Weekly Reading Insights: Korach

Overview of the Torah Reading

To be read on Shabbat Korach (in Israel, outside of Israel Shelach) - 26 Sivan 5782 /June 25

Torah: Numbers 16:1-18:32
Haftorah: Samuel I 11:14-12:22 (Korach's illustrious decendant)
Pirkei Avot:  Chapter 3

Korach is the 5th Reading out of 10 in Numbers and it contains 5325 letters, in 1409 words, in 95 verses

Overview: 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.

An Essay from
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, Director of Ascent

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This week's Torah portion is called Korach. Korach was a leader from the Levite tribe who incited a rebellion challenging Moshe's leadership. The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 18:3) shares with us some of the questions that Korach asked Moshe in order to show his superiority over Moshe. Here is one.

Korach asked, "A mezuzah has two paragraphs from the Torah. A Torah scroll has thousands. Shouldn't a house filled with Torah scrolls be exempt from having a mezuzah on the front door?" Moshe answered, "A home/house is obligated to have a mezuzah." How should we understand this exchange in our day-to-day efforts to serve G-d in the most complete way?

Let us compare a house filled with Torah scrolls to a person who is filled with Torah, a Torah scholar. This person might think that he (or she) is complete, and no further effort is required. In particular, using their emotions to arouse great love for the Almighty, or to be in awe and fear of Him, are not mandatory. The Torah scholar is already filled with Torah. They are complete! However, from Moshe's response we learn that even a "house filled with Torah scrolls" still needs a mezuzah. A mezuzah has two Torah paragraphs, the Shema and Vehaya. In the paragraph beginning with the word Shema, it speaks about arousing love for G-d. In the paragraph beginning Vehaya it speaks about arousing fear and awe.

A mezuzah protects the Jewish home and all that is in it. In a similar way, that same house, even if it is filled with holy Torah scrolls and books, without a mezuzah it is incomplete from a Jewish, Torah perspective. Why? Because Torah study without love and fear of G-d, does not "ascend to Heaven" (Tikuney Zohar 410:25b). We also learn in PirkeiAvot/Ethics of Our Fathers (3:9), that only when fear of sin precedes a person's wisdom does his wisdom endure. Finally and most succinctly, the Talmud teaches, "Anyone who says that all I have is Torah, he does not have even the Torah" (Yevamot 109b).

This is the inner meaning of "a house filled with Torah scrolls and books". It is still obligated in having a mezuzah. Love and fear G-d are not only a mitzvah and an obligation on their own, these emotions also protect the Torah we study so that it should endure in the most profound and appropriate way.
(Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. Likkutei Sichot ("Collected Talks"): An Anthology of Talks. Volume 2. Page 329. Kehot Publication Society)

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


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Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and more,
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one sample:

Contemporary Kabbalists

Alive in the Depths

From the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe; adapted by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

"They descended to the depths alive"

The Lubavitcher Rebbe comments that being truly "alive" is possible only by being connected to G-d, through learning His Torah and performing His commandments for His sake, unselfishly

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