This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Korach (5764)
In this week's section tells of how a talented rabble-rouser called Korach succeeded in inciting the entire Jewish nation against Moses declaring;
"Why do you (Moses) raise yourself over the congregation of G-d!" (16:3)
At first glance, this was a pretty stupid complaint.
Moses was the one who single-handedly led the Jews from Egypt, went up on Mt. Sinai to get the Torah, constantly received orders from G-d, brought Manna from heaven and water from a rock to feed all the Jews. It was obvious that he deserved to be the head!
Not only that, but Korach himself wanted to rule! So his complaint was transparent as well.
Why did it inflame everyone?
To understand this here are two stories.
Michael Sofer and his wife Atara were avowed atheists. Born and bred in the Israeli commune system (Kibbutzim) they were devoted heart and soul to the ultra communist "Shomair HaTzair" (the 'Young Guard') ideal; hating anything that reeked of religion…. especially the Jewish religion.
But all that changed.
It began with the communist revolution and takeover of Czechoslovakia. At first the Sofers were overjoyed with the news; but when the new 'enlightened' regime in a rash of brutal arrests and imprisonments, incarcerated a 'Shomer HaTzair' friend of theirs who worked there called Mordechi Oren with the ridiculous charge of 'spying for the benefit of England' they began to realize that Communism was as evil and corrupt as everyone said it was.
It wasn't long before they became disenchanted with the Kibbutz movement as well and eventually decided, as so many myriads of their Israeli brothers and sisters, to leave the country for greener pastures.
They moved to Australia to join Michael's mother who had moved there years ago, and settled in the city of Hobart on the quiet pastoral island of Tasmania where they devoted themselves to a life of academics. Michael finished his doctorate and became a Professor in Statistical Mathematics while his wife got a degree in Psychology. But it so happened that in Hobart there was also a small community of Jews.
These three hundred souls, although ignorant of even the most basic customs of Judaism, paradoxically kept one custom. They had a Synagogue that they actually prayed in three times a day led by a fellow that knew the prayers.
But the Sofers kept as far away from it as possible. Although their communist ideals had been dashed, they still were proud atheists.
Then a strange thing happened. The fellow who led the prayers had to leave Tasmania and, being as none of the congregation even knew how to read Hebrew much less conduct prayers, they turned to their 'new neighbors from Israel' for leadership.
All of Prof. Sofer's protests were futile. The Jews of Hobart didn't care that he never had prayed or even entered a synagogue in his life! They weren't even bothered that he didn't believe in G-d! If he could read Hebrew… he was in!
He talked it over with his wife and they decided that after all, providing the communal and psychological of others was a noble social undertaking. The professor's wife even remembered a few melodies her grandfather sang when he prayed and… the Professor took the job (which included reading aloud from the Torah scroll every Shabbat). Judaism was creeping microscopically into their lives.
Meanwhile other forces were also at work.
Their children were learning in public schools. They were growing and … if they married gentiles…..! True, the Sofer's had no value for religion… but being Jewish was another issue altogether. They wanted their grandchildren to be Jewish and they began to worry!
Then there were the missionaries. Every few days another couple would knock on the Sofers' door and politely ask to come in and talk. The professor and his wife found themselves forced into battle with no ammunition. They couldn't refute them; they knew nothing about the Torah, but they couldn't agree with them either; something was crooked about what they were saying. The Sofers were becoming desperate!
Finally their last stronghold in the secular world; the absolute superiority of intellect and science, began to fall. The books on the new field of the Philosophy of Science showed clearly that science, all science, was at best relative…. and certainly not absolute truth.
The Sofers were becoming confused. On one hand their ideals had crumbled while on the other they were being assaulted by intermarriage and evangelism.
They decided to get more serious about Judaism. But how? There was no one to ask, no books to read. They had no religious acquaintances to call. They were the most religious people they knew!
They started doing a few of things that his wife remembered seeing in her grandparent's house as a young girl; Shabbat candles, washing hands before eating bread, not to mix milk and meat and a few others. But they knew there was more to it that that. This wouldn't prevent their children from intermarrying or hold out against the missionaries. They were alone and desperate!!
For the first time in his life Professor Sofer prayed.
True, he had been leading the prayers in the Synagogue for almost a year .. but it was nothing like this.
This time he stood alone in his house and wept. He really wept aloud to G-d and cried out for help.
From what he read in the Torah and the prophets he knew that the Jewish people always had had a leader and that today there must be one also. He prayed that this leader of the Jews should send someone to help him.
A few days later he was walking home from work when he saw the most incredible sight; what looked like a bearded Rabbi, long black coat and all, walking aimlessly in the main street of Hobart! The professor ran up to him and asked him if he was Jewish and when the reply was positive, he hugged him and begged him to come to his house.
That afternoon the Rabbi answered hundreds of questions the Sofers had on the Torah and the commandments and told them where to buy what they needed in Australia. They wrote down each detail and after several hours he left.
The Rabbis name was Chiam Gutnick from Melbourne Australia. And it was over a year later that they discovered the reason for his strange presence in Tasmania.
The Rabbi was a Chassid of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and one day, out of the blue, he received a letter from the Rebbe mysteriously requesting him, without giving any reason, to travel immediately to the isle of Tasmania.
Without hesitation Rabbi Gutnick called his travel agent and the next day he was on a plane to Hobart, the capital of the island. But because he had been given no definite goal he simply wandered the streets until the professor happened to see him. The date on that letter was the date of Professor Sofer's heartfelt prayer for help. (Kfar Chabad Magazine issue 1066)
There is a similar story about the famous Rogachover Gaon (the genius of Rogachov) Rabbi Yosef Ruzin.
He had an incredible mind and knew the entire body of oral commentary on the Torah, tens of thousands of pages of complicated ideas, by heart.
He was constantly learning Torah or repeating what he had learnt, but on Shabbat he often invited the young Talmudic students from the Chabad-Lubavitch institutions to be guests in his home and engaged them in conversation.
Once he asked them if they could define what a 'Rebbe' is. They answered that they learned that Rebbe is the initials "Rosh" "Bnei" "Yisroel" (the Head of the Jewish People.)
The Rogachover fell silent for a while and gave his own answer; "The truth is that no one can know what a Rebbe is… it is incomprehensible. But one thing for sure: If a Jew, any Jew in the world, is in distress…the Rebbe feels it."
This is what Korach opposed; the idea the Moses was INCOMPREHENSIBLY higher than all the people and nevertheless cared for EACH of them individually.
That even his seemingly most ridiculous decisions and ideas not only were immune from question … they had to be accepted and embraced as the ultimate good for all the people!
Korach and the people were willing to accept that Moses was greater then they in a way they could understand, but not incomprehensibly.
In the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Lequti Sichot vol. 4) Korach could accept Moses as a leader but NOT as a king.
That is why the Moshiach is referred to by Maimonides and elsewhere as "KING Moshiach": Because the Moshiach too will be incomprehensibly higher than any human being before him (even more than Moses). And that is how he will bring about such massive changes in the entire world.
All mankind will worship ONLY the Creator according to the Torah (The Jews with 613 commandments and the gentiles Seven Noahide Commandments). There will be no strife, pain, sickness and eventually not even death!!
And the Rebbe says it is all in our power to bring him even one moment sooner. See the last chapter of the Moshiach essay at www.ohrtmimim.org/torah for details.
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