Dedicated By Moshe OratzPrint All Korach Articles
In honor of Rabbi Yitzi and all the inspiration he creates
In honor of Rabbi Yitzi and all the inspiration he creates
In this week's parsha, Korach, we read about the rebellion of Korach and the two hundred and fifty men, against Moshe and Aharon. After all his efforts to make peace with them fell on deaf ears, Moshe was very distressed, he said to Hashem, "don't pay attention to their offering..." Rashi explains these words, "According to the simple meaning, (Moshe said:) the incense that they are offering before you tomorrow, don't pay attention to them. And the Midrash says, '(He said:) I know that they have a portion in the daily communal offerings, let their portion not be accepted favorably before You, let the fire leave it and not consume it.'"
The words of Rashi are difficult to understand.
His first answer was that Moshe was asking Hashem not to accept their offering of incense. Why would Moshe even consider for a moment, that Hashem would accept the offering of these wicked people?
The answer also seems grammatically incorrect. If he is talking about the incense, he should have concluded, "don't pay attention to it." Why does he say, "don't pay attention to them?" This question is so strong, that some go as far as to change the words of Rashi to read, "don't pay attention to it."
Rashi only brings a second answer, when the first one is lacking. Why was the first answer not enough?
Rashi changes the words of the Midrash in the second answer. The Midrash says, "I know that they have a portion in that offering." And Rashi changes it to, "daily communal offerings." Why?
Rashi's way is to be as concise as possible. It begs the question: Why does he bring the first words of the Midrash, "I know..." He could have simply said, "they have a portion in the communal offerings, let their portion not be accepted favorably," and we surely would have understood. Why does he say the extra words, "I know?"
Another question: In the verse Moshe says, "don't pay attention to their offering..." It seems that it would make more sense to say, "don't accept," or "don't take." Why does he say, "don't pay attention?"
This statement of Moshe's, "don't pay attention to their offering," came after he tried every which way to make peace with them.
At first, when they came with their complaint, one could have thought that they were idealistic, they wanted to be the Kohen Gadol, the holiest of holy. Moshe said to them, "This is what you should do. Take for yourselves pans... put fire in them and place incense on them, tomorrow before Hashem, the one who Hashem will choose, he is the holy one." And Rashi explains, "He said to them... we don't have but... one Kohen Gadol, and you two hundred and fifty men are requesting to be the Kohen Gadol, I also want to be (the Kohen Gadol). Here you have a service that is the most cherished of all, which is the incense that is more cherished of all the offerings, and with it is the poison of death, through it Nadav and Avihu were burnt (and died), thus, we were warned through them... Whoever He chooses will come out alive, and you all will be lost."
In other words, everyone wants to be the Kohen Gadol, but Hashem only wants one. Let's see who He will choose. But if you are not the right one, you will surely die.
However, after having tried so hard to make peace with them and they refused, he realized that their intentions were not pure, their only interest was in attacking Moshe and Aharon's position that Hashem gave them. This brought him great anguish.
So he made a request of Hashem. It was obvious to him that Hashem wouldn't accept their offering, because they were wicked, he didn't have to ask for that. He was asking for something more, and that is what Rashi is telling us.
When he said, "don't pay attention to their offering." Rashi explains that he was saying, "don't pay attention to them," not only their incense. He wanted Hashem to not pay attention to them at all. In other words, they shouldn't be punished like Nadav and Avihu, for bringing the incense, but for their sin and rebellion. If they are going to die, it should not be for a holy thing, but rather for their wickedness.
Now we can understand why Moshe said, "don't pay attention," rather than, "don't accept," or "don't take." Because he wasn't asking that Hashem not accept their incense, but that He shouldn't pay attention to them, and it should be clear that they're downfall was not because they brought incense, but because they were wicked.
Now that the first answer is understood, Rashi is left with a dilemma. From the sound of the verse, "Moshe was very distressed, and he said to Hashem 'don't pay attention to their offering,'" it doesn't make sense to say that Moshe was asking just that they should be outed for what they are, because that should be expected. Rather it sounds like Moshe is asking for something more. And that is why Rashi brings the second answer from the Midrash, "I know that they have a portion in the daily communal offerings, let their portion not be accepted favorably."
With this answer he is stressing, that not only should their attack on the office of the Kohen Gadol be foiled, not only should they be punished for that, but they should also be excluded from the Jewish community. Their portion in the daily communal offerings, should be ignored, "let the fire leave it and not consume it." And this is why Rashi changes the words of the Midrash from "that offering," to "daily communal offerings," because Hashem not accepting their offering of incense should be expected, to say the least. For that, Moshe shouldn't have to ask. Now that he is asking for something of Hashem, it must be for something greater than that, and Rashi explains that he was asking, that they should be excluded from the Jewish community as well.
Rashi's change in the words of the Midrash, goes according to his opinion in his commentary on the Talmud, that if one doesn't have ownership of a minimum of a pruta (a small coin similar to a penny) in an item, it is not considered his. The incense alone doesn't have enough value, that if you were to divide it, every Jewish person would have a pruta. So they wouldn't have a portion in that anyway. However, the daily communal offerings, refer to the offerings that were brought all year on behalf of all the Jewish people. Everyone gave a half shekel towards them, and a half shekel is surely more than a pruta. You can say, that they have a portion in the communal offerings.
There is a beautiful lesson about the Jewish people hinted in Rashi's words, "they have a portion in the daily communal offerings." In line with the words of the Arizal, "Holiness doesn't move from its place." Which Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi explains to mean, "Even after it ascends above, it isn't completely uprooted from its original place and level."
In general, when something becomes communal it is removed from its individual status completely. When one donated a half shekel towards the communal offerings, he gave it up completely and it became the community's.
By Rashi saying, "I know that they have a portion in the daily communal offerings," he is telling us, that even though it became community property, it still retained some semblance of the individual. "Even after it ascends above," and becomes communal property, "it isn't completely uprooted from its original place and level," is still is connected to the individual.
And this is why Rashi says the extra words, "I know." These are the words of Moshe, who was the leader of the Jewish people. And as the leader, only he was in a position to see this dual reality.
The normal way of seeing things, is that there is a clear divide between the individual, and the community. This is the basis of the divide in world views, and political opinions. There are those who put the community above all else, and then there are are those who champion the plight of the individual.
It is only Moshe, the leader of the Jewish people, who is in the position of realizing the value of both. Because although he is an individual with personal needs and wants, his life is given to the community. And even though he has to think about the community's best interest, he is also there for each and every individual and thinks about his or her personal physical and spiritual welfare. So only Moshe knows that the individual has a portion in the communal offerings. That's why Rashi adds the words, "I know."
Parshas Korach is often read in the week of Gimmel Tammuz, the third of Tammuz, the day that Yehoshua stopped the sun in Givon, allowing the Jewish people to be victorious and conquer the land.
It is the day that the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, was freed from Russian prison. He was arrested for his work, spreading and strengthening Judaism in the former Soviet Union. He was responsible for saving Jewish life in Russia and strengthening Judaism in Europe, the United States and around the world, when he came out of Russia.
And finally, it is the yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who established a network of emissaries, to strengthen Judaism worldwide. You can find a Chabad House in every corner of the world, inspiring an unprecedented revival of Jewish life.
The common denominator, is that they were true Jewish leaders, seeing the value of both the community and the individual.
I am a Chassid of the Rebbe, and have the honor of being his emissary. I saw how he gave himself completely to the Jewish community, and at the same time, he cared for the welfare of every individual Jew. And he didn't take into account the religious level of the individual, he was there for every single Jew.
He demanded the same from his emissaries and of his chassidim, to do what is best for the community and at the same time, be ready to pull up your sleeves and help an individual Jew.
- This is an attitude that everyone can embrace, and there is no doubt that this approach will change the world, strengthen Judaism, and bring Moshiach ever closer. May he come soon.