Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dasan and Aviram or Bnei Eliav -- what a difference it makes!

The Kozhiglover explains that Korach had tremendous hislahavus in his avodas Hashem and therefore felt that Moshe's leadership was unnecessary.  Does the presence of one string of techeiles really make a difference when the entire talis is made of techeiles?  What Korach did not realize is that all his hislahavus and all the great avodah of those who stuck with him was due not to their own efforts and ability alone, but was due to their being in the presence of the tzadik hador Moshe Rabeinu.  It was the one string of techeiles that elevated the rest of the talis. 

We once discussed the Maharal's beautiful approach to Rashi's comment that Ya'akov requested that he not be mentioned in recounting the lineage of Korach. Rav Shach in his sefer on chumash writes more plainly that what Rashi means is that Ya'akov davened that he not be assigned any portion of blame for Korach's behavior. The Torah takes the position that certainly parents, but even grandparents and great-grandparents and generations back share in the responsibility for how the next generation turns out. Ya'akov did not want it said that somehow he did not put in enough effort in the chinuch of his children, which in turn led to a Korach generations later.  This despite the fact that any minor mistake Ya'akov might have made (and we are speaking of Ya'akov Avinu, so the mistake would be subtle and very minor if there was one at all) had no effect at all on Levi, his son, as Levi himself was a tzadik and had children who were tzadikim. Apparently a minor mistake that is invisible one generation may resound many generation later in ways we might never imagine.

We see a similar idea in a positive vein as well. In an effort to quell the machlokes Moshe sought out Dasan and Aviram. "Vayishlach Moshe likro l'Dasan vaAviram bnei Elieav vayomru lo na'aleh." (16:12) Why does the Torah here make reference to Dasan and Aviram's father, "bnei Eliav" -- we already know from the first pasuk in the parsha who their father was?  R' Avraham Yehoshua Heschel, the Apta Rav, in his Ohev Yisrael writes that Moshe was trying to find some way to turn Dasam and Aviram to good.  Rather than fight them head on, he appealed to their "shoresh ha'neshoma," he went back to their roots.  He reads the pasuk as follows: "Vayishlach Moshe," Moshe sent, "Likro l'Dasan v'Aviram," to call Dasan and Aviram not by their usual names, but by a different name --  "Bnei Elieav," "Children of Elieav." Moshe invoked the name of their saintly father. 
We can understand this without getting into any mystical ideas.  The names Dasan and Aviram were on  most wanted posters, so to speak.  They already were laden with the baggage of a lifetime of sin.  Moshe had to remind Dasan and Aviram that they were not born that way.  They were once Bnei Elieav, the name Eli-Av being a contraction of K-li / Av, Hashem is my Father.  Their neshoma came from very holy roots, and they therefore had within them the potential for greateness and tzidkus -- if only they would acknowledge those roots.  Moshe said, "I'm not calling you Dasan and Aviram anymore, because you are not really those bad guys everyone is talking about.  You are really 'Bnei Eliav,' holy righteous Jews. 
Unfortuantely, Dasan and Aviram's response was, "Lo na'aleh."  We are not interesting in being elevated by your speech about the greatness of our lineage, the greatness of our neshoma. 
There are teachers who I have heard always refer to students as this tzadik'l or that tzadik'l, when most of us would be tempted to call the same kids little monsters.  The message is the same -- other people might call them Dasan and Aviram's, but deep down, their real name just might be tzadik'l.
And so we come full circle.  Korach, as the Koshiglover explains, viewed his achievements as isolated from outside influence.  Dasan and Aviram refused to allow the past lineage of their family, their neshomos noble roots, to influence their destiny -- they refused a name that connected with their family's past greatness.  The musar haskel, as we learn from Ya'akov's tefilah, is what tremendous influence we indeed have over others, in particular over our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, as every deed reveberates and impacts genrations to come.


  1. shaul shapira12:46 PM

    I loved the vort, but who pray tell is 'The Kozhiglover'?

    P.S. I love reading your blog, but don't generally bother to comment. Thanx much for all you do!!!

  2. Anonymous3:07 PM

    {& now for some "generally bother[some]" comments...}

    Ya'akov was understandably worried-- if Bnei Yisrael would receive the
    mitzvah of "techeiles" in the merit of Avraham's refusal of wealth from the king of sdom (Sota 17a), perhaps he (Ya'akov), after potchkying with the sheep of Lavan (Bereishis 30:37-43), could not claim an equally certain separation of wealth from his father-in-law, & would thus expose himself (via Moshe) to Korach's argument centuries later...

    while in defense of Korach, we might say that even had all of the 22,000*
    Levites been toddlers at the waving-in ceremony, a high-priest's waving
    can never replace the feeling one gets from the delight-ed-ful waving by
    one's great-great-grandfather -- perhaps the infant Korach had been uniquely sensitive to this missing lift by that specific ancestor? {but
    how could Ya'akov's physical absence be helped? a question that points us
    to the gross extreme of "influence", with adam harishon & Chava blamed
    for the personal hardships & failings of everyone}

    *or the 8,580? Bamidbar 4:48; after all, we're told in perek 8 that the Levites prepared themselves in several ways, shaving among them-- even the babies? (Eisav was born hairy, but the Levi'im?)

    1. Rav Aryeh Tzvi Fromer (1884-1943), the Koziglover Rov, was renowned in his generation as one of the greatest minds in Poland. The Brisker Rav, R. Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik, referred to him as “Gadol HaDor.”
      Like many of the great lomdim of that time, he was a talmid of the Avnei Nezer of Sochatchov. He served Rov of Koziglov, Zaveirtza, Sosnovtza, after which he was appointed Rosh Yeshiva of Chachmei Lublin following the famed R. Meir Shapiro. His was the author of Siach HaSadeh and Eretz Tzvi.
      Especially popular within a small subset of Bnei Torah from YU.

      And now you know.