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Parshat Korach (5761)
This week's section describes the near dethroning of Moshe by a clever and charismatic Jew called Korach.
Rashi (16:19) explains that Korach convinced the ENTIRE Jewish nation to join him in his battle against Moshe.
How did he do such a thing? What possible argument could he have used to drive the entire nation insane? And what has all this got to do with us today?
To explain, here is a story:
Joey and his father had been waiting for three hours in line to enter for "Yechidut" (a private audience) with the Lubavitch Rebbe. Except for fasting on Yom Kippur, they weren’t at all observant, but they were proud of their Judaism. That's why they agreed to visit the Rebbe in the first place.
Their turn finally came. The first thing they noticed as they entered the room and approached the Rebbe seated behind his desk, was how unusually quiet and bright it was, and how full the bookcases around the walls were.
"Good evening." said the Rebbe. "Please sit down."
For some reason they stood. The Rebbe turned to Joey and said, "I understand that soon you will be Bar Mitzva, is that correct?" The Rebbe's smile and friendly eyes were assuring.
"Yes, in just two months, on the fifth of May", answered Joey, regretting that he didn’t know the Hebrew date.
"Do you enjoy sports?" Asked the Rebbe.
"Yes, Rabbi I enjoy baseball" answered Joey somewhat surprised by the question.
"What do you like better" continued the Rebbe "When there is one team or two teams playing baseball."
Joey hesitated for a second; it was obvious that this nice religious Jew didn’t know the much about the game.
"One team alone is no game, Rabbi. You have to have two teams to play."
"I understand." said the Rebbe "And tell me, do you ever go to professional games?"
"Sure, whenever my father lets me."
"But it costs money to enter, doesn’t it?" The Rebbe continued, "Why do you spend money when you can play with your friends for free?"
Joey didn’t exactly understand where the conversation was going, but he answered.
"Rabbi, I see you don’t know much about baseball. The professionals are completely different, they play a real game, the way I play is just for fun."
"Ah!" exclaimed the Rebbe. "This is very relevant to your Bar-Mitzva. Life is something like baseball. Up until now you also had two teams inside of you; two impulses. Your good impulse told you to be honest and to be a good boy, and the other "team"; your selfish impulse, told you to do the opposite.
But now when you will be Bar-Mitzva you will enter the big leagues. Your good impulse will tell you to not just be a good person, but to also do the commandments and be a good Jew. And your opposing "team" will fight much harder to do the opposite." Joey liked the unusual point that the Rebbe made. It reminded him of a story he heard about King Solomon.
"But just remember" concluded the Rebbe, looking deeply into Joey’s eyes, "Whichever side plays hardest, will win!"
After Joey's bar-mitzvah party a week later, he completely forgot the Rebbe. Then, over three years later, he arrived home one day bubbling with excitement; he had won a free weekend trip to New Orleans with a friend! Everyone was so happy until his mother happened to look at the calendar and noticed that it fell out on the weekend of....Yom Kippur!
"So I'll do Yom Kippur twice next year" answered Joey angrily, "Since when are we religious anyway?! Why do you have to wreck my fun!!"
"You know what" Said his father "Don't be hasty. Think about it overnight, whatever you decide is okay with us."
"I'll think about it all right!" He thought to himself as he slammed the door of his room behind him and flipped on the T.V. It was the end of the baseball game.
"Damn! I even missed the game because of..." The announcer’s voice interrupted his thoughts. "A real upset here today fans! Dodgers five, Yankees three! Just goes to show you that whichever side plays hardest, wins!!"
The next morning Joey announced to his surprised but proud parents that he had thought about it, and decided that he wasn’t going to New Orleans on Yom Kippur.
Time passed and Joey (now Joe) was in University getting his Masters degree in political science. He was at the top of his class, and everyone agreed that he was headed for high places. But University life wasn’t easy for him.
After some severe bouts with loneliness and depression, he somehow had gotten involved with the Mormons; a very sophisticated missionary group that preys especially on alienated Jews on campus. He attended their lectures for over a year and got so involved that he had even convinced two Jewish friends to join him, and to fly together to Salt Lake City the next day to be....Baptized.
The overjoyed Mormon representative on Campus arranged a friendly baseball game to be followed by a party the day before the wonderful immersion. Joe was pitcher, and he won the friendly game brilliantly with no trouble. Everyone was beaming as they turned to go to the party.
But as they were leaving the field amidst the applause of the few onlookers, the representative put his arm over Joe's shoulder and said jovially. "Joe, you were great, you will really be a great player on the team of the lord!! It just goes to show that whoever plays the hardest, wins!"
Joe stopped. Suddenly the Rebbe’s beautiful blue eyes again shone in his memory saying those very words almost ten years ago.
"What am I doing?!" he thought to himself. "I'm a Jew!"
He excused himself, careful not to stop smiling, walked over to his Jewish friends, and without arousing attention took them aside and announced that they are not going to Salt Lake City. "There is a Rabbi I want you to see first, and the plane fare is on me!"
The next day they flew to New York got in to see the Rebbe, and decided to drop the "conversion."
As everyone had expected after graduating, Joe landed a prestigious job; he became chief assistant to Arthur Goldberg; the representative of the U.S.A. in the U.N.
The year was 1967, and a crisis was brewing for the State of Israel; surrounded by enemies that had been armed to the teeth by the U.S.S.R, and deserted by all her so-called allies, it looked like only a miracle would save the little Jewish country.
Joe had an Uncle whose only son had become a "Baal Tshuva" and was learning in Kfar Chabad, Israel. The worried uncle sent his son a plane ticket with orders to leave Israel immediately until the danger passed. But the boy refused. "The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that no one should leave Israel, there isno danger and the war will end in a few days!" He explained.
His father frantically contacted Joe, his nephew, and desperately begged him to use his connections or anything he could to convince the Rebbe to change his mind.
Joe again found himself entering the room of the Rebbe, but this time to plead for his cousin.
"Rebbe, he’s an only child to my uncle and, well, the situation looks very bad. Rebbe, I work for the U.S. state department and I have a lot of inside information. It’s worse than you can possibly imagine! Only a miracle will prevent another Holocaust. And the boy says that you told him not to leave."
"This is correct." Answered the Rebbe calmly "There is absolutely nothing to worry about, the war will end in just days with great miracles for Israel. Please tell your uncle not to worry."
Joe couldn’t believe his ears. Either the Rebbe was completely mad, or...
"Rebbe" He blurted out, "No one agrees with that idea! No one in the world!! How can the Rebbe be so certain!!?"
Joe leaned on the table toward the Rebbe and raised his voice, "Rebbe! Remember, this boy is an only child!! An ONLY SON!!!"
The Rebbe waited a moment, became very serious, looked back deeply into Joe's eyes, and said:
"I have four million "only sons" in Israel, and I’m telling you that everything will be all right.
Joe was astounded. "But there is something you can do" the Rebbe continued. "As you leave, please enter the secretary’s office there are a pair of Tefillin waiting for you. My personal gift. The secretary will show you how to put them on every day.
"By the way", He called to Joe as he was at the door just about to leave. Joe turned around to see the Rebbe smiling, "do you still like baseball?"
After the six-day war when everything happened just as the Rebbe said it would, Joe received a call from the Rebbe’s office, that the Rebbe would like to speak to him again.
Before Joe had a chance to start apologizing the Rebbe began speaking: "I know that immediately after the war, the government of Israel, especially the leftist parties, already began trying to give back all the lands to they conquered from their enemies. This is very dangerous and there is something you can do."
The Rebbe proceeded to brief Joe on the entire situation.
When the Rebbe finished, Joe said. "I just want to tell the Rebbe one thing; I'm proud that the Jewish people have such a true leader as you!"
This is the point of this week's portion; was Moshe a true leader or not? Was it necessary to rely on his every word, no matter how illogical it may have seemed?
Korach said not. "Maybe in order to leave Egypt we had to follow you blindly, Moshe. But now, well, we all saw G-d at Mount Sinai. We are all Holy! It’s time we started thinking for ourselves!!"
And with this argument he was able to convince the entire Nation to disagree with Moshe.
This is the same attitude that caused the Jews to disagree with King David and all the prophets after him as well, and finally resulted in the terrible exile that we are suffering, for almost 2,000 years.
What we are praying for is that G-d give us just one more chance and send us the Moshiach; a true leader like the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Surely this time we won't make trouble for him.
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