalf and the decree is averted. The earth opens up and swallows Korach and his family, and a heavenly fire consumes the rest of the 250 rebels. Moshe instructs Aaron’s son Elazar to retrieve the frying pans which were used for the incense offering, to flatten them and plate the altar with them–a visible deterrent for any individual who ever wishes to challenge Aaron’s priesthood. The next day, the community complains that Moses and Aaron are to be blamed for the deaths of “G‑d’s people.”

    As we reach the crux of the Korach confrontation, we reach about Moshe telling the people that the next morning they will see that everything he’s said and done is all G-d’s doing and wishes, and the proof will be that Korach and his followers will die an unnatural death. Sure enough, everyone is instructed to keep their distance, and Korach and his gang are swallowed by the ground. Incredibly, the very next day the Jews complain to Moshe that he’s killed people of the Lord (6). After all the elaborate explanations and presentation proving that it’s G-d behind all this, they still claim that it’s Moshe’s doing. Yet, the Torah doesn’t describe anger or disappointment by either Moshe or G-d. Rather, it lets it go and moves on to describing the heavenly cloud that lowered. An interesting anecdote to complaints following a monumental event. Perhaps human nature was allowed a day to process, to vent, and then move on, as everyone apparently did.

  • Daily Aliya for Korach, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: Moshe pleads with G‑d not to accept the incense offering of the rebellious group. Korach spends the night inciting the Jews against Moshe, and gathers them all to the entrance of the Tabernacle to witness the grand spectacle. G‑d’s glory appears.

    Korach’s complaint to G-d was that upon leaving Egypt they were promised this land flowing with milk and honey, and they never got it. And now they were told that they’ll end up dying in the desert. But had they listened to the right spies, they would have realized that they were actually so close to entering this promised land, and they chose to believe the negative spies, instead of the truthful ones. Yet they were so convinced that they chose correctly that in THEIR mind they were never offered a flowing land. It’s scary to think of how the mind will warp reality to make it fit its thoughts, with sometimes total disregard for actual reality. In this case we have the perspective to realize the mistake, and perhaps learn from it.

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