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Torah for the Times

Torah for the Times

The Missing Link

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Shabbat Schedule:  Friday- Shabbat, June 23-24
Torah Reading :  Korach: Numbers 16:1 - 18:32
Haftora:  Shabbat Rosh Chodesh: Numbers 28:9-15 
Shabbat Candle Lighting: 8:13 PM
Shabbat Ends: 9:22 PM 
 Pirkei Avot - Chapter 4
For more on Pirkei Avot, insights and commentaries, click here 


What Did They Accuse Moses of?
Korach’s rebellion began with his gathering of 250 leaders and then proclaiming before them to Moses and Aaron:
“You have gone too far. All the people in the community are holy, and G‑d is within them. Why are you setting yourselves above G‑d’s congregation?”
Moses’ immediate response is recorded thus:
“When Moses heard this he fell on his face.”
Moses was accustomed to rebellion. But this act of rebellion floored him.
Rashi explains that this was the fourth major act of rebellion and that’s why it affected Moses so strongly.
However, the Aramaic Midrashic translation of the Torah, known as Targum Yonason, provides the following extraordinary commentary:
When Moses heard how each of them accused their wives of committing adultery with Moses and wanted them to drink the bitter waters [that would miraculously determine if the woman was guilty] he fell to the ground.”
How in the world could anyone in his right mind accuse Moses of engaging in adultery; a capital violation and one of the Ten Commandments? Even trouble makers and rabble rousers have to anchor their falsehoods with some modicum of rationality and believability for their complaints to be considered legitimate. Who in his right mind could entertain the idea that Moses was guilty of adultery, and with multitudes of women no less?
Moses the Judge and Counselor
The (19th century) work Nachlas Yehoshua proposes a simple, but seemingly inadequate, explanation:
Moses was the chief justice of the Sanhedrin.  While his father-in-law Yisro counseled him to delegate responsibility for the routine and simple cases to other judges, Moses reserved judgment of the more complex cases for himself. Only he was qualified to judge them.
Now, there were many women who had issues with their husbands and needed rabbinic counseling and guidance. Because these were extremely private and sensitive matters, many of the women felt uncomfortable in bringing these matters to the attention of lower level judges. They would only trust Moses, the acknowledged man of G‑d. Moreover, as G‑d’s chosen messenger, they believed that he was uniquely able to give them, unbiased and unvarnished Divine guidance.
As a result of Moses’ frequent meetings with their wives, the husbands’ ire was aroused as well as their suspicion that something untoward happened during these meetings. If the husbands were truly embroiled in domestic disputes, their accusations against Moses served a dual purpose; they denigrated Moses, against whom the husbands harbored grudges based upon what they considered to be his elitist position, and it also embarrassed their wives.
While this might be a good explanation for the pretext of an accusation; it is simply incredible that otherwise sane people would impute this degree of impropriety to Moses. Moses, after all was the quintessential G‑dly man. He was the liberator of all Jews; he dwelt on Mount Sinai for three separate 40 day periods of no eating or drinking; he gave us the Torah and he was also the most humble and G‑dly of all humans to have ever lived!
We are therefore compelled to conclude that while there might have been some utterly debased individuals who could believe that Moses would sink so low, the larger number of his accusers were, in all likelihood, referring to adultery in a figurative sense.
We also have to understand the connection between the accusation of adultery and Korach’s statement that all Jews are equal and that Moses placed himself above everyone else? That accusation is about Moses’ supposed arrogance, whereas what floored Moses was the accusation of adultery.
Spiritual Adultery
Where do we find the concept of adultery used metaphorically?
The Talmud invokes adultery when it discusses the law that one may not teach Torah to a non-Jew.
[It should be noted that there are exceptions to this rule. First and foremost a prospective convert may study Torah to know what he or she will be required to observe upon conversion. Second, a non-Jew is actually required to study the laws pertaining to the Seven Noahide commandments that were given to all of humanity. Indeed, the Talmud states that a non-Jew who studies the parts of Torah that deal with his laws is superior to the High Priest entering into the Holy of Holies of the Holy Temple! Third, according to many opinions, the restriction applies only to the Oral Torah. However, non-Jews may learn the Written Torah, i.e., Biblical scripture.]
The Talmud bases this restriction on a Biblical verse: “The Torah was commanded to us by Moses, as an inheritance to the assembly of Jacob.” Now, the word for inheritance in Hebrew is morasha. With a slight change of the vowels it can read, “m’urasa,” which means betrothed or married. In other words, the Torah is not just a body of knowledge given to the Jewish people; it is their bride. And one may not take the bride of his fellow for himself. Hence teaching Torah to those for whom it was not intended is a subtle form of adultery.
All Equal or Else
If we were to apply this logic to the way Korach and his cohorts viewed Moses one might suggest the following to explain why they accused him of adultery:
Korach argued for the equality of the Jewish people when he declared, “For the entire nation are all holy.” Rashi explains that his argument was that all of the Jewish people heard the Almighty give the Torah at Mount Sinai. Hence all of the Torah is betrothed to every Jew.
This raises an immediate question. How can the Torah be betrothed to more than one person? In Jewish law a woman who is married to one man may not marry another without being released from her first marriage through divorce or death. How then could more than one Jew study Torah if we were to take the marriage metaphor seriously?
The answer was provided by none other than Korach himself. All the Jews heard G‑d speak to them and give them the Torah simultaneously. All Jews therefore are part of one people. We are one unit and therefore one spouse, and we are collectively married to the Torah.
“Aha,” intimated Korach, if you, Moses, consider yourself above and beyond the masses, and if everyone is not equal then either we are all committing adultery for having taken the Torah to whom you were betrothed or you are committing adultery by way of your association with Torah. And since, we didn’t place ourselves above you, then you Moses and Aaron have separated yourselves from the community and have no right to claim Torah for yourselves; it is adultery!
Connected to the Unifying Brain
How do we refute their claim?
The truth is that Korach was correct in asserting that all Jews are equal for having heard G‑d speak to them at Mount Sinai. Yet, he was wrong to challenge Moses’ and Aaron’s unique status.
The relationship of Moses, and by extension other great Jewish leaders throughout history, to the rest of the people is like the relationship of the brain to the body. No one will deny that the brain is “head and shoulders” (pun intended) above the rest of the body.  Yet its superiority is not because it is detached from the body but precisely because it is the life-force of the entire body. It guides and controls every aspect of our lives. Its greatness lies in its connection to and unity with every cell of our bodies.
Similarly, Moses’ greatness was that he was and is the ultimate unifier of all the Jewish people because of his unparalleled connection with them.
If anyone could be accused of “adultery” it would be those people who severed themselves from Moses and subsequent authentic Jewish leaders. To be part of one cohesive organism that is betrothed to the Torah, one must be connected to the brain souls.
Moshiach Unites and Strengthens our Marriage to Torah
Galus-exile refers, first and foremost, to the dispersion of the Jewish people throughout the world. However, the physical fragmentation of the Jewish people is also a manifestation of the lack of cohesion on the spiritual level.
Because of the lack of unity that characterizes our existence in Galus, our Torah learning is also compromised. If one can commit adultery in a subtle form by separating himself from the community or by not having a close connection to the Moses of the generation, then Galus is the ultimate form of degradation. Even our Torah learning can be tainted with “adultery.”
One of Moshiach’s roles is to bring perfection and integrity to Torah. In addition, Moshiach is the one who will gather all Jews from all parts of the world and bring them to the Land of Israel. This will bring all Jews together both geographically and spiritually. These two functions are intertwined. When we are unified under the banner of Moshiach our Torah learning will be free of any of the Galus tainted subtleties.
In preparation for this time, the Rebbe issued a directive to study Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, whereby we learn the same thing daily throughout the world..
This, the Rebbe stated, unites all Jews through Torah.
It may be suggested that when we bring unity to the Jewish people through unity in Torah study, our unity then reciprocates and removes the subtle stigma of adultery from our Torah study.
The strongest form of Jewish unity is achieved through Torah unity. And by removing separation from the community we all become one spouse to the Torah.
Moshiach Matters:
A man's spiritual labors should be imbued with a constant yearning for the Redemption, in the spirit of the phrase, "I await his coming every day." Our Sages taught, "What is the light that the House of Israel is awaiting? -- It is the light of Mashiach." Thus, too, they taught, "When a man is led into the Heavenly Court he is asked, '...Did you yearn for the Redemption?' " So since one is obliged to serve G‑d constantly, all day long, it is clear that this hopeful anticipation should likewise be constant, all day long.