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Shabbos Parshas Behar-Bechukosai

The Address to the International Convention of N'shei uBnos Chabad

Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar

Shavuos & Shabbos Parshas Naso, 5750

Yechidus

Shabbos Parshas Behaalos'cha

To the Graduating Class of Bais Rivkah and the Girls who will be Serving as Counselors in Summer Camps

Shabbos Parshas Shelach

Shabbos Parshas Korach

   1st Day of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, 5750

Shabbos Parshas Chukas

Shabbos Parshas Balak

Yechidus

17th Day of Tammuz, 5750

Shabbos Parshas Pinchas

25th of Tammuz, 5750

Shabbos Parshas Matos-Masei

Shabbos Parshas Devarim, Shabbos Chazon

Shabbos Parshas Va'eschanan, Shabbos Nachamu

Shabbos Parshas Eikev

Tzivos Hashem, Day Camps

Shabbos Parshas Re'eh

Shabbos Parshas Shoftim

To the Campers of Emunah

Shabbos Parshas Ki Seitzei

Shabbos Parshas Ki Savo

N'shei uBnos Chabad

Shabbos Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech

The Blessing Delivered by the Rebbe Shlita upon Receiving the Pan Klali

Sichos In English
Volume 45

Shabbos Parshas Korach
1st Day of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, 5750
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  23rd Day of Sivan, 57507th Day of Tammuz, 5750  

1

The names of the portions of the Torah are significant. If so, the question arises: Why was this week's portion named Korach? Korach was not a righteous man and although our Sages relate that his sons repented, no such statement is made about Korach himself. On the surface, since our Sages state that "the name of the wicked should be wiped out," surely, it is problematic why the Torah chose it as one of the names of the parshiyos, thus perpetuating it forever.

On the surface, it can be explained that ultimately, Korach brought about a positive result, strengthening the position of the priesthood. Thus, our Sages commented:

Because Korach came and challenged Aharon's rights to the priesthood, the Torah came and granted him (Aharon) 24 priestly gifts, [sealed] with an everlasting covenant of salt.

This positive element is further emphasized by the fact that Korach's sons repented. Nevertheless, this emphasizes only the good which was accomplished because of Korach. From the fact that the Torah names a portion after him, it would appear that Korach himself has a positive and contributory dimension.

The nature of that positive dimension can be understood in the light of a quote from the conclusion of Hilchos Shemittah V'Yovel where the Rambam refers to our Torah portion. The Rambam states:

The tribe of Levi were not granted an inheritance in Eretz Yisrael... Because they were set aside to serve G-d... and He, blessed be He, will provide for them as it is written: "I am your lot and your portion." Not only the tribe of Levi, but any individual whose spirit motivates him and his wisdom grants him the knowledge to hold himself as separate and to stand before G-d to serve Him and worship Him... is consecrated as holy of holies. G-d will be his lot and his portion forever and He will provide him with his needs as He provided for the priests and the Levites.

This passage has several problematic points: Firstly, the expression "holy of holies" is apparently a reference to the High Priest who entered the Holy of Holies; i.e., each Jew can -- in a spiritual sense -- reach the level of a High Priest. On the surface, this appears to negate the lesson from Parshas Korach that there can be only one High Priest. Thus the parshah relates that when Korach and his 250 colleagues all sought to perform a service connected with the High Priesthood, they were punished most severely. Afterwards, it describes how Aharon's staff bloomed as an expression of his sole right to this position. However, this contradiction is only superficial for the Rambam is not saying that others should -- as did Korach and his colleagues -- seek to perform the service of the High Priest in actual deed, to enter the Holy of Holies and offer the incense offering, but rather, to carry out the spiritual equivalent of the High Priest's service in his heart and spirit.

There is, however, a more serious question: The Rambam associates the potential for each individual to chose "G-d for his lot and portion," with the verse -- quoted from Parshas Korach -- "I am your lot and your portion" which is taken from a completely opposite context. That verse is part of the latter portion of Parshas Korach which describes how G-d negated the claim of Korach that, "the entire nation is holy and G-d is among them," and established the position of the priests and the Levites. How can the Rambam quote this verse to imply that every person can reach these levels? Also, on the surface, the priesthood (and the High Priesthood) appear to be dependent on G-d's choice. Furthermore, the priestly garments and the anointing oil play a contributory role. If so, how is it possible that, through his spiritual service alone, a Jew will reach the level that "he will be consecrated as holy of holies"?

These concepts can be explained as follows: Korach was "a clever person." Furthermore, his desire -- to be a High Priest -- is essentially positive. Indeed, Moshe told Korach that he, himself, shared that basic desire. Every Jew should continually seek to rise higher in holiness, attaining the peaks of service of G-d, "holy of holies."[102] Indeed, in this context, Korach's claim, "that the entire nation is holy and G-d is among them," interpreted by Rashi to mean: "All heard the words of the Almighty at Sinai," reflects a positive point. Indeed, G-d told the entire Jewish people, "You shall be a kingdom of priests," interpreted by the Baal HaTurim to refer to the High Priesthood.

Thus, the basic thrust which motivated Korach was positive. What was wrong was the direction in which he expressed this desire. Instead of nullifying himself to Moshe and Aharon who were chosen by G-d -- and thus, drawing down an aspect of Aharon's holiness -- he decided to rebel against them. Thus, he nullified his connection with the High Priesthood.

This is alluded to in Rashi's commentary at the beginning of Parshas Korach. Rashi notes that Korach's entire line of descent is mentioned until -- and not inclusive of -- the Patriarch Ya'akov. Rashi explains that this came about through a special prayer of Ya'akov's. Nevertheless, as Rashi continues, in Chronicles, Ya'akov is mentioned -- indeed, he is referred to as Yisrael, his more elevated name -- as Korach's ancestor. This emphasizes that Korach possesses a unique positive quality.

On this basis, we can understand the Rambam's statements. On one hand, Korach's inner desire teaches us that a Jew must always strive for the level of "holy of holies." Nevertheless, Korach's mistake -- and his quality which should not be emulated -- was the manner in which he expressed this desire. Rather than creating a rivalry with the High Priest, one should nullify oneself to the High Priest (who is granted his position through G-d's choice) and in this manner, draw from his holiness.

For this reason, the name Korach is appropriate to use as the name for the Torah portion. Korach as he exists within the context of Torah represents an extremely high level, the striving of the Jew to reach the highest spiritual peaks. Thus, the lesson we learn from Korach is not only a negative one, the rejection of his approach of strife,[103] but also a positive concept, the importance of seeking spiritual peaks.

The appreciation of Korach's positive qualities, however, has to be coupled with the awareness of the negative qualities of Korach's behavior.[104] This can be connected with a concept of general significance.

G-d desires that a Jew serve Him on his own initiative, with his own power. For this reason, the soul descends into this material world where there is a possibility to err. The intent, however, is that a Jew should make a positive choice.

These qualities are reflected in the narrative of Korach. Korach was a clever person who sought to reach the level of High Priest. Since he had to achieve this level in this world, he had two choices how to express this holy drive. In practice, he did not choose the proper approach. However, the lesson, to use one's potentials as prescribed by the Torah, remains.

Thus, Korach's story emphasizes two points: Korach's wisdom, his positive potential, and his foolishness, the strife he created. This leads to a third point, the concept of striving for spiritual peaks within the context of this world which allows for the possibility of error. This relates to the ultimate level of the righteous who will turn to G-d in teshuvah in the Messianic age.[105]

2

The above lessons receive even greater emphasis at the present time which is a) within the first forty days during which Moshe ascended Mount Sinai; b) Shabbos Rosh Chodesh c) Rosh Chodesh Tammuz. As will be explained, each of these dimensions contains a significant lesson in the service of G-d.

  1. Within the first forty days during which Moshe ascended Mount Sinai -- Every historical event has lasting significance and, in a spiritual sense, is repeated again each year at the time it originally occurred. In this instance, even though ultimately, this period culminated in an undesirable event, the making of the Golden Calf, during those forty days, the Jews were on a uniquely high level. The potential for the descent was given only to allow for the advantage of service on one's own initiative. Though this advantage was not realized at that time, the failure to do so then does not detract from the spiritual potential of these days.[106]

  2. Shabbos Rosh Chodesh -- This represents a fusion of opposites. Shabbos is associated with the weekly cycle of the sun ("the great luminary") and Rosh Chodesh, with the lunar cycle ("the small luminary") and thus, they reflect the difference between a mashpia ("source of influence") and a mekabel ("recipient"). This very differentiation, however, also implies that a connection is established between them, the mashpia and the mekabel are united.[107]

    The concepts of mashpia and mekabel are also reflected in Parshas Korach. Korach appreciated the positive quality present in the recipients. Therefore, he asked Moshe, "Why do you raise yourself above the congregation of G-d?" This was a mistake because, although the recipients have great positive qualities, these qualities are revealed when they submit themselves to the guidance of the mashpia.

  3. Rosh Chodesh Tammuz -- Tammuz is "the month of redemption," commemorating the liberation of the Previous Rebbe from prison where he was held for his service of spreading Torah and mitzvos.

    This redemption reflects two seemingly contradictory aspects. On one hand, there is an awareness of the exile which preceded the redemption. Indeed, without this awareness of exile, the term redemption would not be appropriate. Also, however, every redemption reflects in microcosm the ultimate Messianic redemption which will lift the world beyond the potential for any possibility of exile.

    This twofold awareness must be felt by each Jew. Although he is found in exile, he is above exile. He does not, in essence, belong there and was sent into exile by G-d to fulfill a mission. Therefore, "a person's agent is like the person himself," and "the servant of a king is a king;" i.e., a Jew like G-d stands above the exile and it has no effect on him.[108]

    Yud-Beis Tammuz contributes an added dimension to the above because, as the Previous Rebbe writes in his letter:

    The Holy One, blessed be He, did not redeem me alone on Yud-Beis Tammuz, but rather all those who love our holy Torah, fulfill its mitzvos, and all who are called be the name Israel.

All these individuals were redeemed and thus, were given the potential to fulfill Torah and mitzvos without obstacles. Thus we see that the redemption of Yud-Beis Tammuz led to an intensification of the efforts to spread Torah and mitzvos, and ultimately to the Previous Rebbe's coming to America, "the bottom half of the world," and, furthermore, through his shluchim, spreading Torah in "the bottom half of the bottom half of the world," Australia, and other outlying regions of this nature.

3

The portion of Korach teaches us a practically applicable lesson, to quote the Previous Rebbe, "Just as a person must know his faults, so that he can correct them, he must be aware of his positive qualities so that he can use them in the fullest degree possible." A Jew must realize that he is not controlled by exile and can strive to reach the highest spiritual potentials, "holy of holies." Similarly, one has to appreciate the advantage of our generation, the last generation of exile and the first generation of redemption.

These potentials should be used to spread the public study of Torah. In particular, these study sessions should be connected with the study of the Rambam's Mishneh Torah.[109]

In this context, it is also worthy to suggest that on Rosh Chodesh, Jews gather together in every community for farbrengens, to say Le'Chayim, to exchange blessings, and to reinforce each other's commitment to Torah and mitzvos. [These farbrengens -- and similarly the public sessions of Torah study mentioned above -- should also be connected with gifts to tzedakah.]

Similarly, it is worthy to mention the importance of organizing farbrengens to celebrate Yud-Beis and Yud-Gimmel Tammuz in as many communities as possible and, involving as many people as possible.

These activities will bring about increased Divine blessing, particularly in Eretz Yisrael, by having a government which promises to be strong and to prevent goyim and goyishkeit from entering Eretz Yisrael. This will hasten the coming of the Messianic redemption when we will ascend to Jerusalem and to the Beis HaMikdash. May it be in the immediate future.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) We find a similar concept in our Sages' statement that every Jew should ask: When will my deeds equal those of our forefathers: Avraham, Yitzchok, and Ya'akov? Similarly, on the festivals -- when we open the ark, a uniquely auspicious time -- we ask that "the verse, 'And the spirit of the L-rd shall rest on him...' be realized within us." This verse refers to Moshiach, yet the request is made by every Jew.

  2. (Back to text) The rejection of his approach by his own sons through their teshuvah emphasizes this point most acutely.

  3. (Back to text) Korach's error is alluded to in the letters of his name, . Each of these three letters bears a resemblance to the letter which reflects a balance between the soul's three means of expression, thought, speech, and deed. In contrast, all the three letters of Korach's name reflect an imbalance in regard to the left leg, the aspect which reflects the potential for deed as explained in previous years.

  4. (Back to text) Significantly, the positive dimension of Korach's service is mentioned in the Mishneh Torah which reflects the halachic approach to Torah. From the perspective of the Written Law and the Oral Law, there are different viewpoints from which Korach's teaching can be seen. However, the perspective of halachah, the essence of Torah, reveals how to transform an act which is apparently undesirable into a positive force.

  5. (Back to text) Moshe did not break the tablets until he had descended from the mountain, i.e., the tablets reached this world in a complete state, allowing the potential that in subsequent generations their spiritual potential be realized in this world.

  6. (Back to text) The union of the mashpia and the mekabel is also emphasized by the present date, the thirtieth of Sivan which is also Rosh Chodesh Tammuz. Sivan is the third month and Tammuz, the fourth. Our Sages have described the relationship between three (gimmel) in Hebrew and four (dalet) with the expression, gomail dalim, "being generous to the poor," thus, reflecting a union between the mashpia and the mekabel.

  7. (Back to text) This relates to the teaching of the Maharal of Prague that once the Jews left the exile in Egypt, they became designated as free men, G-d's servants and, therefore, not "the servants of servants." No exile could nullify this quality.

  8. (Back to text) As mentioned previously, there should be study sessions established for men, women, and children. In regard to women's Torah study, as mentioned previously (see essay A Woman's Place In Torah), these shiurim should include even subject matter which is not directly related to the mitzvos which women are obligated to fulfill. In this and the previous generation, all the Torah leaders -- from both Chassidic and non-Chassidic perspectives -- have agreed on this point.


  23rd Day of Sivan, 57507th Day of Tammuz, 5750  
  
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