This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Korach (5767)
He was fantastically rich, wise, charismatic, powerful, successful in all fields and even had the power of prophesy. In fact he was one of the few Jews in history that succeeded in uniting the ENTIRE Jewish nation.
He convinced them all to oppose ….Moses! He used all his abilities for evil. (See Avot 5:17)
So it's not so clear why an entire portion of the Torah was called on his name!
To understand this, here is a unique story within a story within a story (HaGeula #105)
It begins as Rabbi Heshel Greenberg; the Shliach (representative) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Williamsville New Jersey, received a pair of very disappointing visitors.
Rabbi Greenberg knew them well; a young man by the name of John and his mother. John had begun living a Torah life some ten years earlier through Rabbi Greenberg's direction and inspiration and often brought his mother along for Shabbat meals and other functions in the Chabad House. She also began to warm up to Judaism. But in one area she was stubborn; education.
Despite Rabbi Greenberg's efforts, she refused to allow her son to leave the public school where he was learning and enroll in a Jewish Torah school.
And at first it seemed she was right. There was nothing to worry about. John actually got stronger and stronger in his Jewish observance and seemed to be totally unaffected by his gentile surrounding. Or so it seemed.
But today's disappointing revealed the opposite. It seems that the entire time he was in the public school he was tightening his connection to a gentile girl classmate of his and yesterday he announced that ….. they were serious and wanted to get married.
The boy's parents never dreamed it would come to this. They admitted that they erred about his education but what could be done now? Was it too late?
Rabbi Greenberg wracked his brains and tried talking to him from every angle but it didn't work. In fact every Shabbat John and his parents ate in the Chabad House with all the other guests but nothing the Rabbi said or did had any effect.
Then, a few hours before one particular Shabbat he read a story in a Chabad publication, rather a story within a story, that he hoped might convince John to abandon his plans.
That Shabbat evening Rabbi Greenberg opened the magazine and read:
"One Rosh HaShanna Rabbi Yitzchak Gershovitz, the Rabbi in Prague, Czechoslovakia, had over one hundred guests in his Chabad House and at the Rosh HaShanna meal he told them a story about a man who he convinced to leave his gentile girlfriend by telling him a story. Rabbi Gershovitz relates the story as follows:
"'A few years ago a man entered the Chabad House in Prague and asked me to tell him a story. It sounds strange but when you run a Chabad House for a while you'll see that nothing is strange. Anyway, all of a sudden this story popped into my mind about Rabbi Slavtitzki in Belgium: And this is the story I told him.
"'A middle-aged Jewish woman entered Rabbi Slavtitzki's Chabad house in Antwerp Belgium together with her twenty year old son and begged him to help. The boy wanted to marry a gentile girl and she was at her wit's end.
"'She had already taken him to two top rabbis but their words didn't help.
"'The first one explained how marrying 'out' breaks the glorious chain of Jewish self-sacrifice that has been holding the Jews together since the Patriarch Abraham. And the second Rabbi explained eloquently with charts and cold statistics that only ten percent of intermarriages succeed and the resultant families are usually disasters.
"'But after a bit of thought her son decided that the Rabbis could preserve the chain without him and about the success rate, well, if ten percent succeeded …. Then he would be in that ten percent.
"'So Rabbi Slavtitzki boldly suggested that they fly to Brooklyn to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe and amazingly the young man agreed.
"'The next day they flew from Antwerp to New York, spent the Shabbat in Crown Heights and early Sunday morning they stood in line for 'dollars' (the Rebbe gave out dollar bills, advice and blessings every Sunday to thousands of people each Sunday for several years)."
[The reader is asked to remember that this story about Rabbi Slavtitzki is being told by Rabbi Gershovitz at his Rosh HaShanna meal as the story he told to a visitor. And it is all part of Rabbi Greenburg's story to John]
"'After a few hours of slowly progressing, finally the big moment came and they were standing face to face with the Rebbe.
"'Rabbi Slavtitzki told the Rebbe why they had come upon which the Rebbe looked at the young man with him, smiled and said, 'I envy you!'
"'The young man was, understandably, confused. He wrinkled his brow, shrugged his shoulders and asked 'why'. The Rebbe continued:
"'If G-d has given you such a special challenge He must have given you special powers to overcome it as well. And if you overcome this challenge you will be given even more special powers. I personally have never had such a challenge. I can only envy you and give you my blessing that you reveal and use all your special powers for good."
"'The Rebbe's words struck home; the young man decided to live a Jewish life and cancelled the engagement. When Rabbi Slavtitzki asked him what exactly convinced him, he replied: 'The first Rabbi my mother took me to spoke of the past. And the second Rabbi spoke of the future. But the Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke of who I am NOW.'
"'Well," Rabbi Gershovitz concluded, "When the visitor heard the story he was very impressed and a few weeks later he sent me a letter saying that it inspired him to leave the gentile girl he was dating and a year later he married a Jewish girl and has established a Jewish home"
Rabbi Greenberg continued:
"When Rabbi Gershovitz finished the story to his Rosh HaShanna crowd it was obvious that one man there was especially moved, as though the story had begun a storm in his soul.
"And sure enough the next day in the daytime Rosh HaShanna meal after the Morning Prayer that man stood up and announced.
"'Last night we heard a story about the Rabbi in Belgium and Today we read in the Torah about how Abraham took his beloved son Isaac to sacrifice him (that is the Torah reading for the second day of Rosh HaShanna). Well, like the story about the fellow in Belgium .. I too have a gentile girlfriend. Her name is Cristina.
"'And like Abraham I too have decided to make a sacrifice for Judaism! I have decided to sacrifice Cristina! We will not get married."
Rabbi Greenberg finished his story and saw that it had a deep effect on John. He was locked in deep thought as though he had heard a voice from the beyond.
"My girlfriend's name is also Cristina" he said almost in a whisper.
It wasn't long before John also decided to follow the examples of the three men in the stories he heard and raise a Jewish family.
And that isn't the end. Several years later Rabbi Greenberg told these stories to a group of visitors from Brazil and later got a letter from one of them, a Jewish girl, that because of the four stories she left her gentile boyfriend.
This answers our questions.
True Korach was evil but he had one excellent quality: he wanted to reach the highest spiritual level possible. And he wanted to take everyone with him. He even declared "All the people are Holy!" (16:3)
In fact, if we think about it this was exactly what inspired all the people in our above stories to leave their gentile partners; suddenly they realized that the Jews are all 'holy'.
So that is why the Torah portion is called in Korach's name.
But his problem was that he believed everyone to be more or less equal. He refused to recognize the total uniqueness of Moses..
This is exactly the fault that plagued the Jews throughout the generations and why they refused to listen to true prophets and leaders.
True, the Jewish people are holy and must commune directly with G-d (and teach the entire world to follow suit with the seven Noahide Commandments).
But without Moses it is impossible. It spells disaster.
Just as all the people in our story changed their lives and realized their holiness ….. because of the REBBE'S emissaries.
This is the lesson we can learn from Korach: have the highest aspirations, strive for the ultimate in holiness. But only on the terms of the Moses of each generation.
And the Moses of our generation; the Lubavitcher Rebbe, said that OUR job is to do all we can to bring...
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