Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Korach 5776

Korach 5776

New Stories Korach 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Korach 5776

It’s All a Matter of 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 current 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 Was a Great Man

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.

Korach Squandered Opportunities for Greatness

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

Shimru Shabsosai

The composer of this zemer is Shlomo, a name formed by the acrostic of the first four stanzas. Nothing definite is known about him, although some speculate that he was the famous Shlomo ben Yehudah ibn Gabriol. The zemer concentrates on the requirement to honor the Shabbos with culinary delights and closes with the assurance that the observance of the Shabbos will herald the final Redemption.

וְאָז תִּחְיוּ לְפָנַי, וּתְמַלְאוּ צְפוּנַי, then to thrive before Me and be filled with My hidden bounty. It is said (Tehillim 31:20) מָה רַב טוּבְךָ אֲשֶׁר צָפַנְתָּ לִּירֵאֶיךָ, how abundant is Your goodness that You have stored away for those who fear You. The words   רַב אֲשֶׁר equal in gematria the word שַׁבָּת. This alludes to the idea that the Gemara (Shabbos 10b) states that HaShem told Moshe, “I have a beautiful treasure in My treasure house and it is called Shabbos. Go and inform them.” The hidden bounty mentioned our passage here can allude to the Shabbos itself.

Shabbos Stories

Know Your Place!

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

Opening Food Packages

 II Practical Applications

As we mentioned previously, it is preferable that one opens all containers and packages prior to Shabbos. The following procedures should be followed in the event that one inadvertently did not open the container prior to Shabbos.

  1. Milk Cartons

One who opens the spout of a milk or orange juice carton violates the prohibition of קןרע, tearing, and עשיית פתח, fashioning an opening. However, one is allowed to puncture the bottom of the container, rendering it unfit for further use, and to open the spout afterward, to pour the contents into another vessel.


Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Korach 5776

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New Stories Korach 5776

Stories of Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l

Rabbi Tzvi Pruzansky

Giving Shalom

First, let me preface my remarks by saying that when I was a young bochur in Philadelphia, bochurim would frequently go to Lakewood.  And whenever a bochur returned, the question was: “Did you give shalom to Reb Aharon?”

It was a whole shailah of how to go about it.  Did you try and bump into him, or did you let him bump into you?  It was poshut a moirah – it was awesome to give him shalom.

So when the bochur would come back, he’d tell his friends, “Yes, Reb Aharon was waiting by the tea room,” or “Reb Aharon was waiting outside, and then I gave him shalom.”

He was such a malach Elokim that you were simply afraid to go and give him shalom.

I used to come to Lakewood for Simchas Torah.  For the first few years, I would never give shalom.  I would walk by and say “Gut Yom Tov” like everyone else because I followed the crowd, but to give him shalom was frightening.  I can’t ever recall feeling that with any other Gadol.

Summer in Lakewood

Before I actually became a talmid, I spent the summers of ’58 and ’59 in Lakewood.  I originally came to learn a little extra, and I ended up in a day camp here run by a Lakewood yungerman, Avraham Shachne Zucker.

What struck me then was that when Reb Aharon would come into the dining room Friday night, before he’d make kiddush, he’d stop into the kitchen to say “Gut Shabbos” to the cook.  Her name was Mrs. Shoenig, a widow.  In anticipation of Reb Aharon’s coming, she would straighten out her apron and would pull down her tichel to make sure that not a hair stuck out.  It was a hachana for the gadol hador.  You could see that for her, it was worth her whole week’s work just to get that personal “Gut Shabbos” from Reb Aharon.  Only after that would he come and say kiddush for everyone.

At the Shabbos tish, everyone spoke in learning the whole time.  After we grew up, one of the older boys told me, “‘Es chatoi ani mazker ha yom.’ We couldn’t understand why Reb Aharon wouldn’t let us just eat a little bit and enjoy the seudah.”  The reason was, for Reb Aharon, life was learning.  There was no division between time for learning and time for enjoyment.  The oneg Shabbos was learning.  Noch a chiddush.  Noch a chiddush.  Noch a vort.  Noch a vort.

Simchas Torah

Later, when I used to go to Lakewood for Simchas Torah, I would watch Reb Aharon.  He would stand in his place, but by “Moshe Emes v’Toraso Emes,” he would jump up a little bit.  That minhag is brought down in seforim, but really, we followed Reb Aharon.  He was an elderly man, and didn’t jump high, but the olam exaggerated it and we all jumped up as high as we could.

There was also a minhag that the Rosh Yeshiva would carry the Sefer Torah from the dining room to the Bais Medrash.  In those years, the Bais Medrash was on 7th Street and Forest Avenue.  The dining room was on 6th Street and Private Way, so when everyone left the dining room on leyl Simchas Torah to daven Maariv, they would dance and sing “Si’u She’arim Rosheichem.” Reb Aharon, in his humility, didn’t feel they should do all this for him, so they brought along the Sefer Torah, and it was as if they were dancing in front of the Sefer Torah, [and not him.]  That’s where this minhag started with dancing.

Later on, it was no longer relevant because those buildings were closed, but such a minhag once existed.  I know that Rav Schneur wanted to continue that minhag of “Si’u She’arim Rosheichem.”  It was actually one of the biggest things in town on Simchas Torah.  The whole town came out to see it – women and children – and it was a big simcha.

The Dedication of a New Yeshiva Building

In 1960, when I was a talmid in Philadelphia, they dedicated the new building and Reb Aharon came to give a shiur.  It was on Kesuba, whether it’s d’oraisa or not.  There were mareh mekomos put up, and we’d try to follow along, but how could we follow such a genius?  He spoke with lightning speed.  I couldn’t even mimic the words at the speed at which he would talk, let alone follow along with my mind.  I remember that once there was a senator sitting in the front of the Bais Medrash.  I’m sure he didn’t understand a word Reb Aharon was saying, but he was transfixed.  And as Reb Aharon gave the shiur, his face mamesh turned red.  It was red from the fire of the Torah.

At that particular shiur, Reb Elya asked a kashe nobody knew.  He asked it quickly, and Reb Aharon answered it instantly, without pausing for a second.  Later that day, we asked one of the older bochurim asked, “What was Reb Elya’s comment?” He explained, “Reb Elya said, ‘Rabbi Akiva Eiger zugt fakert.” Reb Aharon immediately understood which comment of Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s Reb Elya had meant and answered that this apparent contradiction was not so difficult to understand.

A Shidduch and a Bris

My mother was close to Reb Aharon and the Rebbetzin because she was the shadchanta for Rav Yankev Katz and Gruneh.  Rav Yankev Katz didn’t show up on the first date.  There they were waiting.  The Rosh Yeshiva was waiting and the kallah was waiting, but he never came, and he didn’t even call.  But he did call the next day, and my mother said, “Ersht, muz ich dir unshrayen, then you’ll tell me your excuse.”

His excuse was that there was snow and he couldn’t even get to a telephone.  But the shidduch went through, and because my mother was the shadchanta, she became close with the Rosh Yeshiva and the Rebbetzin. As a result, she heard some of the Rosh Yeshiva’s stories.

One story was in the town of Kletzk.  There was going to be a bris, but the father of the baby was on a trip, so they gave the honor of sandek to Reb Aharon.  While sitting there in the sandek’s chair, the father walked into shul.  So Reb Aharon got up from the seat and said, “Es belongt tzu dir.”

A Big Gevir

Another story I remember about Reb Aharon took place one year when I was in Lakewood for Simchas Torah.  There was a big gevir – I think his name was Morgenstern – who pledged a lot of money. First, he pledged $5,000 to the yeshiva that the olam should learn Shas.  And I remember Yankel Schiff said, “The olam should get the money.”

Then he pledged $5,000 more to the yeshiva if Reb Aharon would learn 25 blatt. Reb Aharon, who was learning by the shtender, learned the 25 blatt right there on the spot.  Those were the years when Irving Bunim was still alive.  The Simchas Torah celebration was big back then. All the baalei batim came.  They would sell “Atah Horaisa” and many different honors, but in the year that this gevir made all those pledges, he passed away.  It was a gevaldige zchus for him. (


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