Parshas Korach 5757


(Based on the Midrash Shmuel, Shita Mikubetzes on Avos)

For the Sake of Heaven

Pirkei Avos Chapt 5:20

"Any dispute which is for the sake of Heaven, will in the end endure.
Any dispute which is not for the sake of Heaven, will not endure.
Which is a dispute that is for the sake of Heaven? The disputes of the sages Hillel and Shammai.
Which is a dispute that is not for the sake of Heaven? The dispute of Korach and his entire congregation."

The Midrash Shmuel explains that a dispute is when there are two opinions standing in opposition to one another. As each side presents his stance, it serves to draw out the truth. It generates clarifications on the question at hand until the truth alone stands. If it were not for the doubt or question that came up, that particular bit of truth would not have come into the light of the world. All of the elucidations presented are passages to the truth, and in this way, a dispute can be viewed as a positive thing. This is a dispute for the sake of Heaven.

When truth is the result, we know that it was a dispute for the sake of Heaven. Since the two sides were partners in revealing a certain truth to the world, they endure and are preserved for posterity.

We see this in several places. A Sanhedrin which voted unanimously to impose the death penalty was not permitted to carry out the sentence. Only if there was a majority to convict and a minority to acquit could the death penalty be imposed.

Addtionally, we see that in numerous instances, Rebbi Yehuda HaNassi, the redactor of the Mishna, recorded individual opposing opinions in the Mishnayos even though the Law (Halacha) was not in accordance with that opinion.

This is the explanation of a dispute for the sake of Heaven. When the sides are only interested in the truth being revealed, a record of the dispute is perserved for all time as a monument to truth.

A dispute which is not for the sake of heaven will not endure since the arguing sides intend only on engaging in altercation and provocation. It will not be preserved since there is no real content to the dispute. There is no truth at stake. That is the nature of the dispute of Korach and his entire congregation.

The disputes between Hillel and Shammai have endured until today. Scholars and schoolchildren alike repeat their words every day. " . . . these are the words of Beis Hillel, Beis Shammai says . . .".

Nevertheless, if they both sought the truth, why then do we almost universally decide the Law in favor of Hillel and his academy? The Talmud (Eruvin 13b), relates that he was kindly and humble and taught his own view as well as the view of Shammai. It is a magnificent example of the search for truth.

Even more impressive, once the Law was determined to be like Hillel and his academy, even Shammai and his academy unequivocally accepted it as binding on themselves.

In Hebrew, for the sake of Heaven, is "L'Shaim Shamayim". Shamayin (heaven) is said to be a contraction of two words, "aish" (fire), and "mayim" (water). Normally fire and water cannot co-exist. Either the fire boils away the water, or the water extinguishes the fire. For the sake of Heaven, even two opposing forces cooperate and co-exist. This is a sign of "L'Shaim Shamayim".

Why does our Mishna state "Korach and his entire congregation"? Wasn't his dispute with Moshe Rabbenu?

A closer look reveals that Moshe never entered into the dispute with Korach at all, it was a one sided argument. The Rebbe R' Elimelech of Lizhensk says that when a group attacks its own leaders and teachers, it is a clear sign whether or not its intentions are for the sake of Heaven.

Rashi zt"l, in our Parsha (16:6), says that each one of the 250 men in Korach's congregation wanted to be the High Priest!! When the only unity is in controversy, there is no real unity, there is no "L'Shaim Shamayim".

Humility and Arrogance

The Sfas Emes brings down in the name of the Holy Jew of Parshischa, when detractors come up in oppostion to the Tzaddik, they specifically attack him concerning a quality in which he has already achieved perfection. The Baal Shem Tov even suggests that the detractors of a Tzaddik are created from the husks which are shed as the Tzaddik strives for perfection in his character. Therefore, one who would come to accuse the Tzaddik, see in him only that which is similar to the husk from which he was created. He is limited to only a superficial understanding of the ways of the Tzaddik.

Korach accused Moshe Rabbenu of arrogantly usurping power for himself and Aharonover the Jewish nation. We already know that Moshe Rabbenu was the most humble man to ever walk the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3).

Moshe Rabbenu was the epitome of humility, there wasn't a trace of arrogance in his actions in spite of the fact that he was the leader of the nation, spoke with G-d face to face and was revered or feared by all the inhabitants of the world. Everything he did was for the sake of the the nation. Yet, to a truly arrogant person like Korach, Moshe's every move was a proof of Moshe's own arrogance.

Korach's perspective was childish and superficial. He was not able to perceive the leadership of Moshe Rabbenu for what it really was. It is written (Proverbs 12:4), " . . .and jealousy causes the bones to rot." This refers to Korach who lacked penimius, inner substance. This explains the two tests by which Korach was deposed. The essence of incense is fragrance, something which is completely penimi, internal or spiritual. The almond branch brought forth buds, a symbol of the penimi, the internal surfacing and taking precedence. When it came to tests that checked inner substance, Korach failed.

You Are Not Who You Think You Are

Once, when Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch, the son of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, was a young man, he was visiting with his father-in-law in Yanovitch. There he met with one of his father's chassidim. The chassid noticed that the young rebbe's son was all too aware of his achievements in scholarship and meditative prayer and felt that some cutting down to size was in order.

Said the chassid to Rabbi DovBer, "Considering who you are and how you've lived, what's the big deal? Your father - well, we all know who your father is. You were certainly conceived under the holiest of circumstances, and I'm sure that your father secured a most lofty soul to bring down into the world. Then you were raised in a rebbe's home and great care was taken to mold your character and safeguard you from any negative influences. All your life you've been exposed to scholarship and sanctity and to this very day you're preoccupied only with the study of Torah and the teachings of Chassidism. So you've amassed a certain amount of knowledge and you pray with fervor and devotion. Big deal!""Now, take me for example. My father was a simple man, and we can well imagine what was on his mind when he scraped out some dreg of a soul out the bottom of the barrel. My upbringing? I was raised as a goat and basically left to my own devices.

And do you know what I do with my life? Let me tell you how I earn my living. I loan money to the peasants during the planting season and then, during the winter months, I make my rounds of their villages and farms to collect the debts before they have a chance to squander their entire harvest on vodka. This means setting out several hours before sunrise, well before the permissible time for prayer, equipped with a flask, for without a drink one cannot begin to talk business with a peasant. After drinking to his health, one must share a `l'chayim' with the woman in the house as well, otherwise she can ruin the whole deal for you. Only then can you sit down to settle part of the account." "After three or four such stops I make my way home, immerse myself in the mikveh and prepare for prayer. But after such preliminaries, what sort of prayer would you expect...?"

The words of this chassid, who was, in truth, renowned for his refined nature and soulful prayers, made a deep impression on Rabbi DovBer. The young man immediately travelled home to his father and poured out his heart. He bewailed his spiritual state, saying that his service of G-d is worthless, falling so short of what is expected from him.

The next time the chassid from Yanovitch came to Rabbi Schneur Zalman,the Rebbe said to him: "I am most grateful to you - you have made a chassid out of my Berel."

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