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Friday, June 15

The Weekly Shtikle - Korach

This week's parsha covers the tragic story of the rebellion lead by Korach, Dasan and Aviram. Their ultimate demise is well known. The leaders and their families were swallowed up into the ground. However, their 250 followers who had each brought a ketores offering were consumed by fire. Surely, there is a reason why different punishments were doled out to the different participants.

Rabbeinu Bachaya suggests the principal sin of the leaders was that of haughtiness. They put themselves on a high level from which they were, in truth, very far. This arrogance was fittingly punished with the perpetrators falling down to the deepest depths. The 250 followers were punished not as much for their participation in the movement but for having gone through with the confrontation with Moshe and bringing the ketores. The undesired offering was punished much in the way that Nadav and Avihu met their demise - being burned by the mighty fire of HaShem.

Perhaps we may suggest an alternate approach. The leaders were greedy, self centred individuals looking out only for their own benefit. Their campaign may have appeared to be aimed at "fairness and balance" but their true motives were purely selfish. They wanted nothing but to advance their own positions. The 250 followers were merely misled by their apparent leaders and deceived into believing in their cause. The self-serving disregard for truth was a behaviour that was incorrigible. There was no room for the leaders to grow out of this rut they had dug themselves into. Therefore, they were smothered by the earth and disappeared, symbolizing that there is no potential good that could come out of their actions.

The followers, however, were simply misguided loyalists. Their behaviour could easily be channeled for good if pointed in the right direction. This is most clearly illustrated by On ben Peles who, according to the gemara (Sanhedring 109b,) was convinced by his wife to leave the group. They were fittingly punished with fire. Fire, although often a destructive force, can also be constructive. It can take an inedible slab of meat and make supper out of it. It can be used to shape raw metal. The followers being consumed by fire symbolized that there was what to learn from them and that their actions could be channeled for positive causes. It is therefore easily understood that the metal of their pans was put on display to remind B'nei Yisrael of this tragic episode.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Just do it!
Dikdukian: Flee Market
Dikdukian: Vayikach Korach

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites, www.weeklyshtikle.com
The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on BaltimoreJewishLife.com

Friday, June 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Shelach

Clearly, the most significant part of this week's parsha is the episode of the spies who were sent to Eretz Yisrael. As a result of their negative report, B'nei Yisrael were forced to postpone their entry into Eretz Yisrael for almost thirty nine years. Although the report of the ten spies was, on the whole, a negative one, the pesukim seem to show an apparent progression of the gravity of the spies' arguments. We know what they said and we know how they were gruesomely punished but it is important to understand what it was that they said which warranted such retribution.

When the spies die a horrible death for their sins, the pasuk (14:37) reads, "vayamusu ha'anashim motzi'ei dibas ha'aretz ra'ah.." The men who had slandered the land died. The Torah applies a label to these ten spies – slanderers of the land, and it would certainly seem, in context, that this is given as the very reason why they were punished this awful way.

Now we must comprehend how they acquired this label. When the spies come back and deliver their report, they argue that despite the beauty and plenty of the land, they do not believe that they will be able to capture it. This point is disputed by Caleiv after which the spies go on further with their assessment of the land. It is right then, (13:32) that the Torah uses this catch phrase, or a conjugation thereof, "vayotziu dibas ha'aretz..." The Torah seems to bookmark this pasuk as the very beginning of the slander. The spies go on to wantonly refer to the land as a "land that devours its inhabitants." This very specific structure seems to imply that until this point, the spies were engaged in a legitimate debate. They were welcome to present the facts of their mission and offer their sound objective analysis. Had they not gone any further, they would not have been deserving of their terrible fate. They crossed the line when they began to distort the truth, when they offered their own misguided assessments as fact. It was this specific deceitful tactic that transformed them from spies to slanderers and made them deserving of their horrific death.
Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: What's Different About Efrayim? 

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites, www.weeklyshtikle.com
The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on BaltimoreJewishLife.com

Friday, June 1

This past Wednesday, 16 Sivan, was the yahrtzeit of R' Ephraim Eisenberg, zt"l of Ner Yisroel. The shtikle is dedicated l'iluy nishmaso, Ephraim Zalman ben Chayim HaLevi.

In this week's parsha we have the famous two pesukim (10:35-36) regarding the traveling and resting of the aron. The two pesukim are encapsulated by the irregular upside down nuns, thus dividing sefer Bemidbar into two parts. The exact placement of this separation is quite significant. The divided parts of Bemidbar are rather divergent periods in B'nei Yisrael's sojourn in the midbar. Until this point, everything is proceeding beautifully. B'nei Yisrael are camped as a united nation at Har Sinai. They complete the building of the mishkan and its consecration. Everything seems to be going fine. And then everything seems to go wrong. The rest of Bemidbar seems to be a drastic sequence of struggles that B'nei Yisrael face. Moshe seems constantly challenged with complaints. B'nei Yisrael are faced with the challenging episodes of the spies, Korach and Midyan. These two pesukim are the border between these two eras.

 

The first challenge is that of the mis'onenim, the complainers. The Torah does not tell us what they were complaining about but the ensuing consequences are quite clear. The site of this disaster is named Tav'eirah, after the great consuming fire. R' Chaim Kanievsky notes that in parshas Mas'ei, when all the checkpoints that B'nei Yisrael passed through are enumerated, there is no mention of Tav'eirah.

 

Ramban (11:3) posits that B'nei Yisrael did not move from there before the next challenge after which that very same place was renamed Kivros HaTa'avah which is mentioned as the first stop after Har Sinai (33:16). However, R' Chaim dismisses this suggestion based on the pasuk in parshas Eikev (Devarim 9:22) which seems to clearly refer to Tav'eirah and Kivros HaTa'avah as separate places. R' Chaim quotes from his son that the list of checkpoints in parshas Mas'ei is only a list of locations where B'nei Yisrael camped and rested. While the Torah does not tell us directly what the mis'onenim complained about, Rashi does offer some insight into the matter. He writes (11:1) that B'nei Yisrael were complaining about the discomfort of having traveled three consecutive days without resting. It therefore seems that this place was not a place where they rested at all. They were certainly traveling until the tragedy occurred and seemingly picked up and continued immediately afterward as well. Therefore, it is not listed in parshas Mas'ei.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com


Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Al Pi Cheshbon: Piles of Quail 
Dikdukian: The Impure

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites, www.weeklyshtikle.com
The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on BaltimoreJewishLife.com