• Daily Aliya for Korach, Revi’i (4th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: G‑d instructs Moses 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. Moses 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)

    From Chabad.org: G‑d is angered by the Jews’ association with Korach, and wishes to destroy them. Moses 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. Moses 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: Moses pleads with G‑d not to accept the incense offering of the rebellious group. Korach spends the night inciting the Jews against Moses, 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.

  • Daily Aliya for Korach, Rishon (1st Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: General Overview: Korach stages a rebellion against Moses, accusing him of a power grab. He and his entourage are swallowed up by the earth. The people protest, and a plague ensues. Of the staffs submitted by all the tribes, only Aaron‘s blossoms; proving that he is G‑d‘s chosen. The Israelites are instructed the various presents due to the priests and Levites.

    In the first Aliya, Korach, Moses’ first cousin, stages a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Together with a few ringleaders, he gathers 250 men of renown and accuses Moses and Aaron of power hoarding. “The entire congregation is holy, and the L-rd is in their midst. So why do you raise yourselves above the L-rd’s assembly?” They took specific issue with the appointment of Aaron as High Priest. Moses proposes that on the following day they all participate in a test which would determine who indeed was worthy of the mantle of High Priest. Everyone would bring an incense offering to the Tabernacle, and G‑d would make known His choice for High Priest. Moses then tries to placate the rebellious group, unsuccessfully attempting to dissuade them from participating in this suicidal test.

  • Weekly Dvar For Lech Lecha 5770


    In Parshat Lech Lecha, among the blessings that Avraham was to receive for leaving all that he had was the blessing that he himself should be a blessing (12:2). How does one become a blessing? Furthermore, Rashi comments that G-d promised Avraham that although he would be identified with Yitzchak and Yakov, any such blessings would end with Avraham’s name at its conclusion. If the sages are correct that Yitzchak and Yakov reached higher levels than Avraham, what made him so special that any blessing would end with him?

    Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that Avraham merited greater distinction because he was the first to establish faith in Hashem (G-d). Although those after him reached greater heights, Avraham’s accomplishments were more worthy. Maybe this can explain how Avraham himself became the blessing: Taking initiative and starting something you believe is important for society is a blessing on its own, because it lays the framework for others to build on it! G-d promised Avraham, and in turn promised us, that, if we become leaders and initiators, our initial efforts will never be forgotten and we will always be remembered as a blessing!

  • Daily Aliya for Shelach, Shvi’i (7th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: We now learn the rules regarding an individual who is guilty of an idolatrous practice — whether inadvertently or intentionally. A man is found desecrating the Shabbat, and is executed. The last part of this week’s reading discusses the commandment of putting tzitzit (fringes) on four-cornered garments. When looking at the fringes we remember all the commandments and refrain from following the temptations of the heart.

     Why is the Mitzvah (commandment) of tzitzit so important that it’s mentioned twice a day? Some say that the blue string reminds us of water, which reminds us of heaven, which would remind us of G-d. A bit far fetched, but I guess if we learn to associate all those things, it would work. But tzitzit also represent the possibility of always performing a positive commandment. With every second that we wear the tzitzit we get a mitzvah, plus the added benefit of remembering the others. It possibly represents doing what we can right now, as well as thinking of other good deeds we can do in the future, thereby representing the present and the future in a positive color (blue). Not a bad thing to keep in mind as often as possible…

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

    From Chabad.org: The mitzvah of challah is contained in this Aliya: when one kneads dough, a portion must be taken and given to the priest. If the Sanhedrin (rabbinic supreme court) erroneously permits an act of idolatry, and the community acts upon this permission, the Sanhedrin must bring a special sin-offering, detailed in this section.

    I wonder if Vegas could place odds on the Rabbinic Supreme Court mistakenly permitting idolatry, what they would be. Nonetheless, with the Jews’ magnitude of sins raised to new levels previously in this Parsha, it’s no surprise that even this was now a possibility. Contrary to initial perception, this isn’t a condemnation, it’s stating the real truth that mistakes can and WILL happen, and as long as we understand that the mistakes we make are mistakes and not statements against our beliefs, nothing is beyond forgiveness, even violating one of the ten commandments. This is an important quality to emulate, that of forgiveness of loved ones that have made mistakes, so long as the understanding is there, that it was in fact a mistake, and not a new reality.

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

    From Chabad.org: This Aliya continues with the rules of the sacrifice accompaniments — detailing the quantities of wine, flour and oil to be brought with various species of livestock.

     In previous Aliyot we’ve angered G-d, been punished, and now we’re finding out how G-d likes His sacrifices, so that we may appease him, presumably. Then the Passuk says that converts should be treated like anyone else, which would otherwise seem superfluous and out of place, but in the context of the Parsha it actually makes more sense. A convert wasn’t part of the nation when we angered G-d, and some might wonder if the sacrifices apply to them. The Aliya dispels that notion. Sacrifices (animal, money or behavioral) are ways to get closer to G-d, regardless of one’s past.

  • Daily Aliya for Shelach, Revi’i (4th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: The details of the punishment are now revealed. The Israelites will wander in the desert for forty years. During that time, all males over the age of twenty — with the exception of Joshua and Caleb — would perish. The next generation would enter the Promised Land. The ten scouts who brought back the frightful report died immediately. When the Jews were informed of G‑d’s decision, they lamented and grieved. A group of people awoke the next day and decide to “go it alone,” and enter the Land of Israel — this despite Moses’ warning that their plan would not succeed for it was not sanctioned by G‑d. This group is cut down and massacred by the Amalekites and Canaanites.

    What bothered G-d the most about the spies’ report and subsequent Israelites’ fear was the lack of trust they had in Him after all he’s done. G-d felt that they alienated Him, abandoned Him, which is why it was only appropriate that they then became unworthy of the Land of Israel. In fact, the Midrash equates this mistrust to the sin of the Golden Calf, and G-d waited until this happened before finally punishing those between 20 and 60, not allowing them into His land. If there’s any good news in this Aliya, is that after these events the nation “mourned greatly”, presumably realizing their mistaken in not trusting in G-d and/or appreciating what they had (Passuk 39). Better late than never, I guess.

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

    From Chabad.org: The Jewish people rejected the pleas of Joshua and Caleb, and decided to stone them. G‑d intervened, His glory appearing over the Tabernacle. G‑d informs Moshe of His decision to instantaneously wipe out the Israelites in a massive plague due to their persistent lack of faith. Moshe successfully invoked G‑d’s mercy and pointed out that this mass execution will cause a mammoth desecration of G‑d’s name. “People will assume that G‑d lacked the power to defeat the Canaanites in battle, so He instead slaughtered His people,” Moses argued. Although G‑d agreed not to immediately wipe out the Israelites, that generation would not enter the Land. G‑d instructs the Jews to reverse course, and to head back to the desert.

    So Moshe and G-d take turns giving up on the Israelites. This time Moshe saves the day with his quick thinking arguments. It’s always amazing when Moshe is able to hold sway with G-d, appeasing Him with logic that He undoubtedly already knew. It must be that there was a benefit to 1) manually going through the arguments, and 2) recording those arguments for us to learn from. It could be similar to the concept of Vidui, or verbally admitting one’s sins. There’s a benefit to arguing for what you believe in!

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