This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Korach (5768)
This week we again confront the hard-to-believe-that-anyone-could-be-so-stupid story of Korach's almost successful rebellion against Moses.
Talk about ingratitude! After Moshe led the entire Jewish nation out of degradation and slavery, loaded them with the riches of Egypt, split for them the sea, saved them from the pursuing Egyptian army, provided Manna for them to eat, water to drink, clouds to protect and guide them, guided them through the desert, brought them Torah from Mt. Sinai and even saved them from annihilation after the Golden Calf …. they wanted to dump him for a virtual nobody called 'Korach'!!
How did it happen? How could they have been so…. Wrong?!
To understand this… here is a story. (HaChozrim B'Tshuva.. Klapholtz pg. 208)
Some 200 years ago near the city of Shpola in Poland lived an evil Poritz (Land Baron). His wealth and power were almost unlimited over his hundreds of square miles of land and those who suffered the most were, who else, the Jews.
The taxes he imposed, the fines he invented, the rent that he was constantly raising were almost unbearable but there was no alternative. It was no better anywhere else, at least they had roofs over their heads and bread (albeit not much else) on their tables…. and he did protect them, as his 'property,' from marauders.
But the worst of the worst times were when he made his week-long parties. A few times a year he would invite all his friends and other landowners and provide them with food, drink and… 'Jewish entertainment'. Namely he would have the Jews that he put in debtor's prison brought before his howling guests and force them to dance and do other foolish things.
Through all this the Jews never considered reprisals. It was out of the question. They suffered in silence and prayed to G-d for deliverance……. until the Poritz crossed the line.
The evil snake heard that there was to be a Jewish wedding a few days after the holiday of Shavuot (celebrating the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai) and he got an 'original' idea. He ordered that the bride be brought to him before the wedding for private 'inspection'.
That was it! Up to now the Jews feared to move against him because it would not only affect their livelihoods but also their very lives… but now they had to take a stand.
They had no weapons or plans of physical revenge rather they had something much more certain and powerful.
In the town of Shpola lived a well known holy Rebbe, a miracle worker (something like Elijah the prophet thousands of years earlier) by the name of the Shpola Zaide (Grandfather of Shpola). If anyone had the power and ability to help it would be him. Usually the Jews didn't like to bother him with their problems but now they had no choice. It was only a question if it was the right time.
And, sure enough, it was. As soon as the Rebbe heard of the Baron's depraved decree he stood and announced. "I think it's time the Poritz and his friends hear the Ten Commandments!!"
No one understood what he meant but they knew it was serious. "Now listen to me" He continued. "This Shavuot, two days from now, tell all your relatives to come here for the holiday and invite the Baron and his friends as well. They should come to the reading of the Torah in the daytime holiday services. Tell him that there will be a special surprise for anyone who comes …and I'm sure they'll all attend."
The next day the Baron was delighted with the invitation especially the part about the surprise and his enthusiasm was contagious. With glee he reported to his friends and guests (it happened to be a party week) and the day after, on Shavuot, they loaded into their carriages and were on their way.
Services were held on a plush, grassy hill next to the synagogue in a mammoth tent that had been hastily constructed before the holiday to accommodate the large number of expected guests.
It was a beautiful, cloudless, sunny day. The Shpola Zaide was also there with a friend he brought and shortly after the services began the Baron and company, who managed to get quite intoxicated on the way, arrived in their carriages and stood near the crowd off to the side like first row spectators giggling and scoffing at almost everything they saw.
Jews with beards, shaking back and forth, long locks of hair hanging from the sides of their heads, white prayer shawls with strings on the end. They were everywhere! It was all a hilarious joke to the Poritz and his company. But where was the big surprise the Rabbi promised?
The Shpola Zaide led the prayers. At first his voice was a bit weak and shaky as befitting his age but when he got to the height of the prayers and said the words "Shma Yisroel" all the noblemen fell silent. Suddenly his voice became clear, smooth and pleasant; and ten times more so when he repeated the "Amida" standing prayer aloud.
But the 'surprise' came when the Torah was taken out.
The large scroll was brought to a sizable, slanted table in the middle of the congregation and the Rebbe's friend stepped up to read the holiday portion… about the giving of the Torah (Exodus 19-20).
It was impossible to see the reader's face, his head was covered with his prayer shawl but his voice was surprisingly loud. As he began the reading clouds began to form high above them and when he got to the Ten Commandments (20:2-14) it was so dark that it was difficult to see. Suddenly the earth began to shake, flashes of lightning and thunder shook the heavens and it seemed as though they were engulfed in flame.
The reader's voice was now unbearably loud, so magnified that every word seemed to issue from every atom of creation and, although they were in Hebrew, they entered the minds, hearts and very essence of the soul of each nobleman.
At the first commandment "I am G-d that took you from Egypt" they trembled violently and uncontrollably with fear. At the second; "You should have no other gods" they regretted every moment they spent in Church and the Baron wept because he forced the Jews to put crosses in their businesses on punishment of death.
And so it was with all the rest of the Commandments. As they heard them the noblemen cringed, closed their eyes, began to weep, fell to their knees in penitence, held their heads in their hands sobbing and moaning in remorse each over his particular misdeeds.
When the reading was finished the sky cleared, the sun again shined and the Baron and his company fell unconscious on the green grass. After several moments they awoke, excused themselves and left.
Needless to say neither the Baron nor any of his cronies ever harmed the Jews again and several days later the Baron himself paid a long visit to the Shpola Zaide and became a friend and protector to the Jews until his last day.
Some say he left his castle and converted to Judaism. Others say that the mysterious 'friend' of the Shpola Zeide was none other than Moses himself!
This answers our question.
Korach succeeded because the Jews forgot and wanted to continue forgetting the experience at Mount Sinai when, they realized that G-d is the only true existence and they are mere creations.
In other words, like the noblemen in our story, when G-d spoke to them they 'lost' their false egos.
But when a person forgets G-d, false ego takes over and, like the Poretz at the beginning of our story, one feels distant from and cold to the Creator and the experience of Sinai seems threatening to one's very existence!!
And Moses (and the Moses of every generation) was devoted totally to bringing this overpowering feeling of Mount Sinai back.
So it wasn't difficult for Korach to turn the people against him.
Indeed, Korach's name implies 'division' (Koray'ach mi Kan U'mi Kan) and 'ice' (Kerach). He appealed to their natural ego which feels separate and cold to HaShem.
But he was wrong, and because he tried to 'bury' the 'Jewish feeling' he himself became swallowed by the ground.
This is very relevant to us today.
Our job is to connect to the Moses of our generation by learning the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Visit your local Chabad House and see.
There you will find ideas that are sure to melt the ice, make you feel close to HaShem and, as Mimonidies writes regarding Moshiach; fill the world with the awareness of the Creator like water fills the ocean.
Do your part to melt the ice and bring….
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