The Torah Podcast Transcript
061 – The Torah Podcast – How To Know Your Place – Identity and Success – https://globalyeshiva.com
Torah Portion of the Week – Korach
The Parsha starts out with the rebellion of Korach and 250 men. The verse says that they said this to Moshe and Aaron. “You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire community they are all holy. And God is in their midst. And why do you lift yourselves up and above the community of God? Rav Hirsch explains that they were saying that everybody is holy. Each one of the 600,000 members of the community is holy, and therefore close to God. We don’t require any priests. Neither Moshe or Aaron is required. Thus, the whole position of Moshe and Aaron is a presumption based on falsehood. That’s what they were claiming. So, Moses said to Korach, “Then you and your whole company shall come before God. You and they, and also Aaron tomorrow.” They were supposed to come in the morning. “And let each one of you come and bring your pan and place incense on it.”
We know what happened. They came and the earth opened up its mouth, and swallowed them all. Rav Wolbe brings the Midrash which Rashi brings which explains the possuk as to why does it say, “In the morning Hashem will make known the one who is his own, and holy one.” Why davka, specifically, in the morning? Also, just like Korach cannot change morning into night, he also can’t change who God appoints to be the Cohen. The Midrash is telling us that the appointment of Aaron being the Cohen is like a creation, just like God created day and night, He created Aaron to be the Cohen. It’s not something that changes. God decided. The world is not a free for all that Korach can decide what’s going to be. God decides. God makes the rules. God will decide who is the priest, based on His criteria.
The Malbim explains that, “God will choose on one of three criteria: the innate fittingness of the soul – some souls,” he says, “Are carved from a higher place than others. And more rooted in holiness, and more receptive to holiness. Each soul has its own weight and level, only known to God.” And that’s why Moshe said, “God will make known the one who is His.” In other words, intrinsically this person was chosen for this position.
Another criteria could be personal achievement, that even though the person’s not on a level but because they worked so hard, they grew on their own. That’s why the verse says, “The holy one who drew close to Him.” The one who worked. But it could be just because God elected the person to do that, because he finds favor in God’s eyes. And that’s why the verse said, “Whom he chooses,” that God Himself will decide on one of these criteria, who is going to be the leader. And Korach wanted to break that down. He said, “Everybody is holy.” But the Malbim points out that Korach himself had a contradiction in his thinking, because he was claiming that Levi is a special tribe. He wanted to be the Cohen, but he admitted that there was Leviim and they were special. So, we see that he was off base. He was involved in his own personal interests. But even more than that, Korach was trying to uproot the entire Torah.
The Brisker Rav explains, Korach called into question the divine, absolute authority of the Torah and its laws, trying to reduce them to a code of rationalistic and adaptable rules. He wanted to say that the Torah was not from God. What were the questions he was asking? “Does a garment that’s entirely made out of blue need one blue string? Does a house full of books need a mezuzah?” saying, “You guys made this up yourselves.” That’s why God had to make another miracle that all the Jewish people should see it again. God opened up the mouth of the earth in order to re-establish the divinity of the Torah, because Korach was trying to break down all the rules. He was the ultimate leftist. He wanted to say, Everything goes. There are no rules. The only thing that’s forbidden is to say that something’s forbidden. That’s our world today that we live in. God-forbid somebody should say something is forbidden. Oh, that’s forbidden. Everything else goes. There are no rules. We’re all equal. Everybody’s the same. But that is not the way that God made the creation.
The Sefas Emes explains that all of the creation draws its chiyus, it’s life force, from Hashem. And there’s order to the entire creation. If you mess with the order in one place, it’s going to mess up the order in another place, because it’s all connected. It’s all connected to Hashem. And we’re not supposed to mess with the order of creation, because everything we change has repercussions in the heavens. What’s going on nowadays, they’re turning men into women and women into men, Black people into White people, White people into Black people. They’re messing with the creation. It’s ridiculous. They’re messing with reality. A man is a man. Just because a man has an operation, that makes him a woman? And who should be outraged by that? The women should be outraged by that. How can you call this man a woman? That’s not a woman. A woman is a divine and holy creature. That man who claims they’re a woman is a freak, he’s a freak of nature. This liberalism destroys the creation. It’s not the way that God created the world. We have to find our own identities, the way we were created, the way God created us. So, where is this crazy liberalism coming from, that it leads to that absurdum?
One of the qualities that Korach had was wealth, money. Since we live in such an affluent society, the rules start to break down, because people get arrogant. Chazal says that money gives a person a peh, it gives them a mouth. It gives them a mouth to the point that he starts to mess with the reality. He thinks he can change all the rules, even the rules of reality themselves. And for us in this case, Korach was trying to change the rules of the Jewish people. He was trying to play with the hierarchy of Cohenim and Leviim and Yisroel. The Ohr HaChayim says, “Anyone who tampers with even the precise order in which these details have been recorded in the Torah, it’s as if he’s uprooting that particular branch of holiness associated with the nature of his soul, therefore, turning the particular branch of holiness into something evil. If you try to play with the Torah, you’re taking holiness and you’re turning it into evil, he says. So, he explains that by playing with the order of society you could bring evil into the world. And that’s why Chazal tells us that Yaakov prayed that he shouldn’t be associated with Korach. He saw through ruach hakodesh, holy inspiration that in the future there was going to be a Korach and he said, “I don’t want to be associated with him, because he’s trying to change the nature of Jewish society. He’s saying everybody’s equal, everybody’s holy.” That’s true. But that doesn’t mean that everybody has the same position. That doesn’t mean everybody’s exactly the same, because this idea that everybody is exactly the same when taken to an extreme leads to sin. It leads to the breakdown of all rules. There’s no order, no organization, no teva, no nature. A man is a woman, a woman is a man. And it’s really just a way for people to free themselves up to do whatever the heck they want. That’s what Pharaoh, Pharaoh was the head of Mitzrayim, Egypt – Pharaoh means peruah, to let loose. Society should let loose. But we see that Korach himself, he wasn’t too loose. He was fighting pretty strong. These liberals who fight so strong for equal rights that are destroying society, but they’re fighting strong.
So, the Shem Mi Shmuel explains like this. The verses say that the fire emerged from God and consumed 250 men who had offered the incense. And then a couple of possukim later it says, “The fire pans of those who sinned against their souls make them into beaten plates, a cover for an altar.” We know that we took the fire pans which were made of brass, and we beat them out and we covered the altar with it. Very interesting, because usually the fire pans are made out of gold. In this case they were made out of brass, and we took these pans that they sinned with and we covered the altar with them for all the rest of the generations. Chazal tells us that gold represents fear, silver represents love, and brass represents strength. The verse in Yeshayahu says, “Your neck is as an iron sinew, and your forehead brass.” Brass means strength, which means the ability to fight, to stick to your position, which is what Korach did. That’s what they all did. In the end, they died because they stuck to the wrong position. Which one of the Avos, forefathers did brass represent? The Shemos Rabba tells us, “Gold is Avraham, Yitzhak is silver, and Yaakov is brass, strength.” We also know that Avraham was chessed, kindness, Yitzhak was din, judgement, and Yaakov was tiferes which is the balance between the two. Also by the Cohenim, the Cohenim are chessed, kindness. Leviim are din, judgement, and Yisroel is the balance between them. So, this quality of balance is the ability to balance between two opposite forces, and Yaakov Avinu had that quality. But so did Korach. He wanted to stand for his principles, but he was on a self-seeking mission, that was the problem. Yaakov when he created balance, it was for Hashem and Korach was creating balance, but he’s trying to create a balance for himself, with liberalism. It’s balance in the wrong direction. And therefore, Hashem made a memorial from these brass plates which represents balance and strength. He put them on the mizbeach, altar, in order to remember that we need to use our balance and strength for the right reasons, and not for the wrong reasons.
The possuk says, “A memorial for the Children of Israel so no strange man who is not from the seed of Aaron should draw near to offer at the entrance before God. He shall not be like Korach and his assembly.” I just want to end off with something that I heard from Rav Moshe Shapiro. He says, “We see this machlokes in the creation itself. On the first day of creation the upper waters and the lower waters were all one, but on the second day of creation Hashem separated them – machloches,” which is din. The first day is chessed, Hashem created the entire creation, and then there was din, he separated them. What happened on the third day? God pushed back the waters and made land, which is the balance between the two. That’s why it says, “Ki tov” twice on that day, it’s the balance. Yaakov – tiferes, because really what’s supposed to happen? The world was created at first with chessed, and then it was separated which is din, judgement. And the land which is based on tiferes, is the balance between those two things. In other words, really the waters are supposed to take over the land. Hashem made a chessed that he pushed the waters away, that man can exist. But that’s as long as man keeps the laws of the Torah, because if not, the whole world will go back to tohu vevohu, to be destroyed. That’s what happened at the time of Noach, the waters came back because people were sinning so the waters came back and covered all the land. But what happened in this case? The land opened up its mouth and swallowed Korach, because he wasn’t leshem shemayim. It’s true he was balanced, and it was true he was liberal, and he was trying to do the right thing. But he wasn’t doing it leshem shemayim, he was doing it without fear of God. He was doing it out of arrogance. So, the land came and swallowed him up. It’s like the lower waters took him away, because water has the quality of oneness. But there’s a oneness for the right reasons, and there’s a oneness for the wrong reasons. In other words, if you break down all the rules of society, it’s also a oneness. But then comes the lower waters and destroys the world. And that’s what happened to Korach. But God-forbid shouldn’t happen to us. Of course we’re liberal, of course we believe in human rights. Of course we believe in equal opportunity. But that’s not to come against the Torah which tells us what’s right and what’s wrong. There are rules. It’s not forbidden to say, “forbidden.” There’s fear of God. Not everything goes. A man can’t become a woman. A woman can’t become a man. It’s only from the wisdom in the Torah that man can really live. If man starts to go too much to the right, what happens? It becomes an oppressive society. And if he goes to the left, so if he goes too much to the left it becomes a decadent society. It’s only the balance, the middle, the Torah, that can tell us the right way to live. Yaakov Avinu, the balance between the two. It’s the Torah which teaches us to know our place and how to be successful.
A Powerful Parable
The Bamidbar Rabba tells us that Korach was in charge of the treasure house of Pharaoh. And when he left Mitzrayim he took all that wealth with him. But the possuk in Yirmyahu says, “So it is he who guarded the riches but not by right. He shall leave them in the midst of the days, and at his end he stands dishonored.” The question is, what did he do wrong? He happened to be the treasurer of Pharaoh, so when he left Mitzrayim he took all of Pharaoh’s stuff. The Maggid Mi Dubno explains this with a moshul, a parable.
One time there was a man who had a tavern. All the farmers at the end of the day would come and drink strong whisky by him. They would all come and they’d all get drunk. One time while they were drunk, another guy came in and tried to steal some of the money of the drunk guys. The owner of the tavern jumped up and grabbed the guy, and took the money away from him. He says, “Why are you attacking me? I’m not stealing from you.” He says, “Fool, if you steal from them they won’t have money to pay me for all the whisky they drank.” So too, when Korach took all of Pharaoh’s money, he was indirectly taking from Bnai Yisroel, because the verse says, “And they shall go out with a great fortune.” But that was subtracted from what Korach took from Pharaoh.
Great Stories – Rav Shach
The verse says, “Moshe heard and fell on his face.” So, the Midrash Rabba says that when Moshe heard that Korach accused him of exalting himself he said, “I do not seek to be king. Nor I do seek that my brother Aaron be Cohen HaGadol.”
One time there was this Torah scholar who disagreed with what Rav Shach wrote in his sefer, Avi Ezer. He wrote a letter to Rav Shach attacking him for his approach. In the letter he asked Rav Shach if he could publish this kasha, question, and his approach which answers the question in a different way. It’s obvious that he was saying that Rav Shach was wrong and he was right. What happens? A week later he gets a knock on his door, and it’s Rav Shach. Rav Shach comes in with a smile. He says to him, “I reviewed the entire matter which you wrote me. According to my approach, I’m right. I cannot however prove that your approach is incorrect. And by that way of thinking, you’re right. Therefore, I grant you permission to publish the letter.”
Peace in Your Home
Rav Simcha Cohen speaks about expressing and fulfilling your needs. What happens when a person is a kid? He has a lot of disappointments. A lot of his needs are not met, so he thinks that when he gets married, “Wow, now is my chance. All my needs are going to get met.” What happens? If the needs do not get met, then he really feels disappointed. He feels horrible. He thinks this is his last chance for happiness, and if his spouse is not living up to his standards, he has a lot of resentment towards her, because he thinks now this is the only person in the world who could fulfill my needs. What does the other person feel? “This is extortion. They’re making demands on me. It’s very difficult for me to fulfill this person’s needs, which don’t seem to be reality. They seem to be based on his past experience of what he wants. It has nothing to do with our lives now.”
The problem is that everybody’s measuring the other person’s needs by their own yardsticks. If you feel the same as your spouse, then you can understand why they have that need. But if you don’t personally feel that need, you don’t understand what they’re talking about. We have to know, each person is an individual. And each person has their own needs, needs that you don’t have – material needs, spiritual needs, emotional needs. And a lot of times maybe you even have the need but it’s dormant inside of you, it didn’t come out yet, where it’s active in your spouse. But if the needs don’t get met, there could be a lot of bitterness between the couple. Not only that, but if the person feels it’s like a basic need, they have no peace of mind. They really feel like they’re missing something in their lives. And therefore the person will go and try to get their needs met in a different place. The guy always eats by his parents’ house. He goes to his mother to eat meals. Or the wife always hangs out with friends. What’s going on there? That’s because they’re getting their needs met from somebody else. So, each spouse really needs to look at the other person for what they need, and stop looking at it from their own perspective. If you really understand how much the other person needs that, it will take down the burden that you feel to give it. But a lot of times, one partner cannot express their needs, because they’re not even aware of their own needs. And even if they do express it, so the other person feels like it’s petty, and it’s a burden on them. Or it’s beneath their dignity to give it to you.
So, a person has to become aware of their needs, and when they express their needs they have to do it in a soft, easy way because if you ask for your needs in a harsh way, you’re surely never going to get them met. Now, these needs are the things that put people together. It’s the needs that creates the relationship, the relationship is based on needs. But sometimes a person feels that a certain need is so basic, that they shouldn’t have to ask for it at all. Isn’t it obvious that I need that? And if the person gives it to you, you don’t have to thank them, because you deserve that. It’s basic, right?
But that’s not true either. If the spouse has that attitude, it makes it very difficult for the other person to give to them. They think it’s basic, they don’t have to say thank you. It’s obvious. But you have to become conscious of where you are feeling those feelings, that things are basic and obvious, because maybe they’re not so basic and obvious. But really, a person has hundreds of needs, and some of them are dormant and some of them are active. And depending on the stage of life, they change.
He gives an example of an educated woman who married a man who was intelligent, but he was not educated. She had a need to teach, to be a giver. He had a need to have this smart wife who could tell him everything. What happened? If the husband goes out and he gets an education, the needs change. I don’t need my wife to educate me, and he doesn’t need to be educated. Or a woman who marries a man to get self-esteem, she has a low self-esteem and he gives her a lot of self-esteem. Then he builds her up, now she no longer has a need for self-esteem. She doesn’t need him anymore, and he doesn’t get the satisfaction of helping her, because she doesn’t need him. So, the people have to rebuild the relationship on new needs. Sometimes there’s conflicting needs. In other words, the woman needs her husband to be able to tell her her problems, and the husband has a need to help her. So, he helps her. What starts to happen? It becomes a burden. All of her problems become a burden, because he really doesn’t know how to listen with a sympathetic ear. So, on one side he wants to help her, and she needs help, but he can’t take helping her because she’s complaining all day.
The point is, you have to find the needs and you have to communicate the needs, because the whole relationship is based on that. He gives three pieces of advice to get going in the right direction. First of all, compliments. Everybody needs compliments, so giving compliments to your family is definitely going to fulfill a need. A second one is respect. Everybody needs respect. Give them respect. You’re fulfilling the need of the other person. And a third piece of advice is to listen to each other, because everybody wants to be heard.
Okay, that’s it for this week’s Torah podcast. I hope you enjoyed it, and please share it with your friends.