Parshas Korach 5759

B'Ohalei Tzaddikim
is dedicated this week by
Tzvi Michael (Rick) Himmelman
Ruth Suntag
in honor of their marriage, Monday, the first day of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz 5759
May they be blessed with
and bring nachas to each other,
to their family and friends, to all of the Jewish people and to the Ribbono Shel Olam

The Other Side of the Tzaddik

R' Yaacov Yosef of Polnoye, the "Toldos Yaacov Yosef" was one of the closest disciples of the Ba'al Shem Tov, and through his three works, Toldos Yaacov Yosef, Ben Poras Yosef and K'Sones Passim, became the chief source and wellspring for the Torah of the Ba'al Shem Tov.

He writes in numerous places that he heard from his master that a Tzaddik must pray on behalf of his antagonists, those who disparage and ridicule him. They are, quotes the "Toldos", "The spirit (ruach) of the Tzaddik."

These antagonists are actually created from husks which the Tzaddik peels off and discards in a perpetual process of spiritual cleansing and purification. Since Ruach (air) is associated with speech, these antagonists employ slander and deceit to implement their destructive designs against the Tzaddik.

The only way for a Tzaddik to counter his antagonists is to fight fire with fire, (or air with air). Their weapon is the power of speech. Therefore the Tzaddik responds in kind by praying on their behalf. The Tzaddik's prayer sweetens and neutralizes the harshness of the antagonists claims. Whatever strength they might retain easily dissipates by itself.

It follows, that being an aspect of the Tzaddik himself, these antagonists, when they behold the Tzaddik, see in him only a reflection of who they really are themselves. Being that they are the husks of the Tzaddik's purification process, they have no connection to the Tikkunim (healing and purifications) that the Tzaddik is generating.

The Torah informs us that Moshe Rabbenu was the most humble man to ever walk the face of the earth. (Bamidbar 12:3) It was a result of a constant struggle to refine his character. Moshe is also called "Ne'eman", a faithful servant. Hashem says, "Moshe is a faithful (servant) in my house." Moshe was trusted not to get his hands into anything of the master, into things that were none of his business. His only business was Hashem's business; he had no personal self-interests at stake. This is why, in spite of the fact that Moshe was the leader of a powerful nation, spoke with G-d face to face and was revered or at least feared by all the inhabitants of the world, he succeeded in remaining humble.

Korach, in his rebellion against the authority of Moshe, claimed that Moshe in a display of excessive arrogance and nepotism, had appropriated the Kingship for himself and the Priesthood for his brother's family. In reality, Korach the antagonist, was able to see in Moshe only his own reflection; that of a jealous and bitter would-be leader, anxious to usurp power. (Sefer Ben Poras Yosef, end of Parshas Korach)

This time Moshe was compelled to respond categorically to this rebellion. Rashi (16:4), brings a parable of the son of a King who behaved in a way that was not befitting a member of the royal family. In his embarrassment, he was no longer able to face the King. Instead he entreated an advisor, a close friend of the King, to intercede on his behalf and secure a royal pardon. The friend did so and the prince once again found favor in his father's eyes. When he repeated his mistake a second time, he again entreated the advisor to help him. Again it worked, and again a third time. The fourth time that the prince behaved inappropriately, the advisor threw up his hands. "I cannot come to your aid again", he declared emphatically, "lest I sacrifice my credibility."

Could not Moshe have found some pretext upon which to pray for Korach and his gang to do teshuvah, to change their ways? In light of the above idea from the Ba'al Shem Tov, why didn't Moshe pray for his antagonist Korach in order to dissipate his corrupt and treacherous energy? In fact, Moshe did just the opposite, he endeavored to insure a full punishment for Korach.

After three rebellions, (the golden calf, the murmurings {Bamidbar 11:2} and the spies) was exasperated. Humility was the essence of Moshe's being and Korach embodied the husk of arrogance, the antithesis of Moshe's being. Moshe knew of no prayer capable of softening the harshness of Korach's arrogant challenge; this rebellion could only be battled head on.

It is written (Proverbs 12:4), " . . .and jealousy causes the bones to rot." This refers to Korach who lacked p'nimius, inner substance. Everything Korach did was external, for show; so he appeared very just and righteous. Moshe and Aharon were the inner light of the Jewish nation. They were completely p'nimius, an aspect of one character which is often not easily discerned. Yet in Judaism it is what counts.

This explains the two tests by which Korach was finally humbled. 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, had no leg to stand on. Only the tribe of Levi - and Aharon and his descendants possessed the inner substance necessary to represent B'nai Yisroel in Hashem's service.

Arrogance must be battled until the day one dies. One can never be sure of himself until the day of one's death. (Pirkei Avos 2:5) The Ba'al Shem Tov often declared, "Even after all of my achievements in the spiritual realm, I would give them all up just to be able to serve Hashem with the plain, simple, straight-forward faith of a child." Nevertheless, we have a record of the last words that left the pure and holy lips of the Ba'al Shem Tov. ". . .let not the foot of arrogance overtake me", he uttered. (Psalms 36:12) Even in his death the Ba'al Shem Tov was concerned a lest even a trace arrogance taint the holy avodah of his dying.
(Based on Sfas Emes, Parshas Korach end of 5640)

One Nation Under G-d

"This is what you must do. Let Korach and his entire gang take fire-pans. Tomorrow, place fire on them and offer incense in them before Hashem. The man whom Hashem chooses shall be the Holy one. You sons of Levi have gone too far!"(Bamidbar 16:6-7)
Rashi asks, "What prompted Moshe to think of this test?" Moshe explained to Korach, "That the non-Jewish nations serve many different gods and have many priests. But we have only one G-d, one ark, one altar, one Tabernacle and one Kohen HaGadol. Korach, you and your gang are more than 250 men. This incense can be the elixir of life or the elixir of death. Let Hashem show that there is only one Kohen HaGadol. He will live. The rest of you shall perish."

Similarly, the Shem Mi'Shmuel, the Sochatchover Rebbe, said that the One G-d selected one people to receive the Torah. He then selected one tribe from among that people, one family from that tribe, and one person from that family to be his special servant. His service comprises the service of all the people, and there is subsequently no need for another to covet the position of the Kohen HaGadol. The Oneness and absolute nature of Hashem is reflected in the system of His service.

No Reason for Strife

"Moshe sent word to summon Dasan and Aviram, the sons of Eliav. 'We won't come', they cried. 'Isn't it enough that you took us out of a land flowing with milk and honey (Egypt), just to kill us here in the desert? What right do you have to set yourself above us?'" (Bamidbar 16:12-13)
Rashi says, that from here we learn that is forbidden to maintain or bolster an argument. Moshe sent for Dasan and Aviram to try to make peace with them. Says R' Yitzchok of Vorki (Sefer Ohel Yitzchok), even if the one advancing the argument is a great Tzaddik, a seemingly honest and G-d fearing person, it is still forbidden to get participate. When it comes to argument, strife and confrontation, there is no justification to become involved.

The Mesirus Nefesh (Self Sacrifice) of Aharon HaKohen

"Aharon took the firepan as Moshe had told him and he ran to the middle of the assembled masses where the plague had already begun to kill people. He offered the incense to atone for the people. He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was checked." (Numbers 17:12-13)
Aharon acted with complete self sacrifice in order to arrest the killing plague. "He stood between the dead and the living". Thought Aharon, "Whether I live or whether I die in the process, I must stop the plague". (R' Shlomo of Skveren, Sefer Likutei Shoshanim HaShalem)

The Mesirus Nefesh of the Baal Shem Tov

The son of the Rizhner Rebbe, R' Avraham Yaacov of Sadigora once told this story.

One Erev Shabbos the Ba'al Shem Tov appeared in a town unexpectedly. Declining invitations from all the locals, he elected to remain alone in the Shul after Shabbos evening davening. The wonder of the residents turned to alarm when they saw his fervent Tefilla and Tehillim continue the whole night long. Something was surely the matter. But in the morning the Ba'al Shem Tov was relaxed and joyful, and he accepted the invitation of one of the locals for the morning Shabbos meal.

Naturally, all of townspeople crowded into the house of the host to see the Holy B'aal Shem Tov. As they were sitting at the table, a local peasant came around looking for a drink of vodka. They were about to drive him away when the Ba'al Shem Tov called out that he should be brought in, and provided with a generous glass of vodka. He asked the peasant to tell what he had seen in the mansion of the Poritz (wealthy Polish estate owner) the previous night. The peasant's tongue, loosened by the vodka, related that the Poritz, believing that he had been cheated in a business deal by a Jewish merchant, assembled his peasants and armed them with knives and hatchets telling them to be on the ready to avenge themselves on the Jews at his command. They would then all be able to liberate their stolen riches from the Jews.

"The whole night we waited for the command, he continued, "But the Poritz had locked himself in his office with an unexpected visitor, an old friend that he hadn't seen for 40 years! Finally, he came out and told us all to go home, that the Jews were upright and honest people and nobody should dare lay a hand on them. We all went home and that's the whole story!"

"This old friend", explained the Sadigorer Rebbe, "Had been dead for decades. The Ba'al Shem Tov had dragged him from the grave to influence his friend the Poritz."

"But I always wondered," pondered the Rebbe, "Why did the Ba'al Shem Tov have to travel all the way to that town for Shabbos in order to avert the decree? Couldn't he just as well have remained in his hometown of Medzibuz?"

"But I understand now. The Ba'al Shem Tov said to himself, 'If I can succeed in saving the town, fine...but if not, then I will perish together with them!'"

It's What is Inside that Counts

"Moshe spoke to the Israelites and (instructed) each of the leaders to give him a staff for his tribe. There were twelve staffs, with Aharon's staff set in.the middle of them. Moshe placed the staffs before Hashem in the tent of the Testimony. The next day when Moshe came to the Tent, Aharon's staff, representing the tribe of Levi, had brought forth blossoms;buds were blossoming on it and almonds were ripening on it. Moshe brought out all the staffs from before Hashem and let all the Israelites see them, and each man took (back) his own staff." (Bamidbar 17:21-24)
The Rizhiner Rebbe once asked why each of the leaders took back his staff even though it hadn't blossomed. He answered that they, like Moshe, also took them to show the people that they did not blossom! With a great spirit of righteousness and humility, they wished to confirm the message; Aharon of the tribe of Levi, and not one of them, was chosen by Hashem to be Kohen HaGadol! (Sefer Kerem Yisroel)

Walking Together

"Hashem said to Aharon, "You will not have an inheritance in the Land (of the Israelites) and you will not have a portion amongst them. I Myself shall be your portion and inheritance amongst the Israelites." (Bamidbar 18:20)
Try as a person might, ". . . you will not have a portion. . . ". We use so little of our potential that it is nearly impossible to accomplish even a mere portion of what we should in the world. Nevertheless, as long as we are constantly striving and yearning to grow, ". . . I Myself shall be your portion. . .". Hashem will be with us every step of the way!

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