Friday, June 20, 2014

im briya yivrah Hashem -- new creations

Chazal tell us that Korach bolstered his argument by rejecting the laws of tziztis.  He dressed his gang in clothes dyed completely in techeiles and asked Moshe whether those clothes still needed that one techeilis string of tzitzis.  What difference does one string make when the entire garment is techeiles?  What difference does one Moshe Rabeinu make when “ki kol ha’eidah kulam kedoshim?” 

Rashi quotes from Chazal that “eino hit’aso,” Korach’s eyes tricked him.  He saw that one of his descendants would be Shmuel haNavi and thought that if he were wrong, surely such illustrious children would not come from his lineage.  The word “tzitzis” comes from the root meaning to see, like the pasuk in Shir haShirim (2:9), “…meitzitz min hacharakim,” looking through the latticework.  Seeing techeiles is supposed to remind a person to look away from the wrong things, “lo tasuru… acharei eineichem, and learn to see through Torah eyes.  Korach’s rejection of the mitzvah of tzitzis goes hand-in-hand with his not being able to see and interpret events properly. 

But, as Rashi asks, Korach was a brilliant individual – how could he have failed to realize that his descendants’ greatness might be due to his children doing teshuvah and following their own path, not to his own merits or success? 

The gemara (Brachos 10) tells us that Chizkiyahu did not want to have children because he saw the wicked Menasheh would come from him.  Yishayahu haNavi told him that making calculations was not his job; Hashem just wanted him to do mitzvos, not worry about the eventual or ultimate outcome.  The gemara (Sanhedrin 103) in fact tells us that Menasheh ended up doing teshuvah.  Even though the midas hadin wanted to reject his repentance, even though the malachim did not want to carry his tefilos up to shamayim, Hashem created a tunnel for him right under his throne so that Menasheh’s repentance could be accepted.  How come Chizkiyahu did not see that part of the story?  The Imrei Emes explains that the midas hadin and the malachim logically were right – Menasheh did not deserve any more chances and there is no way his last minute return should have made a difference.  Chizkiyahu was looking at the world based on those same rules of reason that the malachim were using.  The chance of Menasheh’s teshuvah being accepted was the same as the chance of the sun has of not rising or my dropping a brick and it not falling – the world just doesn’t work that way.  Teshuvah, however, transcends logic, transcends reason, transcends law.  The world as it existed before Menasheh may not have worked that way, but Hashem can create a new tunnel that never existed before right up to his kisei hakavod and suddenly Menasheh is a new Menasheh as well.

Im briya yivrah Hashem…”  Moshe threatened Korach that Hashem was going to create a hole in the ground that had not existed since creation to swallow him up.  Moshe was telling Korach that all his predictions and sevaros and reasoning was predicated on the laws of the universe as-is, like a machine that runs like clockwork from creation onward.  But that’s not reality – G-d can change things in a moment and introduce a hole in creation that had never been there before.  Korach couldn’t see that.  He couldn’t see how his descendants’ could possibly do teshuvah and rise to greatness if he was really wrong and guilty of rebellion.  It made no sense.  And he was right – just as the malachim and midas hadin were right about Menasheh’s teshuvah as well.  But just as Hashem can make a new briya of a hole that never before existed in creation in order to take down wrongdoers, so too he can make tunnels into shamayim that never existed before to welcome back those who truly wish to do teshuvah, as impossible and incredible as it may seem.

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