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“Korach, son of Yitzhar, son of Kohas, son of Levi, separated himself with Dathan and Aviram, sons of Eliah and On son of Pelet, the offspring of Reuven. They stood before Moshe with two hundred an fifty men from the children of Israel, leaders of the assembly, those summoned for meeting, men of renown. They gathered together against Moshe and against Aharon and said to them, ‘It is too much for you ! For the entire assembly all of them are holy and Hashem is among them, why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem'” (Numbers 16: 1-3).
Check out the video I put up on the blog on this parshas.
Korach separates himself and two hundred and fifty great men who gather together against Moshe and Aharon? Didn’t he witness the great miracles that occurred in Egypt and in the desert? Wasn’t he there when G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people? How could he have made such a mistake and went up against Moshe and Aharon? Did he believe that they usurped power for themselves at the expense of the Jewish people? Not only that but he influenced two hundred and fifty great men to rebel against Moshe and Aharon! How is this possible?
There is a fundamental idea that helps explains this. When a person learns Torah, it has the ability to transform him. This means that whatever we learn, we have to envelop its ideas. We need to let it change us for the better because of it. The reality is that although we live in the physical world and have an evil inclination that dogs us every second of our lives. Nonetheless, the Torah is the antidote that keeps everything in balance.
Even though G-d created us from the physical world and subsequently put us here to draw closer to Him. He also gave us the ability to “tap” into His world by giving us an insatiable soul that desperately wants to connect to Him. At the same time, He gave us a book, manufactured by Him and passed down through Moshe to us. The Torah commands us to do certain things.It tells us to stay away from other things that will cause us spiritual harm. The reason we know this to be true is because G-d Himself told us!
That being said, Moshe’s prophesies, since they are given the stamp of approval by G-d Himself, can never be abrogated. That means that anyone, even if they perform miracles but go against what Moshe has said, is called a false prophet and must be put to death. Whatever happened to pluralism?
If we live G-d’s law and keep it, then He is the one to tell us what is right and wrong. The punishment is according to the way G-d sees fit. Moshe and Aharon never do anything on their own and are G-d’s messengers in this world. How many times does the Torah tell us, “And G-d spoke to Moshe” or And G-d spoke to Moshe and Aharon, saying….”. This means that they could not have possibly acted on their own as they were giving over the laws that G-d told them to tell the Jewish people!
This leads to the overall question, how could it have been that Korach could have the chutzpah and go against Moshe and Aharon? The simple answer is that all the miracles that he saw did not make an impression on his heart. It didn’t affect him in the way it should have. He did not internalize the message! This led to the erroneous belief that he was deserving of more power and leadership than he received.
This could not be further from the truth since G-d is the one who orchestrates everything. He knows what is best for us and the world even if we don’t understand or fathom it! Jealousy is one of the worst character traits a person can have. It causes unnecessary hatred and disagreements! Not only that, as the Mishna in Pirke Avos (Ethics of our Fathers) tells us that jealousy has the ability to take us out of this world.
One explanation is that we take this literally. This means that if a person is jealous of what someone else has or about their lives…it literally could kill them! This is exactly what happened to Korach. Moshe gave him a chance to repent and do teshuvah and Korach wasn’t interested. As a consequence the land swallowed him and his followers up! This is something we have to constantly guard ourselves against. We are supposed to live our lives by being happy with what we have and never looking at what others have.
This in the long run will give us the ability to realize that everything comes from Hashem. If we think we need more…G-d knows what is best for us. This is something that we should constantly pray for and that is
G-d gives us what we need according to His will and not what we think we deserve. If we would live our lives like that, we would have less to complain about and more to appreciate!
Or check the other Parshas from the past
“Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘A man or woman who shall dissociate himself by taking a Nazirite vow of abstinence for the sake of Hashem, from new or aged wine shall he abstain and he shall not drink vinegar of wine or vinegar of aged wine anything in which grapes have been steeped shall he not drink and fresh and dried grapes shall he not eat'” (Numbers 6:1-3)
The Torah here tells us that when a person makes a Nazirite vow, they separate themselves from drinking wine, eating grapes and not coming in contact with a dead body. The Seforno explains that this person is going to separate himself from the delicacies of this world so that they will be totally steeped in Torah and attach to it in the best way possible. The question is why should this be allowed? After all, if we are allowed to benefit and enjoy this world as G-d has told us, why would He allow us to separate ourselves from these permitted things?
It would seem that the purpose of doing so is to limit our desires, thus making us realize the frivolousness of this temporary world and how it can affect us in such negative ways. Normally we would say that these types of things are not good for us. After all, if we want to show how holy we are, wouldn’t we be doing all kinds of aesthetics like by running around in the snow in a tank top and shorts? This is not the way of the Torah since we are obligated to sanctify ourselves by utilizing this world for our benefit. That means when we eat something we are obligated to make a blessing, therefore sanctifying our eating!
In this case, by taking on the Nazirite vow we are trying to limit our desires even from something that is permitted to us. At the same time, this vow is limited to thirty days and then they go back to “normal” life. In Tractate Taanis 11a explains that even when one does separate himself from these things he is called a sinner. Why should this be the case if in fact he is trying to make himself a holier person? The reason is because when we separate from things that are permitted to us, we are not going according to the normal way of the world.
G-d allows us to do so and this certainly helps us limit our desires in this world but ideally we should live in this world and sanctify it through blessings that we make and acts of loving kindness that we do. This is even a greater sanctification of G-d’s name when we sanctify the physical world! As difficult as it is to live in this world, we can be incredibly spiritual people if we tap into G-d’s world by keeping His Torah!
May we merit to reach our potential and become the great spiritual people we can be
“Hashem spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai in the Tent of Meeting on the first of the second month in the second year after their exodus from the land of Egypt saying, ‘Take a census of the entire assembly of the children of Israel according to their families according to their fathers’ household by number of the names every male according to their head count”. (Numbers 1: 1-2)
The Torah goes into great detail in the book of numbers counting the Jewish people. This shows how important each individual is. Although each person together make up the Jewish people, nonetheless, each one has their own special purpose and mission. We often lose sight of that!
We sometimes, probably many times think that what we do doesn’t matter so we don’t take ourselves seriously or anything seriously for that matter. In the bigger scheme of things, does G-d really care what I do? Does it make a difference if I make a blessing or don’t make a blessing or keep shabbos or eat that venerated cheese cake on the holiday of Shavuos? In other words, does what I do really matter?
Rav Chaim of Volozhin, the famed student of the Vilna Gaon writes in his epic work Nefesh HaChaim that our actions matter and have serious consequences in this world and in the spiritual words as well. We have an obligation to the best of our ability to bring the world back to where it was before Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge. That means every time we do something positive it creates positive energy, drawing us closer to the Source Himself! If we don’t do what G-d wants from us, then we pollute His world making it more difficult for this to happen.
Very often we don’t want to admit that we do anything wrong or have flaws. Only when we are forced to or get caught do we have to admit our mistake. We are placed in this world with whatever our mission is so that we can fix up whatever our soul is doing here. It is hard to figure out what that purpose is per se but nonetheless we have to tap into G-d’s world and try and become the best people we can.
The world so to speak depends on what we do. We have the ability by what we do to have a major impact on what happens in this world. We may not think so and certainly may believe everything that do seems to have no relevance but according to the Torah that could not be further from the truth!
The evil inclination wants to destroy us and break us down so that we struggle and deny even the most important things in life. The Torah, manufactured by G-d Himself knows what is good and bad for us. He gave us this work to tap into His world and show us that we have to take responsibility for our actions and what the ramifications of our actions, physically and spiritually have on us.
If a woman G-d forbid smokes crack and the baby comes out deformed, is it the baby’s fault? No, but there is a reality, if you do that this is what could happen. If a man and a woman that are forbidden to each other get together and have a child, that child is called a mamzer and can only marry someone from that same union. Is it the child’s fault? No, but there is a spiritual reality as well.
We are given a precious soul and we have to take care of it and nurture it. At the same time we have to be careful what we do and how we do things because there are repercussions for our actions and that we should never forget!
“If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them, then I will provide you rains in their time and the land will give its produce and the tree of the field will give its fruit. Your threshing will last until the vintage and the vintage will last until the sowing you will eat your bread to satiety and you will dwell securely in your land” (Leviticus 26:3-5).
Here G-d tells us the eternal promise of what will happen when we fulfill His commandments the way we need to. The Torah then tells us what will happen if G-d forbid we don’t do what He wants us to do. That being said, if there are repercussions for our actions, where is our free will? After all we will be punished for not doing what He wants, doesn’t that limit or take away our freedom of choice?
The answer is that we do have free will and can choose to do whatever we want. There is no “zap treatment” for every transgression that we do. G-d does not want robots in this world; He wants us to make choices, albeit the right ones that are going to help us reach our true potential. At the same times, He clearly makes us aware that if we make the wrong choice, there will be repercussions for our action. Living in a seemingly ownerless world where G-d’s presence is hidden from us, this is hard to understand.
In simple terms, if we cause someone anguish and pain, there are physical ramifications for our actions. Just like a pregnant woman that smokes crack and the baby is born with deformities makes a clear reality of what we do can have a positive or negative reaction. Spirituality is no different. If a man and a woman have a forbidden relationship according to the Torah and a child is born, that child is called a mamzer. This child will only be able to marry someone of the same union or a convert.
One may ask why that should be. After all, the child did nothing to deserve what happened to him. Regardless, there is a spiritual reality created by this action. This shows that just like secular law, if one is caught stealing or doing something against the law, they will be prosecuted, so too in spiritual terms as well. The fact that we do not see it manifested in this world does not mean that there is not judgment and there is not a judge, G-d forbid.
The Torah wants us to enjoy this world the way G-d wants us to. He gave us a blueprint for this which He gave to Moshe who passed it down to us! What an amazing responsibility! G-d understands that we make mistakes and may fail in the trials that
He gives us but at the same time we have to keep plugging away, working on ourselves to reach our potential.
There is another aspect of this which is that we have to strive and learn as much as we can and continually review. If a person learns and learns without proper review, they will never remember anything and they will be left confused. One idea here is that even if we learned something once, twice, or even a third time and we “know it” we still have to constantly review. This is hard because we always want to learn what is new and fresh instead of “rehashing” what we already know!
The more we review, the more we will have the relevant information at our fingertips. It doesn’t come by osmosis but through hard diligent work. We need to always keep this in mind so that we can use this information and utilize it when we need it.
The good thing for us is that even if we may forget things or not remember as well as we should, our soul certainly does and when we get asked after 120 years if we learned Torah, our soul will repeat what we did learn! That certainly can save us from more trouble than we need at that time!
As we get closer to Shavuos, may we take stock of these last days, striving and delving into all aspects of Torah and take its priceless teaching to heart!
“Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel and say to them when you come into the land that I give you, the land shall observe a Sabbath rest for Hashem, For six years you may sow in your field and for six years you may prune your vineyard and you may gather in its crop. But the seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land, a Sabbath for Hashem your field you shall not sow and your vineyard you shall not prune'” (Leviticus 28: 1-4)
The Torah tells us in the land of Israel we are allowed to work the land for six years and the seventh year we are obligated to leave it fallow. This is a tremendous test for the farmer! How will he make a living and survive during this year? The command to keep Shabbos is no different. After all, we are allowed to toil six days a week and the seventh day we have to keep shabbos. Many feel this is too difficult because it gives the competition an unfair advantage since they can stay open and run their businesses while this poor soul is closed and seemingly will lose out.
The answer to both these claims is the same. The Jew who closes his business for shabbos is stating to the world that G-d is in charge. He is able to sustain me six days a week and even if I don’t work on shabbos, I will still be compensated and won’t lose out. The Jew living in the land of Israel has exactly the same claim. G-d sustains him for those six years and will compensate him for not working the land in the seventh year. Both are a tremendous test but they give us the ability to show the world that G-d is in charge.
This gives us the ability to flex our spiritual muscles in our belief in how He runs the world. Not only that, if we try and take what we don’t deserve, then we will lose out in other ways. For example, G-d has decreed how much a person will make during the year on Rosh Hashana. If we work more and try and take what we don’t deserve we will lose out in other ways. This means that if the decree was that a person should make $50,000 for that year then that is what they will make no matter how much overtime they put in. How is that?
Even if they net $70,000 they will lose out in other ways where they will still end up with $50,000. They could have medical bills to pay, appliances could need to be replaced or there could be issues with a person’s car…When you add all these things together, you get back to the original number which you were supposed to make. This shows that yes we have to put our best foot forward in trying to make a living but we should remember that if we try and take what is not ours, we will lose out in other ways.
This is a tremendous lesson for all of us. We are given many opportunities to flex of emunah (belief in G-d) muscles. This helps us realize our special purpose in this world and keeps us focused on this reality!
“You shall make the garments of sanctity for Aharon your brother for glory and splendor” (Exodus 28:2).
The simple explanation of this verse would seem to mean that the purpose of the clothing are for Aharon’s glory and splendor. This would show the importance of what he wears which adds to his honor. Is it really true that Aharon needed the honor by the clothing that he wore? Do we honor ourselves by the way we dress?
“The first of the first fruits of your land you shall bring to the house of the L-rd your G-d. You should not boil a kid in its mother’s milk” (Exodus 23:19)
The Torah here teaches the prohibition of eating milk and meat by stating that one is not allowed to cook a calf in its mother’s milk. This verse is mentioned three times in the Torah to teach you that it is forbidden to cook milk and meat together (even if you don’t eat it), you are not allowed to eat milk and meat and you are not allowed to derive benefit from it. The reality though is that this does not make sense from a logical perspective.
“And the L-rd spoke to Moshe saying ‘Speak to the cildren of Israel that they bring me an offering of every man whose heart prompts him to give you shall take my offering” (Exodus 26:1-2)
The Torah here teaches that someone whose heart prompts him to give should bring money, gold…and have a part in the building of the mishkan (tabernacle). This means if they want to give they can and if not not. In the case of giving charity though this is not an option. There is an obligation to give ma’aser (a tenth) of what one earns to charity. A person if they want can even give up to 1/5 but no more lest they squander there money and then have to come upon people to help them.
“And let the make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:9)
Here G-d commands the Jewish people to build Him a place where He can show His presence in this world. Although philosophically this is a difficult thing to understand because how does an Omnipresent being put Himself in a box so to speak? After all, if He represents the entire world, how exactly does He bring Himself down to this world?