Weekly Reading Insights: 

Korach

BS"D

From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


Ramban

" …Let Korach and his entire party take fire pans. Tomorrow, place fire on them, and offer incense…." [16:6-7]

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.

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Rabbeinu Bachya

"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.

The share 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 children!

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.

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Shelah

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 "Moshe/Moses", 345.

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.

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Alsheich

"..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 to existence.

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Ohr HaChayim

"Separate yourselves from this congregation and I will destroy them in an instant." (16:21)

Actually 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 potentially lethal.
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.
By giving 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.

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Sources

Ramban - credits
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

Bachya - credits
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.

Alsheich - credits
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

Shelah - credits
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 Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
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.

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