Friday, June 27, 2008

the indictment of Korach

It seems that a recurring theme of the past few parshiyos is that trouble is associated with Moshe’s use of his own da’as. We saw Miriam’s complaint about his decision to separate from his wife mida’ato, we saw the instruction of shlach lecha to send spies mida’ato, and now we have Korach claiming that everything Moshe did, from appointing Ahron and assuming leadership right down to the aseret hadibros (according to one Midrash) was all mida’ato.

Some thoughts on the opening of the parsha: I noticed a Netzi”v that fits nicely with a Radomsker discussed two years ago (wow, 2 years of blogging?). For those who were not reading back then, link is here. Korach is introduced as “ben Yitzhar ben Kehas ben Levi”, an illustriuous yichus, but a yichus which nonetheless is lacking as it omits any connection to Ya’akov. Rashi explains that Ya’akov davened not be mentioned in the context of this machlokes. Rashi’s explanation begs the question: had Ya’akov not davened, why would his name be associated with Korach? And were not Yitzhar, Kehas, and Levi also tzadikim? – why are their names associated with a rasha?

Moving on to the 250 people who joined in, I am not sure what the meaning of “anashim m’Beni Yisrael” is. Do the words “m'Bnei Yisrael” mean to suggest that they came ostensibly as representatives of the people, or to suggest that they were leaders selected from among the people perhaps randomly, but who lacked any inherent qualities of distinction? Whatever the answer, the 250 people are described as “kri’ey eidah, anshei shem”, people who held a leadership position. Why is the detail significant? Why is it important to recognize that this was a rebellion of the elite? The simple answer perhaps is that the Torah is revealing something about the ability of power to corrupt and drive men to seek even greater power and influence. It's hard to stop with a little leadership when the kehuna gedolah itself is within reach.

The Netzi”v offers a different reading and sees the description as an indictment. Had this rebellion been led by outsiders upset over the trappings of leadership which Moshe took upon himself, perhaps there would be some slight justification for their complaint. But these were men in the inner circle, men who themselves were leaders and who therefore knew that leadership sometimes demands exerting authority and acting in an authoritarian role. As the Navi would later tells Shaul, “Im katan atah b’einecha, rosh shivtei yisrael atah!” And as much as Moshe’s role demanded that he express authority, he still remained the humblest of men, and those who were close to the leadership circle and saw his daily activity were in the best position to recognize that. Precisely because they were "kri’ey eidah anshei shem” were the 250 people guilty.

Korach’s yichus is also, suggests the Radomsker, an indictment. The scion of Yitzhar, Kehas, Levi - such great people - should lower himself to this? The names of his ancestors stand in condemnation of Korach, not in his praise. Yet, Ya’akov’s name is omitted. Even though Korach deserves our scorn - shem resha’im yirkav – and there is nothing wrong with castigating the likes of Korach, Ya’akov’s extraordinary tzidkus led him to pray that his name not be used for such purposes. The indictment of Korach is strong enough without the addition of the name of Ya’akov, which stands always as a source of mercy and not justice.


  1. Anonymous3:13 PM

    Parshas Korach:
    The Gemara in Sanhedrin in Perek Chelek speaks extensively about this week’s Parsha. The Gemara speaks about the group of people who joined Korach’s group in a rebellion against Moshe. The Gemara says he choose קריאי מועד.The question that comes to mind is: What is the significance of this choice? The first thing we must understand is what are they? The Gemara explains the term and says:
    קריאי מועד שהיו יודעים לעבר שנים ולקבוע חדשים
    That is that these are people who know how to figure out when to make a leap year and when to declare a month.
    We must now return to the original question: What is the significance of this choice? This requires further background information to answer so first we ask another question
    What job did Korach want? We know he does not want Moshe’s position because that was not his complaint. as Rashi says:
    אם לקחת אתה מלכות לא היה לך לברר לאחיך כהונה לא אתם לבדכם שמעתם בסיני אנכי ה' אלהיך כל העדה שמעו
    He said “Why did you take Ahron as Cohen Gadol we all heard Hashem decrees not your family alone heard it, we are all holy so why do you grab all the honor for your Family?
    Korach accused Moshe of choosing Ahron because of nepotism. The Rashi later Points out that Korach was not a fool. Then the question arises how he could make such a statement? Everyone knew that Ahron was not chosen because he was Moshe brother but because he was the most worthy candidate. This is established by Rashi when describing the dedication of the Mishkan in Parshas Shemini as there it says:
    לפי שכל ז' ימי המלואים שהעמידו משה למשכן ושמש בו ופרקו בכל יום לא שרתה בו שכינה והיו ישראל נכלמים ואומרים למשה משה רבינו כל הטורח שטרחנו שתשרה שכינה בינינו ונדע שנתכפר לנו עון העגל לכך אמר להם זה הדבר אשר צוה ה' תעשו וירא אליכם כבוד ה' אהרן אחי כדאי וחשוב ממני שע"י קרבנותיו ועבודתו תשרה שכינה בכם ותדעו שהמקום בחר בו
    Translation : Seven days of the installation Moshe set up the Tabernacle and served in it, and took it down every day--- the Shechinoh did not rest on it, and Israel were ashamed, saying to Moshe: "Our master Moshe! All the trouble we went to that the Shechinoh should rest among us, and that we should know that we have achieved atonement for the sin of the Calf. Therefore he said to them: "This is what Hashem commanded you to do and the glory of the Shechinoh will appear to you. My brother Ahron is worthy and [even] more important that I, for by means of his sacrifices and his service the Shechinoh will rest among you, and you will know that the Omnipresent chose him.
    Now it was completely clear then that it was Ahron who was chosen so what was Korach’s complaint. We see that Ahron was so great he did what Moshe could not. What kind of complaint is nepotism .Ahron had already proven himself the man for the job? Reb Yosef Salant answers it must be that Korach’s complaint was that anyone Moshe would have chosen would have had this happen. It was not Ahron per say, but It was that Moshe choose his brother Ahron. That is if someone else would have been chosen they too would have the Shechinoh appear. We see this in Shabbos there the Gemara says דתניא ג' דברים עשה משה מדעתו והסכים הקב"ה עמו He did it and only later did hashem concur
    We now can answer the question; what is the significance of the choice of קריאי מועד? Korach was very calculated he choose the קריאי מועד because we have one place in Halacha with the concept of Hashem allowing himself to be the secondary decision maker. That is allowing people to do the deciding themselves and going along with it. This is the קריאי מועד. By Kiddush Hachodesh the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah says even if Beis Din makes a mistake in calculation, and even purposefully it changes Rosh Chodesh for the good of the people coming to be Oleh Regel Hashem will approve the Beis dins decision. Korach Choose these people who calculated theses dates to illustrate and show the world Hashem made the Shechinoh come down not because Ahron was worthy, but because Moshe choose him. Just like Kiddush Hachodesh and a leap year is because the קריאי מועד choose to make it a Rosh Chodesh or a Leap Year.
    This also explains another Rashi where he brings down a Medrash which can not be understood on the pshat level Rashi says:
    ומדרשו בקר א"ל משה גבולות חלק הקב"ה בעולמו יכולים אתם להפוך בקר לערב כן תוכלו לבטל את זו שנאמר (בראשית א) ויהי ערב ויהי בוקר ויבדל כך (דה"א כג) ויבדל אהרן להקדישו
    Translation: According to the Midrashic interpretation of "morning": Moshe said to them, 'G-d marked His universe with boundaries. Can you possibly transform morning into evening? That is how possible it is for you to nullify this, as it is said, "It became evening and it became morning, and He separated" similarly, "Ahron was separated to be consecrated.
    With this Rashi Moshe is answering Korach’s complaint. Korach said your choice of Ahron was as a Rosh Chodesh meaning: your decision agreed to by Hashem. But with this Medrash we have Moshe answering. No it is not Rosh Chodesh but the decision to pick Aharon is like day and night. Day and night are Completely in Hashem dominion and not for Humans to interfere so to is the choosing of Ahron not chosen by me but by Hashem.
    The Gemara In Baba Basra And in Sanhedrin brings down A story about Rabba Bar Channah Had an Arab who showed him the hole where Korach was swallowed up and He told him at the end of every 30 days every , To which the Rashbam says means every Rosh Chodesh because that was their Mistake now they fixing it.Now every month he comes and you hear him say “Moshe Emes V'soroso Emmes”.

  2. Anonymous2:04 PM

    Wait is this you?

  3. no, it's not, but it is funny that someone the same name.

  4. Anonymous12:34 AM

    Parshas Chukas
    It says in the Middle of the Parsha of the Parah Adumah זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה אָדָם כִּי-יָמוּת בְּאֹהֶל .The Brisker Rav asks: Why particularly here does it say זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה and not any other Halacha. Why does this Parsha deserve to get this grandiose introduction? In true Brisker Style he answers with a Rambam and says the Posuk is referring to the Halachos of Tumas Mikdash. This is proven because towards the end of the same Perek it says כִּי אֶת-מִקְדַּשׁ יְהוָה טִמֵּא therefore we can established that the whole Parsha is talking about Tumas Mikdash. Thereby זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה is an introduction to a Person who comes to the Beis Hamikdash in Tumah. The Punishment he gets for doing it is Kares. The Rambam's exact language when talking about this Tumah is:
    לפיכך אני אומר שכל טומאה מן המת שאין הנזיר מגלח עליה, אינה דין תורה
    What he is saying with this Statement is there are 13 Middos that you make Derashos with. Here by Tumah the Rambam makes an exception to the rule of Derashos. Regularly Tumah or anything else learnt out from a Gezairah Shava or one of the other 13 has the same Halacha as the plain Torah law. Here says the Rambam it is different. When you come as a Tumah Meis to the Beis Hamikdash with a Derabbnon Tumah you do not get Kares. The natural question is where did the Rambam get this Halacha so the Brisker Rav answers אני אומר says the Rambam I got from the Posuk זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה that is the only time you get the Punishment of Kares for coming into the Beis Hamikdash Tumah is when it is a Tumah is a Doraisah: from the Torah. The Halacha is when מִקְדַּשׁ יְהוָה טִמֵּא the punishment of Kares is only when זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה it is written explicitly in the Torah!