Weekly Reading Insights: Korach 5764



Overview of the Weekly Reading: Korach

To be read on 30 Sivan 5764 (June 19th )
Torah: Numbers 16:1-18:32, maftir Numbers 28:9-15
Haftorah: Isaiah 66 (for Rosh Chodesh)

Korach is the 5th Reading out of 10 in Numbers and 38th overall, and 32nd out of 54 in overall length.

Pirkei Avot: Chapter Four

Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32) opens with the dramatic account of the rebellion of Korach, Datan, and Aviram and their 250 followers against the leadership of Moses and priesthood of Aaron. Moses challenges them to make an offering of incense. Aaron, too, would do so, and whosever offering was accepted would clearly be G-d's choice for the priesthood. The earth swallows Korach, Datan, and Aviram, their families and possessions, and a fire descends from heaven consuming the other men who burned incense, all except Aaron. The following day the Jews complain about the deaths of so many men, whereupon G-d sends a plague, resulting in 14,700 more deaths. Moses tells Aaron to stop the plague by offering incense and then running into the middle of the assembled masses. Then, to again strengthen Aaron's position as High-Priest, each tribal leader was told to write his name on a staff. These staffs were placed in the Sanctuary. The next day, Aaron's staff was found with almond blossoms and nuts growing on it. It was left as a memorial next to the Holy Ark. Then comes a description of the priestly and Levite duties in the Sanctuary, including preventing Israelites from approaching places forbidden to them within the Sanctuary area. G-d then tells which produce and animals are included in the priests' and Levites' portions which Israelites must bring them. Also the Levites are commanded regarding the portions that they must bring to the priests.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:38-64/Korach)

This is what is meant by the words "See life [to draw down the abundance from Zeir Anpin] with the wife whom you love [Malchut]." [Through this you cause unity in the world.] And what is the reason for doing this? It is because she [Malchut] is your portion in life and life can only dwell there.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:38-64/Korach)

Since Korach sensed that a reincarnated spark of the soul of Cain had ignited in his soul, he said to Moses, "I am no longer subservient to you". This is alluded to in [Moses' and Aaron's prayer], "O G-d! G-d of the spirits of all flesh...", the initials of which spell "Abel" [in Hebrew, "Hevel"].

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the Shelah, Shney Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (S:38-64/Korach)

The Zohar refers to Cain as "unclean jealousy, jealousy of menstruation" and describes the very birth of Cain as due to the pollutant the serpent had injected into Eve. The serpent's motivation had been its jealousy of Eve. Similarly Korach was jealous of the appointment of Elitzafan to the position of prince of the Kehatites. We find therefore that Korach had been infected with this pollutant of the original serpent.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"Korach, the son of Yitzhar, the son of Kehat, the son of Levi." (16:1)

Being proud of an illustrious ancestry is well and good if it causes a person to be humbled in comparison, and spurs him on to emulate his forbears' example. Korach, however, was merely arrogant and full of pride, as are many people of noble lineage.

(Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz) (From L'Chaim #524)

"The censers of these sinners against their own lives." (17:3)
Even worse than those who encourage conflict are people who drag matters of the spirit into controversy. They falsely clothe their arguments in spiritual terms while claiming to be on the side of holiness and sanctity.
(Ayala Shlucha) (From L'Chaim #573)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:38-64/Korach)

The previous Torah portion, Shlach, discussed how the spies and Jewish people rebelled against G-d. This week's portion, Korach, speaks about a rebellion against their leader, Moses. Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsh writes that these portions are juxtaposed because both entail unmitigated heresy. Rebbe Bunim of P'shischa writes that Korach's terrible mistake was in trying to forcefully seize the leadership and its glory. Everyone agrees that Korach had great talents. Nevertheless, leadership is determined by Heaven. This is what the Torah emphasizes in the first verse "And Korach took" (16:1). Rebbe Bunim is describing a systemic form of anarchy, where each person deals with his, and only his, portion of reality. Usurping leadership only leads to a person's downfall.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe sees Korach's core flaw in a very different way. Korach claimed that a house filled with Torah scrolls is exempted from a mezuzah on the door, saying that if a mezuzah has but two Torah paragraphs ("Shma" and "V'haya"), why is it required on a house containing hundreds more? Moses answered that we are always commanded to affix a mezuzah at the entrance of our homes. Having Jewish books at home does not guarantee that we will behave properly. However, when entering or exiting our home, the mezuzah reminds us to perform G-d's commandments. This understanding was lacking in Korach. From his mistake not only do we learn the importance and necessity of a mezuzah, we also learn that we must each have our own personal spiritual mezuzah affixed upon our hearts and minds, as a constant reminder that our every action be in accord with G-d's will. As the physical mezuzah is fixed outside for all passersby to see, the spiritual mezuzah, the consciousness that G-d is watching us, must be apparent in all of our actions. The "Shema" in the mezuzah promises plentiful rain and harvests for observing the mitzvot; so too, the person who fixes the "Shema" in his heart will be blessed with all manner of good things. Similarly, one of the Rebbe's key messages to us is that "action is the main thing!" Passivity, in Judaism, is the antithesis of our purpose. Let us examine and affix our personal spiritual mezuzahs, reminding ourselves to actively fulfill more Torah and mitzvot.
The Seer of Lublin asks why Korach's lineage was specified "...Korach, son of Yitzhar, son of Kehot, son of Levi..." (Num. 16:1). We learn that often a person's parentage is what causes someone to expect to be honored. Therefore, the Seer of Lublin says that a person should be careful not to be misled by this idea. To be sure, no one is discounting the great benefit a child has from unique parental status or lineage. There is an old saying: "How can you guarantee that your daughter will marry the son of a wise person? By making her the daughter of a wise person...." Nevertheless, this is one of the lessons we are required to teach our young: not to assume superiority based on who their parents may be.
The Baal Shem Tov once told Rebbe Michil of Zlotshuv that his father, Rebbe Yitzchak of Drovitch, was given one of the lowliest souls of his entire generation. Despite this, Rebbe Yitzchak's continued efforts elevated him to the level of the great Talmudic scholar and mystic, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Hearing this, Rebbe Michil said that he now understood the statement that a person is required to ask himself, 'When will my deeds reach the level of those of my forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?' (Eliyahu Rabba). While this may appear presumptuous, we see from Rebbe Yitzchak that a person does have the potential to elevate his soul to incomparably higher levels.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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