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Friday, June 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Chukas (Korach, really)

Today, 9 Teves, is the yahrtzeit of my sister-in-law, Batsheva Yeres. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Batsheva Blima, a"h bas HaRav Moshe Yosef HaLevi, ybl"t.

On this occasion, I am choosing to do something somewhat unconventional – jump back to last week's parsha for a thought that I feel is most apropos for the day.

When Korach and his entourage meet their demise, the pasuk (16:33) recounts that he and his closest cohorts went down alive, were covered by the earth and vanished from the midst of the congregation. The last phrase of this pasuk seems superfluous and is the subject of discussion amongst many commentaries. Certainly, given what the Torah has just described, they vanished from the rest of the nation. What are the words vayovedu mitoch hakahal adding?

Ibn Ezra comments very briefly that since their children met the same fate, (with the obvious exclusion of Korach himself,) they disappeared completely without leaving any progeny to carry on their name.

Ramban, in addition to quoting Ibn Ezra, adds that the pasuk is speaking of the spontaneity of the events and that in such a brief moment, no one was even aware of the whereabouts of these men since they were instantly swallowed up in the earth.

Netziv, in Haamek Davar, goes into just a little more detail to focus on the consequence of this reality being recorded in the Torah. When someone passes away and is buried per the way of the world, although they are no longer with us, there is significance in knowing exactly where they are. It allows the living to maintain some connection to the deceased, such that those individuals are no longer alive, still would not be considered to have vanished from our midst. This was not the case with Korach's men who were swallowed by the earth. Even though the general location of this event is known, these individuals do not have their own marked graves to allow for this physical connection. This fate is certainly worth noting, in addition to simple facts of what transpired.

I would add to Netziv's thought that the burial place might indeed help to maintain a connection to the deceased in somewhat of a physical sense. But there are other ways to maintain that connection in a more spiritual sense through all of the virtues and the good deeds that the deceased had managed to bring to this world while they were still among the living. If we continue to be inspired by their deeds and accomplishments and incorporate them into our own lives, we are further able to feel as though they are still besoch hakahal.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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