Erev Shabbos Kodesh Korach Inspiration 5776

What was Korach’s mistake? The Mishna (Avos 5:17) states כָּל מַחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, אֵין סוֹפָהּ לְהִתְקַיֵּם. אֵיזוֹ הִיא מַחֲלֹקֶת שֶׁהִיא לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, זוֹ מַחֲלֹקֶת הִלֵּל וְשַׁמַּאי. וְשֶׁאֵינָהּ לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, זוֹ מַחֲלֹקֶת קֹרַח וְכָל עֲדָתוֹ, any dispute that is for the sake of Heaven will endure. A dispute that is not for the sake of Heaven, however, will not endure. What is an example of a dispute that is for the sake of Heaven? This is the dispute between Hillel and Shammai. A dispute that is not for the sake of Heaven is the dispute of Korach and his congregation. The words לְשֵׁם שָׁמַיִם, for the sake of Heaven, imply that one’s focus is upwards, towards Heaven. What is the contrast between the dispute of Hillel and Shammai and the dispute of Korach and his congregation?

The commentators write that the Mishna does not say that Korach disputed Moshe, but that Korach and his congregation had a dispute, a disparity of views. Korach sought to negate Moshe and Aharon, Dasan and Aviram continued engaging in their insolent behavior towards Moshe, and the 250 men had their own agenda. Nonetheless, we still must understand Korach’s own philosophy on life.

In Parashas Beha’aloscha the Torah states (Bamidbar 8:2) בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ אֶת הַנֵּרֹת, when you kindle the lamps. Yet, in Parashas Emor it is said (Vayikra 24:2) לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד, to kindle a continual lamp. In one instance the Torah refers to the candles in the plural form and in the other instance the Torah uses the singular from. The reason for this discrepancy, writes the Baal HaTurim (Bamidbar 8:2), is because this alludes to the opinion of Bais Hillel who maintain that one lights on the first night of Chanukah one candle and then he increases the candles that he lights on successive nights. Bais Hillel rationale is because we say מעלין בקדש, we ascend in matters of holiness. The Baal HaTurim concludes that the last letters of the words לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד forms an acrostic for the word תרד, you will descend, and this reflects the opinion of Bais Shammai, who maintains that on the first night of Chanukah one lights eight candles, and on subsequent nights he lights seven and then six etc. One must wonder why The Baal HaTurim would bring a support for the opinion of Bais Shammai which is not according to the final halacha.

The answer to this question is that the Baal HaTurim is teaching us that a dispute that is for the sake of Heaven is deemed to be a dispute that has an עלייה, an ascent, and even though Bais Shammai maintain that one should light Chanukah candles in “descending” order, it is a ירידה לצורך עלייה a descent for the sake of an ascent. Proof to this idea is because it is said לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד, to elevate the candle, and the last letters of these words form the acrostic for the word תרד, descend. Korach, however, was the antithesis of this precept. Korach claimed that the entire nation was equally holy, and he taunted Moshe with the preposterous idea that a  garment whose entire fabric was composed of techeiles should be exempt from the mitzvah of tzitzis. Korach was apparently not interested in ascending the spiritual ladder. Korach saw his existence as a fait accompli, evidenced in his vision of the great prophet Shmuel descending from him, a clear indication that he had already scaled the necessary spiritual mountain. The consequence for such thinking was that he and all that he owned descended alive into the earth, and the Gemara (Sanhedrin 109b) maintains that Korach and his entire congregation forfeited their portion in the World to Come. Yet, a dissenting opinion maintains that Korach and his followers earned a portion in the World to Come, as it is said (Shmuel I 2:6) יְ-ה-וָ-ה מֵמִית וּמְחַיֶּה מוֹרִיד שְׁאוֹל וַיָּעַל , Hashem brings death and gives life, He lowers to the grave and raises up. This verse is difficult to understand, as we know that life precedes death, so why did Chana mention death before life? The answer to this question is that one is justified in occasionally having a spiritual fall, as long as one realizes that the fall is for the sake of ascending. This is figuratively akin to “death before life.” Thus, even Korach’s “fall” was ultimately for an ascent, as HaShem does not allow any person to be completely cast away.

The commentators (Arizal and Tosfos Chodoshim to Avos) state that in the future, the halacha will follow Bais Shammai. Indeed, the commentators write that the last letters of the words (Tehillim 92:13) צַדִּיק כַּתָּמָר יִפְרָח, a righteous man will flourish like a date palm, form an acrostic for the word קרח, as in the future Korach will be rehabilitated and according to some, Korach will be the Kohen Gadol (or he will at least share characteristics of the Kohen Gadol).

The message from Korach’s dispute is that we do not lead stagnant lives. Rather, one is always either ascending or descending, and even the descents are for the purpose of ascending.

HaShem should grant us the ability to keep on ascending spiritual heights and then we will merit the days of which it is said (Ovadiah 1:21) וְעָלוּ מוֹשִׁעִים בְּהַר צִיּוֹן, לִשְׁפֹּט אֶת הַר עֵשָׂו; וְהָיְתָה לַי-ה-וָ-ה, הַמְּלוּכָה, and saviors shall ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esav, and to HaShem will be the kingdom. May we witness HaShem’s salvation, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.


Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Inspiration Korach 5776
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