Friday, June 23, 2017

Parsha Korach, story, Israeli Cancer Cure plus

Parsha Korach

Anybody who follows both the Parsha and the Ness sees that time after time people and politicians make the same mistake. It is always as the Israeli saying goes, “The same lady with different make-up.” In our Parsha, we get the sense that this time it is similar to the complaints of “only Mann” and not meat, watermelon, cucumbers, etc. or the “land that eats up its people” now it is “we are all a holy nation”. (As for peace negotiations see historical notes after the Parsha. *)

Not all men are created equal. The Torah does have some elements of socialism such as leaving the corner of the field or the forgotten sheaf for the poor to gleam. However, sometimes the Torah goes on the merits of the fathers. We started out with three sons of Noach. Shem became the spiritual leader. Yacov had twelve sons both Yosef and Yehuda showed signs of ruling while Reuven, the Bechor failed. Levi and sons were teachers in Egypt and spiritual leaders and by this merit they because the spiritual leaders of the future. When the Maccabees tried to rule it ended in dismal failure and they all died out. It does not matter that between 4-500 years ago I had a grandfather who was a Cohain or my grandfather on my mother’s side was a Levi, I am neither! However, being from Yehuda, I can manage or be a politician.

Korach’s mistakes were to rebel against Moshe in the first place. Secondly, he wanted to usurp the priestly role and thirdly involving other tribes such as Reuven and Gad who did not have the merits for this.

16:1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; 2 and they rose up in face of Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty men; they were princes of the congregation, the elect men of the assembly, men of renown;

Being a prince was not enough for them, they wanted the priesthood too. They talked socialistic like Kahuna for all. But in reality they wanted to be special.

3 and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them: 'Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them; wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?'

They did not come to physically help in an altruistic manner but to usurp.

4 And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face.

For a Tachanun Prayer against them. For Moshe and Aaron were appointed by HASHEM and now a rebellion.

5 And he spoke unto Korah and unto all his company, saying: 'In the morning the LORD will show who are His, and who is holy, and will cause him to come near unto Him; even him whom He may choose will He cause to come near unto Him. 6 This do: take you censors, Korah, and all his company; 7 and put fire therein, and put incense upon them before the LORD to-morrow; and it shall be that the man whom the LORD doth choose, he shall be holy; ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi.' 8 And Moses said unto Korah: 'Hear now, ye sons of Levi: 9 is it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them; 10 and that He hath brought thee near, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee? and will ye seek the priesthood also?

As Leviim, you have been chosen by HASHEM why do you need more? But it is also a reminder that they are only Leviim and not Cohanim.

20 And the LORD spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying: 21 'Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.' 22 And they fell upon their faces, and said: 'O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt Thou be wroth with all the congregation?'

HASHEM is wroth with the entire congregation as although the main instigators are 250 people, the rest did nothing to stop them. This was true with the Egel HaZahav where only 3000 people out of millions participated.

At this point HASHEM listens to Aaron and Moshe and asks that the congregation separate themselves from these wicked individuals. The wife of Peleg Ben On ploys him with drink and combs her hair at the entrance of the tent and he does not participate which saves his life in the end. She was a wise woman who saw through their plot. The sons of Korach reasoned that if Moshe was correct why should they die and if their father was correct, then they would win out. With a win-win situation, they stayed out of the dispute.

26 And he spoke unto the congregation, saying: 'Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be swept away in all their sins.' 27 So they got them up from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side; and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood at the door of their tents, with their wives, and their sons, and their little ones. 28 And Moses said: 'Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works, and that I have not done them of mine own mind. 29 If these men die the common death of all men, and be visited after the visitation of all men, then the LORD hath not sent Me. 30 But if the LORD make a new thing, and the ground open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down alive into the pit, then ye shall understand that these men have despised the LORD.'

He warns them that an earthquake and sink hole will swallow the men alive.

31 And it came to pass, as he made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground did cleave asunder that was under them. 32 And the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. 33 So they, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit; and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the assembly. 34 And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them; for they said: 'Lest the earth swallow us up.' 35 And fire came forth from the LORD, and devoured the two hundred and fifty men that offered the incense.

Unlike all rebellions against HASHEM, the punishment went further. This time it went in the midst of their behavior and swifter as this was against HIS faithful servant.

17:1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying:  … 5 to be a memorial unto the children of Israel, to the end that no common man, that is not of the seed of Aaron, draw near to burn incense before the LORD; that he fare not as Korah, and as his company; as the LORD spoke unto him by the hand of Moses.

Just last week one very righteous person who is in the conversion process posted on Facebook about a family member asking for an incense burner. I noted that it is forbidden except to teach young Cohanim how to make incense all the more so burn. A year had passed since I last read this and I had forgotten completely the reason. I only remembered it was forbidden.

6 But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying: 'Ye have killed the people of the LORD.' 7 And it came to pass, when the congregation was assembled against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tent of meeting; and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared.

Logic defies me for this rebellion was on emotional issues only. They did not learn from all the miracles and Makkos in Mitzrayim or at the sea! They did not learn from the feeding of them meat for a month! They did not learn from Miriam or the Spies nor did they learn from Korach! This time prayer was not enough to save them for they had just gone too far and the plague had started.

8 And Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting. 9 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 10 'Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.' And they fell upon their faces. 11 And Moses said unto Aaron: 'Take thy fire-pan, and put fire therein from off the altar, and lay incense thereon, and carry it quickly unto the congregation, and make atonement for them; for there is wrath gone out from the LORD: the plague is begun.' … 14 Now they that died by the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, besides them that died about the matter of Korah. 15 And Aaron returned unto Moses unto the door of the tent of meeting, and the plague was stayed.

This was a gift to Moshe from the Angel of Death that the Cohain with the incense could stop him from carrying out the Gezaira.

16 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 17 'Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of them rods, one for each fathers' house, of all their princes according to their fathers' houses, twelve rods; thou shalt write every man's name upon his rod. 18 And thou shalt write Aaron's name upon the rod of Levi, for there shall be one rod for the head of their fathers' houses. 19 And thou shalt lay them up in the tent of meeting before the testimony, where I meet with you. 20 And it shall come to pass, that the man whom I shall choose, his rod shall bud; and I will make to cease from Me the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against you.' … 23 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and put forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and bore ripe almonds. 24 And Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD unto all the children of Israel; and they looked, and took every man his rod.

Finally an end to the controversy.

18:1 And the LORD said unto Aaron: 'Thou and thy sons and thy fathers' house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary; and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood. … and ye shall serve; I give you the priesthood as a service of gift; and the common man that draws nigh shall be put to death.'… 11 And this is thine: the heave-offering of their gift, even all the wave-offerings of the children of Israel; I have given them unto thee, and to thy sons and to thy daughters with thee, as a due for ever; every one that is clean in thy house may eat thereof. 12 All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the corn, the first part of them which they give unto the LORD, to thee have I given them. 13 The first-ripe fruits of all that is in their land, which they bring unto the LORD, shall be thine; every one that is clean in thy house may eat thereof. 14 Every thing devoted in Israel shall be thine. 15 Everything that opens the womb, of all flesh which they offer unto the LORD, both of man and beast, shall be thine; howbeit the first-born of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem.

The gifts and Teruma to the Cohain are stated here to remind the people of the separation of holiness.

*Like in our Parsha – Peace Negotiations are repeating themselves. In 1956 after the Sinai Campaign it was Secretary of State John Forster Dulles who said, “Why can’t the Jews and the Arabs get together like good Christian Gentlemen” (For example the bloodshed which would occur in Northern Ireland.) Around 1970 Secretary of State William Rogers came up with a “Plan”. Then Kissinger allowed us with Golda Meir to be attacked in the Yom Kippur War. Under Reagan or Bush there was the International Peace Conference. Clinton had the Peace Negotiations and Wye Plantation. Barak, Olmert, Obama – Clinton – Kerry pressure. Now at the time of writing this is the Negotiations of Trump. THERE WILL BE NO PEACE UNTIL MOSHIACH WHEN THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD ARE JUDGED!

Some with the hand by Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles

I moved from Binghamton to Brooklyn in 1972 in order to work with Meir Abehsera (of blessed memory) on his publications, and also to study some Torah in a more formal context. As I was employed during the day, I could only attend yeshiva classes at night.

I went one evening to visit the Chabad yeshiva for baalei tshuvah (returnees to Judaism without a strong Torah background), called "Hadar HaTorah," located in the Crown Heights district of Brooklyn. The rabbi in charge received me graciously and showed me where the two nightly beginners' classes in English were held. He advised me to sample each one.

The first was a class in Talmud, taught by a young married graduate of the yeshiva; the other was in Jewish Law, taught by an old-looking chasid with a strong Russian accent and lots of Yiddish syntax. Both classes took place during the same hours. After my second evening, the head rabbi asked me at the end of the evening which one I preferred.

I answered honestly: I wanted to learn Talmud, and would much prefer to do so with the old rabbi. To my amazement, by the next night it was already arranged.

The class never had more than five students, and sometimes only two.* I attended for several years, and considered myself blessed from Heaven to be able to do so. Now, forty years later, I am still influenced by those sessions with Rabbi Abba Pliskin, who it turned out was one of the more venerated elder chasidim in all of Lubavitch, although you would never guess so by his modest demeanor and behavior (and his diminutive 150 cm./4' 9-10" height). It is for the sake of introducing him to you that I have gone through this lengthy preamble.

In late summer of 1973 I became engaged, and the wedding was set for Kislev 21 on the Jewish calendar (that year: Dec. 15). Exactly three weeks before our date, on the eve of Rosh Chodesh Kislev, two good friends of ours were set to get married, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in front of Lubavitch World Headquarters. My in-laws to-be surprised me by saying they would like to come down from Yonkers (the first city north of NYC, adjoining the Bronx) for the ceremony, in order to expose themselves to what a Chasidic wedding would be like.

Weddings in that location had an unusual feature. The window of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's office faced the street, and a large wooden platform was temporarily erected in front of the window so that the Rebbe could view the ceremony, if he so wished.

The evening of the wedding, after the ceremony was over, I noticed that 'Rav Abba' was still standing in front of the platform. I decided it would be positive -and interesting! -to present to my in-laws to be this old-world Chasid who spent nearly twenty years being pursued by the NKVD (forerunner of the KGB), a consequence of his legendary dedication to Torah-true Jewish education. He managed to escape Russia in 1947, and went on to be one of the founding fathers of the highly successful Chabad community in Melbourne, Australia, before eventually moving to New York and becoming a gabbai (manager) of the 770 shul.

So I did it, and what I was afraid would happen, happened. My mother-in-law-to-be gracefully extended her hand for R. Abba to shake. Then she realized her faux pas - chasidim don't shake with the opposite gender. She was embarrassed. So was her husband. And so was I. And R. Abba...he saved the day. Calmly, he pronounced: "Some shake mit der hands; I shake mit mine heart." Instantly, sadness became joy as big smiles appeared on all faces.

But that's not the end of the story.

I mentioned that I had noticed Rav Abba still at the wedding platform after the ceremony was over. What caught my eye was I happened to see from a distance that the bride's elderly grandmother (great aunt?) was the last one on the platform, and the reason clearly was that she was having difficulty descending on the steep rickety metal step to the ground. I was feeling bad for her. If others saw, they probably felt so too. Not R. Abba. He didn't bother with feelings; he took action instead. He darted over and extended his hand for her to clasp and be helped down!

Now, put together the two episodes of the hands that evening and you have a true glimpse of what is a pious Jew and a Chasid.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yisrael-Abba (HaKohen?) Pliskin [of blessed memory: 5665 (or 5667) - 27 Sivan 5756 (1905 - June 1996] spent nearly twenty years in hiding from the NKVD (forerunner of the KGB), a consequence of his absolute dedication to helping Torah-true Jewish education survive in Communist Russia. He managed to emigrate in 1947, and after a brief period in Paris went on to be one of the founding fathers of the highly successful Chabad community it Melbourne, Australia, before eventually moving to New York and becoming a gabbai (manager) of the "770" shul and a teacher in the English-language yeshiva for young men without strong Torah backgrounds. (For more details)

Connection: 21st yahrzeit of Rav Abba.

* Editor's note: Old-time Tsfat residents may be amazed to know that one faithful attendee was Shabtai Coben of blessed memory. He even brought Rav Abba to speak to his mother, to calm her about her son's new religiosity.

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Good Shabbos and Good Chodesh Tammuz,

Rachamim Pauli