Weekly Reading Insights: Korach 5766

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Korach (in Israel)
Sh'lach outside Israel

To be read on 28 Sivan 5766 (June 24)

Torah: Numbers 16:1-18:32
Haftorah: Samuel I 11:14-12:22 (Korach's illustrious ancestor)

Pirkei Avot: Chapter 4 in Israel (Chapter 3 outside of Israel)

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

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:3866/Korach)

From here we learn that he who goes into a mourner's house to comfort a mourner should [beforehand] think out the words he will say [so that they should be fitting and appropriate to the mourner being comforted]. After all, Job's friends all said truthful [and wise] things, but they were not [wise enough to know how] to comfort him. The reason is because to comfort a mourner you have to say things that will make him give thanks [to G-d] for that which he has.

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:3866/Korach)

But this soul, which performed such a serious sin that it becomes liable to the punishment of excision, is cut off from its mate. Thus, what should have been the "conjugal act" ["ona"] becomes "transgression" ["avon"] and sin, and it is cut off from its mate.

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

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From Rebbeinu Bachya (O:3866/Korach)

When a shepherd wants to tithe every tenth of his flock as prescribed by the Torah, he first leads all the sheep into the fold and then counts them individually, one by one. The last one in, then, becomes the first one out. Similarly, when Jacob, a shepherd, set out to tithe one of his children, he first brought them into the fold commencing with his eldest Reuben and concluding with his youngest Binyamin. When he counted them subsequently, commencing this time with Binyamin, Levi was the tenth and therefore became sanctified.

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


How can we understand that a Torah Portion is called after an evil person like Korach? Only in order to make us understand the positive side of the quarrel of Korach - his aspirations to be high priest. This kind of ambition to be close to G-d should be present in every Jew.
Likutei Sichot


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

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org


"Korach son of Yitzhar, grandson of Kehat and great-grandson of Levi took (began a rebellion) along with Dathan and Aviram….." (Numbers 16:1)

Korach anger was directed at Aharon being the High Priest while he himself was a Levi. Korach wanted to be High Priest, since the High Priest merits to be much closer to G-d then a regular person or a Levi. Also, in the prophecies of the prophet Ezekiel we find the unusual expression "the priest, the levi'im." The Arizal explains this to mean that at the time of the final redemption the levi'im will ascend to the level of priests. Korach wanted to have the advantages of the redemption before the appointed time.

Pniney Geula

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:3866/Korach)

We live in a society that strives to create equality. Enacted initially to right the benefits forcefully taken by the powerful, equality has become a goal in and of itself. Korach's rebellion against Moses and Aaron had a similar focus. "The entire nation is holy; why do you raise yourselves above G-d's congregation?" (Num. 16:3) Korach believed in absolute equality between every Jew. Jewish tradition states that Korach's platform of unity became the opposite, the prototype for the worst possible division, as the Sages teach, "Every dispute...not for the sake of Heaven...is the dispute of Korach and his followers" (Avot 5:17).

The refutation of Korach's claim is hinted in Moses' words, "[In the] morning and G-d will know" (Num. 16:5). The word "morning" was to demonstrate how G-d has created the world with necessary borders. Just as it is impossible to mix night and day, so Korach's expectation to make every Jew exactly equal was also impossible.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that G-d created the world with certain specifications and limitations for every creation to differentiate it from the rest. Likewise every created being has a unique reason for being. The different qualities G-d gave each creature are in order help that thing, animal, person, etc. to best serve its ultimate purpose. When a created being uses its specific qualities, it is attaining its full potential. If a creation attempts otherwise, trying to fulfill goals and using talents not given to it by G-d, that being is actually making chaos. (We see what happens when man tries to play G-d. As often as not, moving an animal or plant out of its normal environment to another can often result in not only upsetting delicate natural balances, but can also lead to destroying entire habitats, despite all good intentions.) Our challenge is to discover what our talents and qualities are and then utilize them to the fullest extent possible.

The division G-d made within the Jewish people, between Priests, Levites, and Israelites (and also between the ordinary Priest and the High Priest) is not arbitrary! Each grouping, each Jew, has actual differences in soul components and purposes in life. In order for each Jew, and ultimately all of Creation, to attain true completion, each person must act within these borders. Destruction or ignoring these delineations, as Korach did, leads only to anarchy and destruction. His goal of unity was only "virtual". Real unity is defined as each person utilizing his or her individual strengths for the sake and benefit of the whole. A car has many parts, each of which must work according to its design and shape; if a lever wanted to be a chain, and a wire a pipe, no one would get anywhere.

Choose wisely when society offers a choice between our Jewish heritage and society's demands to break borders - between genders, religions, Jews and gentiles, etc. all for the sake of "equality and peace". All too often, professed goals of unity lead to the exact opposite, Heaven forbid. Recognizing the danger is one more step towards the true unity that will come with the final redemption.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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