Friday, June 26, 2020

united we stand

1. Yesterday we discussed the idea that Korach thought his greatness was a product of his ability, but in reality he was like the cows that carried the aron and were able to sing shirah -- whatever gifts he had were a bracha that stemmed from the role he filled, not from any innate talent.  Some meforshim explain that this is the idea behind the Midrash's question, "Korach, who was one of the carriers of the aron -- how did he fall into the stupidity of this machlokes?"  Why does the Midrash stress in its question that Korach carried the aron?  Chazal tell us that the aron was "nosei es nos'av."  A casual observer who saw the aron being carried might have thought it took great strength, but in reality it took no strength at all. The aron carried itself, and shlepped along those who were "carrying" it for the ride.  Korach should have known from first hand experience that in life sometimes it seems that we are doing the driving, but in reality, we are just being carried along for the ride.  Just like his ability to carry the aron was not due to his great strength, so too, he should not have assumed his ruach ha'kodesh or any other talent he had was because he was better than anyone else, but rather was just a gift from Hashem.

2. Korach ben Yitzhar ben Kehas ben Levi.  Rashi comments that the Torah omits tacking on "ben Yaakov" at the end because Yaakov did not want his name associated with Korach's rebellion.

We all know that Levi is "ben Yaakov" even if the Torah doesn't mention it explicitly, so what did Yaakov accomplish by davening that his name not be mentioned?  (See Maharal in Gur Aryeh that we discussed back in 2009, and last year we discussed R' Baruch Sorotzkin's approach, but there is always something new to add : )

The Midrash on our parsha writes as follows:

(משלי יח)אח נפשע מקרית עוז ומדינים כבריח ארמון, זה קרח שפשע בתורה שהיא עז, שנאמר: (תהלים כט)ה' עוז לעמו יתן ה' יברך את עמו בשלום.

Korach is called a "poshei'a ba'Torah."  What are Chazal trying to tell us?  Shem m'Shmuel asks: Isn't anyone and everyone who commits an aveira a "poshei'a baTorah?"

My wife this week on her blog made an interesting observation.  Korach claimed  "Ki kol ha'eidah kulam kedosham."  It sounds very noble, echoing the words we heard by mattan Torah, "V'Atem tihiyu li mamlechos kohanim v'goy kadosh," but there is one important difference, and this difference gets to the very heart of what Korach got wrong.  At Har Sinai we were called a "goy kadosh" in the singular.  We were united -- one people, k'ish echad b'lev echad.  Korach, however, saw us as "kulam kedoshim," in the plural -- every one is holy, but it's every man and woman to him/herself.  

Every chotei is a poshei'a in the sense that there is a system of law, but the chotei chooses to disregard the rules.  That's not Korach.  Korach is poshei'a **baTorah** -- he is undermining the system itself.  Torah was given not to a collection of individuals, but to a single entity called Klal Yisrael.  Torah itself unites us with Hashem as one -- oraysa, KB"H, and Am Yisrael is one unit.  Without unity, the whole system falls apart.

"VaYikach Korach" -- "ispalig" the Targum says.  Korach set himself apart.  Korach's message was the antithesis of unity.

What Korach set out to do deliberately many other people do out of ignorance, laziness, etc.  Your average American Jew who lives somewhere in Anytown, USA and spends Saturday at the mall or eating out in some treif restaurant identifies more as an American, a New Yorker, etc. rather than as a Jew.   They don't feel as one with the hassid in Williamsburg.  They wont interfere with what others do -- kulam kedoshim, you do your holy thing, I'll do mine -- but to feel like one with them?  Sorry, not happening.

What Yaakov Avinu, the amud haTorah, davened for was that no matter how far you check out of Klal Yisrael, no matter how much you try to separate yourself, whether by choice, like Korahc did, or by not knowing any better, there should be a little bit of him left within that can never be totally severed.  There should always be something that remains apart from machlokes.  That little something is the spark that can lead to return.

1 comment:

  1. -- the aron carried its carriers; Yaakov carried his own weight*. made his own way, gained his own momentum, fought his own fights (knowing the while that each personal resource was "just a gift from Hashem")...

    *though the strength to remove the boulder from the well came, so it seems, to a man out to impress a woman [came from sexual drive, that is, which at its extreme can carry a man over not one but seven rivers (R' Elazar ben Durdaya)]

    -- wasn't Korach "undermining the system" the better to top that system as kohen gadol (at which time he would surely want institutions re-stabilized)? many secular* Jews want no part of the old system either before during or after, whether from "ignorance", or from self-satisfaction, or from real disbelief, or from real disdain...

    ...oy vavoy, life in this world; never is one sensibility exclusively established, or universally respected...

    *wouldn't it be less inaccurate to say that its the Orthodox who spend Saturday in a stereotyped, homogeneous manner, rather than that several million assimilated Jews individually congregate "at the mall"? ["in some treif restaurant"? an axiomatic potshot at fish in a barrel.]