Illuminations #36, Tammuz 5775, Parshat Korach

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Illuminations #36, Tammuz 5775, Parshat Korach

Torah Gems

The Jewish Life

The Jewish nation had nation had not yet recovered from the miraculous crushing of the Korach insurgence. The sight of whole families together with their houses and property being swallowed into a gaping hole in the ground still lingered. A fire had descended and struck down two hundred and fifty followers of Korach who dared perform the k’toret sacrifice outside the parameters delineated in Parshat Acharie-Mot. The pasuk states, “It shall be a rememberance in order to deter a strange man who is not from the children of Aharon from bringing the k’toret.” Clearly, their incorrect k’toret sacrifice brought on them immediate death.

If this is the punishment of improper k’toret sacrifice, why is it that Aharon is not punished for the same thing shortly afterward when attempting to diffuse Hashem’s anger at the Jewish people? In fact, Hashem was actually pleased with this and stopped the plague affecting the nation. Why is it pleasing to Hashem when Aharon uses k’toret on his own discretion, but angering when others use it at their own discretion?

The Netziv, Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin explains that when Aharon was using the k’toret it was in order to save Jewish lives. The mishna in Sanhedrin tells us that saving one life is like saving a whole world. Saving a life of paramount importance. It overrides almost anything else. Therefore, Aharon was correct in utilizing this unique sacrifice, because he was motivated solely to ensure human survival.

There is a story with someone who approached the Brisker Rav, Rav Yitzchok Zev Solovechick zt”l, and asked the Rav a question. The man explained he was under the impression that the Rav was very stringent in all Halachic matters in order to be assure their proper observation. If so, why is it that when it comes Shabbat, the Rav is very lenient in matters concerning human life? The Rav replied, “Your assertion is correction. I am very stringent in all areas. I am not lenient on Shabbat, rather I am being stringent on matters concerning life.

Parsha Pearls

Jealousy and thirst for honor led Korach to libel and rebellion. Moshe had proven time and again that he was acting strictly by the directives of Hashem. It is clear from the narrative in the Torah that here too, Moshe had not a single misstep in the entire episode. Yet the Medrash in Parshat Va’etchanan explains that Moshe was denied entry into Eretz Yisroel by Hashem with the same language that Moshe used in responding to the Korach rebellion. “Rav Lach – It is enough for you.” This comment suggests there was something wrong with what Moshe did. What could possibly be wrong with standing up for the placement of Ahron as Kohen Gadol in accordance with Hashem’s command? What more can we expect from Moshe? Wasn’t he correct in his admonition of those who challenged this appointment? Rabbi Yehuda Zev Segal, the Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, explains that the choice of Moshe’s words were unseemly in this particular case. Korach and his men were actually seeking a closer connection to Hashem. They all wanted to do the service of the Kohen Gadol. Therefore, to tell them “Rav Lach” as if to say you have enough of a relationship with Hashem is inappropriate. As a result Moshe heard the same words in response to his own request to enter into Eretz Yisroel, which was also a request to gain closeness to Hashem. We can learn a tremendous lesson from here. A Jew never has “enough” when it comes to closeness with Hashem.

Glimpses of Greatness

The following story was told over many times by the Rosh Yeshivah of Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, Hagaon Harav Ruderman, zt”l (I heard it from Rav Frand, shlita). A certain city in Europe chose a chazan for the Yamim Noraim who had a beautiful voice. After checking into him, the Rav found out that he ate non-kosher and desecrated Shabbat… After bringing this to the congregation’s attention and telling them that he could not accept such a chazan, he was surprised to hear their response – they were not willing to give him up. As he tried convincing them he only saw that they were not taking to his words – it was leading to machloket! What was he to do? To have such a person as their messenger to bring their teffilot to the Master of the Universe on the holiest days of the year?!

He sent the question to one of the leaders of the generation, Rav Yosef (hatzaddik) of Pozen (I think he was one of the primary disciples of the Noda B’Yehudah). The reply he received was as follows: “Better to place an idle in the heichal [in the Beis Hamikdash], than to increase machloket in Yisrael!!”