Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Korach 5775

Korach 5775

New Stories Korach 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Korach 5775

Having the Right Perspective


In this week’s parashah the Torah records the rebellion that Korach staged against Moshe. Every year we are confounded by the audacity of Korach and his entourage as they attempt to persuade the Jewish People that Korach is the correct person for the job, i.e. leading the Jewish People and Moshe and Aharon should step down. One may be led to draw a parallel of this scenario to the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, where there have been suggestions in the past that the Arab people could actually govern themselves without requiring any assistance from the Israeli government. Anyone who is logical would realize that this situation would be untenable and the civilized land would instantly be transformed to chaos and anarchy. Similarly, had Korach assumed the leadership position, it is possible that he would have undermined the basic tenets of the Torah and lead the entire nation towards apostasy. How, then, can we understand what Korach had intended and what the Jewish People were hoping to gain from this revolt?

Korach Had Distorted Vision

It is well-known that any person who is mentioned in Scripture was of a high spiritual level. This is despite the appearance of an apparently glaring deficiency that this person may have had in his character. Regarding Korach Rashi quotes the Medrash that states that Korach was a piekeiach, literally translated as a smart person. The word piekeiach, however, has another meaning, as we recite in the morning blessings that HaShem is pokeiach ivrim, He opens the eyes of those who cannot see. Thus, Korach had far-reaching vision, to the point where he saw in a vision that the great prophet Shmuel would be one of his descendants, and this led Korach to believe that this greatness should descend from him. It is noteworthy that at Sinai, it is said (Shemos 20:15) vichol haam roim es hakolos vies halapidim vies hahar ashein vayar haam vayanuu vayaamdu meirachok, the entire people saw the thunder and the flames, the sound of the shofar and the smoking mountain; the people saw and trembled and stood from afar. The Jewish People all saw sounds, which is ordinarily impossible for a human being to perceive. Korach claimed that the entire nation is holy, and as Rashi comments, Korach declared that the entire Jewish People had heard the commandments at Sinai. Yet, Korach, by pursuing his dreams of grandeur, demonstrated that his perception of holy matters had become distorted.

Tzitzis Provides Clear Vision

At the end of last week’s parashah, Shelach, it is said (Bamidbar 15:39) vihayah lachem litzitzis urisem oso uzchartem es kol mitzvos HaShem vaasisem osam vilo sasuru acharei livavchem viacharei eineichem asher atem zonim achareihem, it shall constitute tzitzis for you, that you may see it and remember all the commandments of HaShem and perform them; and not explore after your heart and after your eyes which you stray. The Medrash states that the color of techeiles, blue-dyed wool that is used on the tzitzis, is similar in color to the sea. The Sea is akin to the firmament, and the firmament is similar to the Heavenly Throne. Thus, by gazing at the tzitzis, or more specifically, at the significance of the mitzvah of tzitzis, one can reach a level where he is aware of HaShem’s Presence in his life. The Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 18:3) states that the juxtaposition of the parashah of tzitzis to the parashah of Korach is that Korach scorned the mitzvah of tzitzis. Korach accomplished this when he and two hundred and fifty men from his entourage donned clothing that was comprised completely of techeiles and approached Moshe. They asked Moshe, “do these garments require that tzitzis be hung on them?” Moshe responded in the affirmative, whereby Korach mockingly declared, “if a garment that is completely comprised of techeiles is required to have tzitzis, can four strings absolve one’s obligation of tzitzis?’ Here again is an example of how Korach’s perception was distorted. Instead of utilizing techeiles as an opportunity to be cognizant of HaShem’s Presence in his life, Korach chose to scorn HaShem and His Torah. Thus, Korach wished to prove to the Jewish People that everything was a matter of perspective. This is similar to the claims that we hear in our times that the Torah is Heaven forbid, open to interpretation. Nothing could be further from the truth. HaShem gave us the Torah and the mitzvos contained within as a vehicle to come closer to Him and not as a pretense to scorn Him and the Torah.

The Shabbos Connection

Similarly, HaShem bestowed upon His Chosen Nation His Holy Shabbos, a day when we can perceive far more than we are capable of perceiving during the week. It is said (Shemos 16:29) riu ki HaShem nasan lachem haShabbos al kein hu nosein lachem bayom hashishi lechem yomayim shevu ish tachtav al yeitzei ish mimekomo bayom hashevii, see that HaShem has given you the Shabbos; that is why He gives you on the sixth day a two-day portion of bread. Let every man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day. The Medrash (Medrash Tehillim §92) states that Shlomo HaMelech contemplated all seven days of the week and he was able to find fault with the creation of six days but he could not find fault with the Shabbos, as it is a day of complete holiness and rest. Nonetheless, one who violates the Shabbos is punished with death, so even regarding Shabbos, Shlomo HaMelech declared that it is haveil havalim, futility of futilities (Koheles 1:2). This teaches us that we must have the correct perspective of everything holy, and when we observe the Shabbos properly, HaShem will reward us beyond our expectations.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

Some opinions attribute the authorship of this Zemer to the Arizal.

קִדַּשְׁתָּ בֵּרַכְתָּ, אוֹתוֹ מִכָּל יָמִים, You hallowed, You blessed it more than any days. How is Shabbos more sanctified and blessed than the rest of the week? The Zohar states that the six days of the week are blessed from the Holy Shabbos. This statement would appear to contradict the idea that Shabbos is more blessed than the any other day, as any blessing that other days have is only due to the blessing of Shabbos. In what way, then, is Shabbos a more blessed than any other day? The answer to this question is based on a concept espoused often by the Sfas Emes, that the word ברכה is associated with the word הרכבה, grafting. We can thus interpret the statement that Shabbos is more blessed than any other day as follows: Specifically because all the days of the week derive their nourishment from the Holy Shabbos, the Shabbos is more grafted, i.e. connected to the days of the week than the days of the week are connected to Shabbos. This is because the roots of a tree are always stronger than the branches.

Shabbos Stories

Removed from the “Mizrach Vant”

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: In the mid 1800’s, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel of Aishishok served as the Rav of the town of Rassein, a small village near Kownus, Lithuania. A brilliant scholar and the author of the Amudei Aish, the community revered him and afforded him the utmost respect. Unfortunately, the Czar government of that era had different visions for a rabbi and appointed their own lackey, a puppet of the state known as a Rav Mitaam. The Rav Mitaam served as the official liaison to the Russian Government and any official dictate or transaction, having to do with Judaism, went only through the Rav Mitaam. Unfortunately for that Rabbi, the townsfolk knew of his very limited capabilities, and relegated him to a seat in the middle of the congregation near the Bimah as opposed to the traditional place up front near the Holy Ark. But one week the young designate decided that he had enough. He wanted to be afforded the same dignity as Rabbi Avraham Shmuel. He woke up early that Shabbos and came to shul before anyone arrived. He sat himself down in the seat designated for Rabbi Avraham Shmuel next to the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark). No one had the nerve to say anything to him for fear of government reprisal. During that era, immediately before Musaf, all congregations throughout Russia said a special prayer on behalf of the Government and Czar Nikolai. That week the chazzan, it is not known whether it was an orchestrated ploy or a lapse in memory, forgot to say the prayer. He was about to continue with the Musaf service when suddenly an elderly Jew, a former cantonist soldier who was captured as a youngster and forced to serve in the Czar’s army for many years, jumped up from his seat and charged toward the front of the synagogue. He began raining blows on the official designated rabbi, the Rav Mitaam. “What kind of Rabbi are you!” he shouted. “How dare you allow the chazzan to forget the prayer on behalf of our benevolent leader? I served the Czar faithfully for twenty years and you forget to bless him?!” The congregants joined the fray, some trying to separate the older soldier from the bedazzled rabbi, others getting in the blows they always longed to afford the government appointed rabbi. It was not long before the police arrived, and arrested the soldier, who was dragged out of the synagogue, yelling and hollering about the lack of honor afforded his Majesty. “After all the years I worked for the czar, I will not allow this poor excuse for a rabbi, to belittle the dignity of His Majesty!” The local policeman could not decide the fate of the soldier who struck a government official, to defend the honor of the Czar. Finally the case was brought to the Governor General of the region who asked the “rabbi” to defend his inaction. “You see,” stammered the Rabbi, “I was sitting very far from the Bimah and I truly did not hear the chazzan skip, the prayer. After all, I was sitting next to the Holy Ark all the way up front!” The decision came down from the governor’s office. No more would the official Rabbi be allowed to sit up front. From now on, he must sit amongst the people to make sure that all the prayers are said correctly. (

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Permitted Methods of  Kneading
  1. שינוי בסדר – A Shinui in the Order of Combining Ingredients

If there is no Common Practice

In a case where there is no clear-cut common practice, one should add the solids to the bowl first and then the liquid. However, this is a leniency which one may only rely on in cases of necessity. (We will clarify later what is meant by ‘necessity.’)

Kneading with a Coagulated Substance

When a coagulated substance, i.e. mayonnaise, is used to bind the food particles, it is not necessary to employ a shinui in pouring the ingredients because no binding occurs until the mixture is stirred. Thus, the ingredients may be combined in the usual order.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Korach 5775

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New Stories Korach 5775

The Dragon Slayer

Almost totally paralyzed, Marcie Alter vanquishes dragons with her sword of courage and determination.

by Sara Yoheved Rigler      

Marcie Alter is an unlikely dragon slayer. She is almost totally paralyzed. She breathes through a tracheotomy tube, and can neither speak nor eat. Yet, from her bed in Jerusalem’s French Hospice, she wages a steady battle against her own inner dragons, especially that frightening dragon that proclaims: “It’s too hard. Don’t even try, because it’s just too hard.” Marcie vanquishes that dragon daily with the sword of courage and determination.

Marcie, aged 49, is writing her autobiography, although the only way she can type into her special computer is by moving an electrode glued to her forehead.

Marcie recently published a cookbook, although she hasn’t eaten in eight years. (She is fed by a feeding tube to her stomach.)

Marcie learns Torah every day, although she cannot turn the pages of a book.

Marcie founded a Happiness Club in the hospice where she lives, although she has nothing ostensibly to be happy about.

Marcie prays every morning with devotion and joy, although she cannot speak. A lesser soul might be angry at God for the cavernoma (bleeding in the brain) that left her totally paralyzed eight years ago, at the age of 41.

Yesterday morning I intended to go to pray at the Kotel (the Western Wall), a seven-minute walk from my house in the Old City of Jerusalem, but I got interrupted by a phone call, a houseguest, and my son. I thought, it’s getting late, I don’t have the time, it’s really a strain on my problem right knee, walking the 140 steps to and from the Kotel is hard, I have so much to do today, it’s just too hard …

Then I noticed on my wrist what I call, “My Marcie Can-Do Bracelet,” one of the products of the jewelry designing business she started last year. (Marcie designs the jewelry and, since her hands are paralyzed, her friends string it.) Someone had told me that Marcie has undertaken to go to the Kotel for 40 consecutive Sundays, her adaptation of an ancient custom to pray at the Kotel for 40 consecutive days in order to receive a longed-for blessing. (I’ve done it; it works.) The blessing Marcie yearns for is a surgery that will separate her fused jaws and enable her to eat. But how can paralyzed Marcie, who lives in Jerusalem’s French Hospice, possibly get to the Kotel?

Her saintly friend Emunah Witt HaLevi pushes Marcie in a wheelchair to a nearby bus stop. The bus driver helps set up a ramp, and Emunah pushes Marcie on, maneuvering the bulky wheelchair into the crowded bus. They have to change busses once, and then it’s a ten-minute uphill push to the Kotel.

Looking at my Marcie Can-Do Bracelet, I thought, If Marcie can get to the Kotel, of course, I can, too! Time constraints, the pain in my knee, the specter of the 140 steps, and my worries about getting everything done—all magically vanished. With the vigor and vim I used to feel three decades ago, I walked to the Kotel, the bracelet like a fuel packet propelling me along.

If You Can Give, You Can Live

Inspired by reading articles on, Marcie Alter made aliyah from Pittsburgh in 2003 at the age of 38, a single mother of one son. She was excited to start a new life in Israel, and took up residence at Sde Eliyahu, a religious kibbutz in the north.

During those first months of her alert, intelligent mind trapped in the cage of an inert body, Marcie prayed to die.

Three years later, she experienced her leg going numb. The doctors at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital diagnosed bleeding in the brain. They did three surgeries before they were able to stop the bleeding. The surgeries, so close to the brain stem, saved her life, but left her paralyzed and unable to speak; she can move only her head and make jagged movements of her right forearm.

During those first months of her alert, intelligent mind trapped in the cage of an inert body, Marcie prayed to die. Then she realized that her life could still have purpose and meaning, that even in her limited state she could still help people. This was an epiphany for her. If you can give, you can live. Marcie started to think of ways she could benefit others.

This realization banished Marcie’s suicidal thoughts. But she was still confined to her bed in the old, dilapidated hospice. Venturing out in her totally incapacitated state made Marcie feel as vulnerable as a bound person pushed into water. Whenever the staff tried to take her out in a wheelchair, Marcie would have a panic attack.

Around that time, Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller started to come weekly to deliver a class on the weekly Torah portion just to Marcie. She also sent volunteers from Neve Yerushalayim, where she teaches, to visit Marcie and read to her from Torah-oriented books.

One such volunteer, Ariela, became engaged. Ariela begged Marcie to come to her wedding. It was a daunting, frightening prospect, but Marcie overcame her own fears in order to fulfill Ariela’s wish. She agreed to go. The volunteers dressed Marcie up, outfitted her with a hat, and applied make-up. Then she was taken by ambulance to the wedding.

Sitting in her wheelchair at the chuppah, Marcie had a spiritual experience. The small, confined “room” in which she had been trapped since her paralysis turned out to be an elevator. The door opened, and she exited into a higher, spiritual world, lit up by the Divine Presence. She realized that although her body couldn’t walk, her soul could fly.

No Excuses

Marcie has a myriad of excuses not to work on herself: she cannot move or talk, she is in constant pain (a 7 without meds, a 4 with meds), and just living with her total disability would be achievement enough. However, Marcie relies on no excuses and constantly works on herself.

Inside the prison of her body, she battles negative emotions and unworthy thoughts.

Inside the prison of her body, she battles negative emotions and unworthy thoughts. One day she told me that she was struggling against anger. One of her nurses was rough. When she lifted Marcie to bathe her, she would hurt her. (The irony: Marcie cannot move, but she still feels pain!) Marcie could not yell at her to stop, could not ask her to be more gentle. Inside, however, she fumed at the rough treatment. Marcie told me she was working on herself to be more patient and forgiving.

Marcie communicates by the laborious process of moving her right forearm to point to letters and numbers on a board. Because the forearm, unlike fingers, lacks fine motor control, her movements are jagged. Pointing to each letter takes her much effort.

Once I asked Marcie which are the most important character traits to work on. On her letter board she spelled out: PATIENCE AND GRATITUDE.

I looked at her frail body, breathing through a tracheotomy tube and hooked up to a feeding tube, and asked her, “What do you have to be grateful for?”

On her letter board she spelled out four answers:





Too Hard?

A woman on the verge of divorce, hearing about my Marriage Workshop, came to see me. Her marriage, riddled by vicious fighting between her and her husband, was indeed terrible. A succession of marriage counselors and therapists had not helped. Since they have five children, I advised against divorce, which would solve none of her problems, since she would still have to be in constant contact with the children’s father.

“So I should stay in this bad marriage?” she asked angrily.

“Not at all,” I replied. “You should make it a good marriage.” Then I gave her concrete suggestions for how to do that. I wrote down my suggestions and handed her the page. She looked at it, shook her head, and said, “This is too hard.”

There was the dragon of “too hard” again, wrecking its ruin. Suddenly I looked down at my wrist and saw my Marcie Can-Do Bracelet. I took it off and handed it to my visitor, telling her all about Marcie. Then I sent her off to the French Hospice to meet Marcie, for whom everything is hard and nothing is too hard.

When I saw Marcie at the Kotel yesterday, I told her how my Marcie Can-Do Bracelet had propelled me there, despite my resistance. “You inspire me to do what’s hard for me.”

Today, when I was visiting Marcie at the hospice, she wrote out: I ALSO DO THINGS I DON’T WANT TO DO. YOU INSPIRE ME.

I shook my head uncomprehendingly. “How can I inspire you?”

With the difficulty that pointing to each letter entails, Marcie spelled out: I DID NOT FEEL LIKE PRAYING TODAY. I WAS INSPIRED BY YOU YESTERDAY. IF YOU CAN DO THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO DO, SO CAN I.

So can all of us. (

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