Texts: Numbers 16:1 – 18:32 || 1 Sam. 11:14 – 12:22 (Haftarah)
NOTE: Kol HaTor, in its commentaries on the weekly Parashot, endeavours to search for and accentuate the Torah Messages contained in the Parashot as applicable to the main Theme of Tanach of the Return of the House of Israel, i.e. the Lost Ten Tribes of Northern Israel and their Reconciliation with Judah to form the reunited 12-Tribed Kingdom of Israel.
Not only do today’s re-awakening Ten Tribers stumble across what seems to be the last, final and insurmountable obstacle in the way to reconciliation between Judah and Ephraim (10-Usrael), but, in retrospect, it seems to have been the obstacle in the way of UNITY and Shalom in the nation of Israel since the days of the Exodus.
Here are two of many such examples:
The two sons of Aaron – driven by their own personal fire and enthusiasm to draw close to HaShem, acted without approval of their elders and brought ‘strange fire’ (non prescribed service). They wanted to serve G-d the way they thought good. They paid with their lives!
The Sadducees sided with the Greeks against the nation and created pseudo priestly Torah courts to rubber stamp non-Jewish Greek directives while they rebelled against the traditional norm maintained by the Guardians of Torah – which culminated in modern day ‘Rabbinic Judaism’ and which is so heavily objected against from many quarters of mankind.
“Rebellion against HaShem’s appointed Lawgivers” (His Mechoqeck – the spiritual leadership which has been Divinely mandated to the House of Judah – Gen. 49:10) seems to be the root cause of Division. This rebellious objection to His appointed Mechoqeck has withheld UNITY amongst HaShem’s People since the beginning. In fact, basically, (as Rabbi Greenbaum’s commentary on Korach here below points out) it even underlies man’s rebellion against the Will of God right in the Garden of Eden, shortly after Creation. The reason for this self-willed rebellion? The Creator endowed man with a FREE will to accept or reject His Will. Consequently, the final reconciliation factor to turn this around and establish the Final Redemption must be humble and voluntary submission to His Will through subjecting to His appointed Mechoqeck.
Subjection to leadership guidance and rule, after all, is an elementary requirement for order and success throughout every area of life:
- To run a peaceful family life;
- To be successful in school, sport, all group activities;
- To run a successful business;
- To bring a ship or air plane safely to its destination;
- To control a successful army, expedition, research project – EVERY thinkable activity in Life!
Why is it so hard to apply in serving and subjecting to the Creator of Life?
Parashat Korach presents the core factor of this DISUNITY; the root of this animosity which withholds Redemption. This Parashah also confirms Divine Opinion and Directives on the matter. What is does NOT do, is to remove, bind, bend or force the INDIVIDUAL FREE CHOICE that mankind has been endowed with. And THIS remains the problem thus!
With this root cause in mind, proceed to first read the Parashat portion form Scripture to acquaint yourself with the Scriptural platform set for this Review – Numbers 16:1 – 18:32.
After you have read this Parashah and drawn your own conclusion, proceed now with Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum’s commentary. We will keep his concluding section, regarding Hell as a “reward for failure to comply with Divine Directive” for last – to follow after another revealing commentary on Korach by Rabbi Michael Hattin.
by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum – Associate Rabbi – KOL HATOR leadership Team and Author of AZAMRA Website
Lessons for Humanity from the Weekly Parshat KORACH
In the account of the sin of the Ten Spies in the previous parshah of SHELACH LECHA, we learned about the painful consequences of distorted vision in man’s relation with G-d. The Spies and those who listened to them lacked faith in G-d’s promise to take them to the Land of Israel, allowing outward appearances deceive them into thinking they would be unable to conquer it. The sin could be rectified only through a protracted exile that comes to teach us that, in spite of outward appearances, G-d is in fact leading us to ultimate, complete possession of the Land.
The distortion of vision that is the theme of our present parshah of KORACH, a distortion which led to such dire consequences for Korach and those who listened to him, was of a different nature. In Korach’s case, the distortion lay in the way man views his fellow man: Korach could not bear to see another more prominent than himself. “Why is Moses the king, Aaron the high priest. and Korach just another Levite?”
The sin of vision of the spies is deeply rooted in the sin of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Just as the outer appearance of the fruit made Eve lose faith in what G-d said about not eating it, so too the spies wanted to see things for themselves and make their own decisions — and they lost their faith. Korach’s sin of vision, on the other hand, is rooted in Cain’s jealousy of Abel, whose offering (the prototype Temple sacrifice of Aaron) found favor in G-d’s eyes. “Why is Abel the priest?” Cain wanted the whole world for himself — so he killed Abel. So too Korach was envious of Aaron’s eternal role as the high priest of G-d’s Temple, and he tried to destroy him.
According to the Midrash, Korach’s “starting point” is to be found at the end of the previous parshah, giving the commandment of Tzitzis, where a single blue thread is tied with seven white threads as fringes on the four corners of our garments. [Issues relating to the use of white linen threads with the blue TECHEILES woollen thread are also bound up with Cain and Abel: the offering of the former was of linen, while the latter offered sheep.] The question that Korach asked was: “If a person is wearing a garment that is entirely TECHEILES, does it also require Tzitzis?” When Moses answered that it does, Korach ridiculed him: “If a single blue thread is enough to fulfill the duty of Tzitzis for a white garment, surely a garment that is entirely TECHEILES doesn’t need Tzitzis!”
Korach wanted a garment that was all TECHEILES, all kingship and grandeur. He did not want to be reminded that the only King is G-d, all around us, in all directions. Korach wanted the kingship and grandeur for himself: he was all TECHEILES, all GEVURAH. According to rabbinic tradition, Korach possessed amazing wealth. Everything was for himself, yet in rebelling against Moses and Aaron, Korach played the democrat, the people’s champion: “All the community, all of them are holy, and HASHEM is within them, and why do you lord it over the Assembly of HASHEM?”
Korach’s rebellion was against the authority of Moses (the rule of law), but he justified it with an appeal to people’s highest ideals: “Everyone is holy — so why do we need priests and rabbis?” Korach used his wealth and prestige to whip everyone up into a frenzy against Moses.
The first word of G-d’s command to Moses and Aaron — “SEPARATE yourselves from this assembly and I will consume them.” (Numbers 16:21) gave its name to a doctrine that was espoused by Rabbi Moses, the Chasam Sofer (1762-1839) leader of European Jewry in his time, in response to the proponents of religious and cultural assimilation. The doctrine is that of HISBADLUS, Separation. At a time when assimilationist thinking was spreading rapidly among the Jews of Europe, the Chasam Sofer urged his faithful co-religionists to separate themselves in every possible way from anyone who deviated from the Judaism of the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Torah law.
Today, assimilation has become so universal that the Torah faithful have little option but to run after the assimilated and try to help them find their way back to G-d. Nevertheless, having an understanding of the origins of HISBADLUS may help us in trying to unravel the knots of MACHLOKET (conflict) in which our communities are so tied up. For HISBADLUS remains the key to the separatist attitudes shown by some in the observant community until today. The essence of HISBADLUS is to try to distance oneself from those who represent a culture and way of life that are in rebellion against G-d’s Torah as we have it from Moses.
The assimilation movement made rapid inroads among Jews everywhere from the 1800’s onwards because of the strength of its appeal to those who felt caged in by the centuries-old restrictions on Jewish social and economic life. While assimilation had its theorists and exponents (from Moses Mendelson onwards), what gave it such power and influence was the fact that it was sponsored by a clique of extremely wealthy Jewish sponsors (= Korach) who were themselves in flight from the Torah of Moses. They used their influence in the countries in which they lived to establish synagogues, educational and cultural institutions that deviated from the traditional pathway. Indeed, they have been so effective that they have succeeded in making what is essentially a deviation appear mainstream, whereas the authentic Torah of Moses appears purely marginal. What could be more of a distortion of vision?
We will interject here with another Korach commentary by Rabbi Michael Hutton. His comments in regard to the rebellion of Korach reads like an expert analysis of the spirit of anti-Rabbinism and anti-Judaism which we daily encounter in objection to “the authority of the Rabbis.” We have shared some on this forum recently which drew great concern amongst our forum associates. At the foot of this commentary, we will place yet another such objection received from a forum reader just yesterday after posting our response to Richard re. the Karaites and the spirit of anti Rabbinism amongst Ten Tribers.
Parashat Korach – The Rebellion in the Wilderness
By Rabbi Michael Hattin – Yeshivat Har Etzion – Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash
DISCLAIMER – The author is not associated with KOL HATOR and need not agree with our views expressed herein or in our other publications.
KOL HATOR has highlighted comments which, in its opinion, aptly describe the spirit of the 10-Israel anti-Rabbinic lobby of our time.
As Parashat Korach begins, we find the leadership of Moshe and Aharon under the most serious and sustained attack since the Exodus from Egypt. Mustering a broad coalition of disgruntled constituents, Korach presents himself as a genuine reformer who has the people’s interests in mind: “Korach, the son of Yitzhar, the son of Kehat, the son of Levi, joined forces with Datan and Aviram the sons of Eliav, and On son of Pelet from the tribe of Reuven. They arose before Moshe, along with two hundred and fifty men of Israel, all of whom were princes of the congregation and men of renown. They gathered against Moshe and Aharon and said to them, ‘You have enough! Is not the whole congregation holy, is not God in their midst? Why then do you raise yourselves above the congregation of God?'”
Although the exact nature of the reformers’ grievance is not indicated in the text, it clearly seems to revolve around the leadership positions of Moshe and Aharon [represented today by the Rabbinic institution today which is the target of the 10-Israel objections]. The two brothers are accused of craving power, of exploiting their office to advance personal goals, and of nepotism (bias, preconceived notion). As later events unfold and the challenge of the firepans comes to a head, it becomes apparent that Aharon’s exalted position as High Priest is a particularly aggravating bone of contention. Why then, have these two brothers secured all of the prestigious positions for themselves and not distributed the power more equitably among the entire congregation? Is not the entire congregation holy, by virtue of God’s presence that resides among them?
The View of the Ibn Ezra
Significantly, the commentaries offer different interpretations concerning the chronology of Korach’s rebellion, and these differences tend to impact on the understanding of Korach’s motives, his allies’ grievances, and the reaction of Bnei Yisrael at large to the events. We shall begin our analysis by considering the explanation of Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (12th century, Spain), who places Korach’s rebellion at a much earlier time than its presentation in this week’s Parasha. “This episode took place in the wilderness of Sinai, when the first born males were substituted by the Levites who took on their role. The people of Israel thought that Moshe our master had acted of his own accord to elevate his brother Aharon to the priesthood, to appoint his clan of Kehat to the unique role of transporting the holy vessels of the Mishkan, and to designate his tribe of Levi to minister before God. Those same Levites, however, opposed Moshe because he had made them subservient to Aharon and his descendants, the Cohanim
“God spoke to Moshe saying: “Behold I have separated the Levites from among the people of Israel in place of all of their first born; the Levites shall be mine. For the first born had been Mine; from the day that I smote all of the first born in the land of Egypt I sanctified every first born in Israel to Me; they shall be Mine, I am God” (BeMidbar 3:5-13).
As Ibn Ezra reminds us, however, this substitution did not go unchallenged, for “it was a very enraging act and an affront to the non-believers to remove the first born from their position of service and to install Moshe