From The Masters
Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)
century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman
century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher
century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat
17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya
18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim
Let Korach and his entire party take fire pans. Tomorrow, place fire on
them, and offer incense
My own opinion in this
matter [of Moses' command to Korach and his company to take censers and burn incense],
and in that which he said to Aaron [during the outbreak of the plague], Take your
fire pan, and put therein from off the altar, and lay incense thereon is that
the hand of the Eternal was upon him in these matters, and it is this which is
called Ruach HaKodesh, as happened with the books of David and Solomon
which were written by Ruach HaKodesh, and as David said, The spirit of
the Eternal spoke by me, and His word was upon my tongue. For Moses our teacher
was trusted in all His house and I have explained the matter of "the house"
and mentioned it many times; but since this was not in the usual course of Moses'
prophecy, Scripture did not mention G-d's communication to him about these matters.
"It is an eternal salt-covenant
before G-d." [18:19]
A kabbalistic approach: the words "it
is an eternal covenant" mean that the covenant described as a "salt-like
covenant" is an eternal covenant. Just as salt preserves the meat indefinitely,
so this type of covenant endures indefinitely.
The major ingredient of salt
is water. Due to the power of the sun which shone upon it it turns into salt.
In other words, salt represents a fusion of the elements fire and water. Similarly,
the covenant is a combination of the attributes Mercy and Justice.
of the Levites is the tithe which in itself is an allusion to the tenth emanation.
This is why the Torah phrases this, "To the members of the tribe of Levi:
I have given every tithe in Israel as a heritage," etc.
You will find
that Yaakov treated his son Levi as the tenth amongst his sons. Yaakov took the
vow to tithe everything G-d would give him so seriously that he even tithed his
When a shepherd wants to tithe every tenth of his flock as prescribed
by the Torah, he first leads all the sheep into the fold and then counts them
individually, one by one. The last one in then becomes the first one out. Similarly,
when Yaakov, a shepherd, set out to tithe one of his children he first brought
them into the fold commencing with his eldest Reuven and concluding with his youngest
Binyamin. When he counted them subsequently, commencing this time with Binyamin,
Levi was the tenth and therefore became sanctified.
The scoffer Korach used matters connected with the soil as his subjects
of study. Later, he made fun of Torah legislation involving sheep, as
mentioned in the Midrash. In all this he paralleled the behavior of Cain,
who first brought a gift of the fruit of the earth. Cain's brother, Abel,
on the other hand, brought an offering from the firstborn of his sheep.
Cain brought flax; Abel brought wool. We know that there was a great deal
of difference between the offering of Cain and the offering of Abel, as
G-d refused to accept the offering of Cain. This is why wearing a mixture
of wool and flax (linen) called "kelayim" in Hebrew,
is forbidden in Jewish law. (see Leviticus 19:19) It is well known that
Kabbalists have said that Korach was the reincarnation of Cain.
Cain had to undergo three gilgulim, one each for his Nefesh,
his Ruach, and his Neshama. His incarnations included the
Egyptian whom Moses slew and Yitro, Moses' father-in-law, as alluded to
in Judges. (4:17) In that verse Jael is described as the wife of Chever
Hakeyni, the word "Hakeyni" being a reference to her
being a descendant of Cain. He reappeared in the guise of Korach. Moses,
on the other hand, was a reincarnation of Abel, whom Cain had killed.
Moses took revenge on behalf of Abel on three separate occasions:
1) When he killed the Egyptian, who was the reincarnation of Cain's Nefesh.
This is hinted at in the wording "
and he struck the Egyptian/vayach
et ha mitzri"; the numerical value of "vayach", when
you add one digit for the word itself, equals the numerical value of "hevel/Abel",
37. The word "hamitzri" equals the numerical value of
2) Jethro deferred to Moses by giving him his daughter Tzipporah as a
wife. She was the gilgul of the extra twin that had been born with
Abel, and on whose account Cain had slain Abel out of jealousy. When Korach
now started a quarrel he simply reverted to the pattern in which his original
ancestor Cain had acted.
3) Moses then killed him (i.e. caused his death), fulfilling the Torah's
commandment that if someone has shed innocent blood, his own blood will
be spilled by human hand. (Gen. 9:6) We must understand that verse as
telling us that the very person who has been slain, will in due course
slay his murderer. This is why we find Moses, who was in reality the reincarnation
of Abel, slaying Korach, who was the reincarnation of Cain. The fact that
Korach's death was due to the earth swallowing him was also an example
of the punishment fitting the crime, since the same earth had been remiss
when it opened to hide the evil deed that Cain had committed, "covering"
his blood (see Gen. 4:10-11).
The Zohar refers to Cain as "unclean jealousy, jealousy of menstruation"
and describes the very birth of Cain as due to the pollutant the serpent
had injected into Eve. The serpent's motivation had been its jealousy
of Eve. Similarly Korach was jealous of the appointment of Elitzafan to
the position of prince of the Kehatites. We find therefore that Korach
had been infected with this pollutant of the original serpent.
"..Through this you will know
that G-d has sent me.." [16:28]
It would be totally out of character
for a man like Moses who always defended his people, even the sinners, to now
announce an especially cruel fate for Korach and associates. So Moses prefaces
his announcement and the impending punishment of the rebels by explaining that
only in this way could the fact that he had not appointed himself to a position
of leadership be demonstrated. Just as his own appointment had been through supernatural
power, so the the death of the challengers would occur through supernatural power.
When a body has been invaded by cancer or some other deadly disease,
only the surgical removal of the infected part of the body can stave off
total disaster. In this instance too, only the excision of these rebels
could prevent the rebellion from infecting the whole nation with fatal
results. Theirs was a spiritual disease, the disbelieve in the Divine
nature of Moses' prophecy. Moses therefore made the point that the very
death of the rebels represented the greatest act of mercy by G-d (as indicated
by the repeated use of the merciful attribute of
G-d), since it saved mankind. A world without Jews would have no claim
"Separate yourselves from
this congregation and I will destroy them in an instant." (16:21)
the people were under sentence of death whether they associated themselves with
Korach's rebellion or not. We have learned in Shabbat 32 that Satan is especially
active when there is danger. At such times even a relatively mild offence such
as talking during the prayers is considered serious enough to free soldiers from
participating in expansionary wars lest they endanger themselves needlessly on
account of that sin.
It is clear that the sin of talking during prayers is
not a capital offence. It is only the fact that during war the angel of death
is especially active which makes the unatoned-for sin of talking during prayers
In our situation, the fact that the people were under sentence
of death anyway would have made the angel of death eager to kill them at once
if they had not first dissociated themselves from Korach.
After looking further
onto this matter I have realized that ordering the people to separate themselves
from Korach's group could be perceived as therapy for the Jewish people. Had G-d
not given these instructions, only those righteous amongst the Jewish people who
had not yet been included in the decree that they would die in the desert would
have escaped becoming victims of the angel of death at that time.
this instruction G-d actually gave the Israelites an opportunity to save themselves
from imminent death, seeing that all of them had a minor share in Korach's sin
because they had not protested it. In fact, failure to protest what Korach was
trying to do was equivalent to being a passive supporter of Korach. G-d instructed
Moses and Aharon to separate the righteous and thus enable him to pray on their
behalf to ask for them to be spared, involving his own merit.
This is why G-d
said to Moses: "Tell the whole congregation 'get up from around the dwelling
of Korach, Datan and Aviram'" (verse 24). If we accept this approach the
word 'separate' in our verse was meant to alert Moses and Aharon to pray, seeing
there was no need for Moses and Aharon to separate themselves in order not to
become victims of Korach's sin.
Perhaps this is what G-d alluded to when He
said "to say" (previous verse), meaning that the whole purpose of G-d
speaking to them at this juncture was "to say", in order that Moses
and Aharon start to pray as we indeed find in that they did in verse 22. If we
accept this interpretation we need not understand that G-d referred to Moses and
Aharon removing their families from around the tent of Korach.
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar,
philosopher and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN'
or 'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in the
transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated English translation,
Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of
The Torah Commentary of Rabbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu
Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding
pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of
Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written
about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech,
the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed
in the English version of Eliyahu Munk
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served
as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as
the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916,
Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the
city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem
and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus
opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book
with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his
formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim:
the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated
by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco,
on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of
Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was
on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker,
hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only
to his Torah commentary.