What Korach and the spies had in common

Divrei Torah for reading in Diaspora (Shlach) and Israel (Korach). Both speak about men who failed to live up to expectations.

Torah MiTzion ,

Torah Mitzion Beit Midrash
Torah Mitzion Beit Midrash
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Shelach - Lecha: For you

By Rabbi Benjy Rickman Former shaliach in Capetown (1998- 99), currently Head of Kodesh Studies in King David High School, Manchester and Assistant Rabbi at Holy Law Shul

Written L’ilui Nishmant my son, Naftali Meir Z’’L

We all have our favourite Parashiot. Some shine light on great personalities whose lives inspire and guide us to this very day. Others fill us with joy as we read about the downfall of an enemy. This Shabbat, the Torah story is a tragic one. Chazal saw in the tears that were shed after the spies reported back the roots of crying throughout history.

Where did things go wrong?

One of my favourite commentators, the Kli Yakar, presents a number of interesting insights that offer a different perspective on this well-known narrative.

I am going to focus on the opening three words “שְׁלַח־לְךָ֣ אֲנָשִׁ֗ים” 'Send for yourself men'.

We know from the beginning of Lech Lecha that the additional word “lecha” means that there will be a benefit to the subject of the text , in our case Moshe. Sending spies will not help the nation. They will not find answers to their questions, doubts and anxieties. Moshe Rabbeinu, though, will benefit. The decree forbidding Moshe entry to Eretz Yisrael was already in place. The fiasco with the spies unintentionally resulted in Moshe living for an additional forty years.

I am not sure what impact that would have had on Moshe. Imagine hearing that you will survive but thousands will perish during your life time because of a choice you made! It is possible that at this stage Moshe was simply being told that the mission won’t succeed in assuaging their concerns and not that it would be a colossal failure resulting in a generation of men dying.

The Kli Yakar presents another interpretation. Hashem specifically asked Moshe to choose the men for the mission using his Ruach Hakodesh to determine how genuine each person was. It is easy to get confused and assume someone with physical presence or financial clout are worthy of important tasks. So Hashem says “Shelach lecha anashim” send people who are lecha anashim, men of integrity in your opinion. Again, how Moshe would have felt after they came back with their report is a real concern. Did he inadvertently get it so wrong?

This is where the third peshat comes in. This time the Kli Yakar splits the text.” Lecha anashim,” only you, Moshe, think they are men of upstanding ethics, morals and spirituality. They were at that moment. However, Hashem knows that they are on a path of self-destruction. This idea might mitigate the negative feelings Moshe might have felt. After all what could he have done?

According to the Kli Yakar, Moshe should have sent women and not men. The women loved the land more than the men and had they been sent they might have thought differently- Lecha anashim, But I, Hakadosh Baruch Hu would send “Nashim” who look at the land differently.

There are many ways to explain this Parasha, common to many is the enduring love, respect and attachment we must have for the land. This Shabbat is a perfect opportunity to contemplate what we might have said had we been sent to check out the land.

comments: ravrickman@hotmail.co.uk

For more Divrei Torah on the parsha click here

Dedicated in memory of Yaakov Aharonov z"l

Korach and Company

By Hanoch Shalev, Former Shaliach in Melbourne (2003 - 2004)

Korach and Company. What a plot. Our parasha is every bit the drama, mystery and action you could hope for. Family disputes, jealousy, a rebellion, climax and paranormal phenomena and justice. This portion of the parasha is so well read and familiar that It is for this reason that it is so difficult to clear the theatrical magnificent mist to figure out the deep roots of the dispute and sin.

Fortunately, the Midrash Rabah has efficient methods of mist clearing to delve deeper. The Midrash often finds a reference in the current story that resonates with some story in the other side of the Tanach. In our case, the Midrash on Parashat Korach finds two references and transfers us from the desert surrounding in the era of the nation’s birth to the Israeli scenery of Emek Ha’Ela, on the verge of the birth of a new kingdom. from Moshe to Shmuel.

The first wormhole is the search of the Midrash for some kind of twisted logic in Korach’s actions. It quotes the pasuk in Tehilim 99:
"מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן בְּכֹהֲנָיו וּשְׁמוּאֵל בְּקוֹרְאֵי שְׁמוֹ".
Korach recognizes a deep future potential in him that is comparable to Moshe and Aharon. He assumes this emanates directly from him and he argues for his birthright (vice versa).

With the prospect of Shmuel in mind, the midrash carves away a second gateway between the two eras. It finds a similarity between the rude and arrogant behavior of Datan and Aviram and that of non-other than Goliath himself. Both go out of there way to stand against the Kedusha to deny any authority of Hashem or his messengers.

Korach and Datan and Aviram join forces to object to Moshe and Aharon’s authority but the Midrash wants us to acknowledge the this alliance is superficial. They are not like-minded and are not driven from the same adgenda. This is our first fruit beyond the mist. Our first lesson of what is this sinful dispute all about. It is about negative alliances that hold no inherent harmony except for a common enemy.

Still, the Midrash does not suffice with that. Taking us to the Goliath story in the book of Shmuel, only emphasizes an apparent absence. In the whole story of Goliath, the Prophet Shmuel is not mentioned. He, who did not hesitate to behead The king of Amalek, Agag, does not aid at the battle of Emek Ha’Ela. This is mysterious and catches our attention.

I wonder whether Shmuel hears the words of Goliath the Defiler and is immediately reminded of Datan and Aviram. He remembers the outcomes of his forefather’s association with this kind of situation. Buy why is he worried? What else does he see in this Goliath situation?

I’d like to suggest that Shmuel identifies Israel is encountering the combination of the three desert sins; The Golden Calf, The Meraglim and Korach and Co.

Goliath’s words hint towards the latter, Datan and Aviram’s undermining of the authority of Hashem’s chosen leaders.

Goliath performs this ritual of mocking and challenging the Israelites for 40 days. He demands a man come down from the mountain to the valley to combat him. Last time no man descended from a mountain for 40 days…. A Golden Calf was created. The Israelites are loosing hope for a leader and savior, and might eventually seek an alternative.

Goliath, the giant, and the Israelites terrible fear are a fullfilment of the Meraglims’ slander/prophecy of the giants awaiting the Israelites in the promised land.

Thus it seems that in the lowest part of Emek Ha’Ela – the Israelites are themselves at their lowest of all three sins.

Shmuel knows this. He is keeping back to set the stage for his new disciple – David of Bet Lehem and the rising of the king.

David does not fight metal with metal but rather uses his Emuna and devotion to Hashem and the belief in the Israelites.
"... וְיֵדְעוּ, כָּל-הָאָרֶץ, כִּי יֵשׁ אֱלֹקים, לְיִשְׂרָאֵל
וְיֵדְעוּ כָּל-הַקָּהָל הַזֶּה, כִּי-לֹא בְּחֶרֶב וּבַחֲנִית יְהוֹשִׁיעַ ה':
כִּי ל-ה' הַמִּלְחָמָה, וְנָתַן אֶתְכֶם בְּיָדֵנו".

King David, the Mashiach (anointed), emphasized that today all will know there is a G-d for the Israelites to counter the sin of the Golden Calf. The smooth rocks will counter the fear of giants, just as Caleb prophesied. And through himself – he counters the defilement of Goliath, Datan and Aviram – There is a chosen one and Hashem has chosen his nation and anointed a savior for them.

Korach’s sons were saved from the disaster of the wrath. We find them comprising poets in Psalms. Rashi on Psalms 42, a song of Korach’s Sons, describes how they were saved. At first they were partners with their father’s plan, but regretted and turned back at the last second. Rashi describes how the earth swallowed all their surrounding, except the ground where they stood. And at that point they sang songs of praise for Hashem. In that moment they saw in a vision the Exiles, the Destruction of the Temples and The Kingdom of David.

Korach saw just as far as Shmuel.

His sons saw past that and through that.

They saw a chosen leader, repented and survived.



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