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Shabbat Schedule: Friday -Shabbat, July 8-9
Torah Reading: Korach (Numbers 16:1 - 18:32)
Haftorah: Samuel I 11:14 - 12:22
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 4
Learn more about Pirkei Avot here

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Shabbat Ends: 9:18 PM
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Bribing G‑d?
Moses’ confrontation with Korach, who revolted against Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership, included the following exchange between Moses and G‑d.
“Don’t turn to their gift-offering. I have not taken a donkey from a single one of them, and I have not wronged a single one of them.”
Commentators raise several questions concerning Moses’ plea to G‑d:
First, why would Moses need to ask G‑d not to accept their offerings? If Moses was so confident about the righteousness of his role and the utterly objectionable nature of Korach’s rebellion, why would he think that they could “bribe” G‑d with their offerings?
Second, what did Moses mean by saying that he had not taken anything from them? What would have been so terribly wrong if he had? We can understand that Moses’ not taking anything from them pointed to his righteousness and their evil for not appreciating his selflessness. But what is the connection between taking or not taking have to do with his request that G‑d refuse their offering?
Korach’s Sincerity?
One can answer the first question by considering Moses’ view of himself. In an earlier parsha G‑d Himself told us that Moses was the most humble man on the face of the earth. Being so humble, Moses might have thought that while his cause was objectively just and consonant with G‑d’s will, he, subjectively speaking, might not be as sincere as he ought to be. Perhaps he was seeking honor, albeit subconsciously, thus tainting the virtue of his position. In contrast, Moses thought, Korach and his cohorts might actually be sincere in their quest for more power simply because they believed more power meant more access to the Divine.
Moses pleaded with G‑d that He not look at their offerings. In doing so, Moses asked G‑d not to pay attention to their intention of wanting to get closer to G‑d. To be sure, our feelings are crucial and an integral part of our service to G‑d. However, Moses knew that G‑d wants, first and foremost, that we conform to His objective truth. In this case, G‑d wanted Moses and Aaron to be the leaders of the Jewish people and He did not want anyone to challenge their position, even though “the entire nation [meaning every Jew] is holy and G‑d is within them,” as Korach argued.
By saying “Do not accept their offerings” Moses asked G‑d to ignore their quest for greater access, even if it was sincere, and overlook his possible, but unlikely, subconscious lack of absolute sincerity.
Alternatively, Moses was suggesting to G‑d that in truth Korach and his supporters were not sincere in their desire to get closer to G‑d; they really only wanted the secular power of leadership. Not only was their demand contrary to G‑d’s will, their motives were suspect.
“Why Do They Hate Me; I Never Helped Them!”
The second question, however, still remains. What did Moses mean when he said he did not take anything from the Korach group?
The answer, one suggests, is that if Moses had accepted gifts from them his judgment could have been clouded.
However, this answer flies in the face of logic. If Moses’ judgment had been affected by receiving something from them, the effect would have been opposite. Feeling that he owed them something, Moses would have leaned to their side of the dispute. Why would not taking a bribe from them make him more confident that his opposition to them was unbiased?
The answer lies in a deeper understanding of human nature. When a person is on the receiving end of a favor it creates a sense of “I owe him something.” To be beholden to another renders a person a debtor and no one likes to be indebted. The Talmud shows how reluctance to become a debtor translates into practical law.
This explains a comment made by the famed Halachic authority of the 19th century, the Chasam Sofer, who was puzzled by the negative sentiment of one of his community members towards him. “I don’t know why he resents me so,” the Chasam Sofer asked rhetorically. “I never did him any favors.”
Sometimes taking a gift can cloud your judgment of the gift giver, hence the impropriety and illegality of bribes, but sometimes it can be the other way around. Giving something to another might actually turn the recipient against his benefactor. Consider if you will the rueful jest that “no good deed goes unpunished.”
Moreover, the reason some might resent being a recipient of a gift is based on false pride. Many people do not want to be viewed as needing someone else’s kindness; it makes them feel like a schnorer. Most people prefer to be givers rather than takers. Rendering others as takers can create hostility toward the benefactor for stripping the recipient of pride and dignity.
At this point we might ask why it is so that giving a gift can elicit opposite responses from people. In one person the gift can generate a sense of gratitude and closeness; in another it provokes a sense of unwanted indebtedness, maybe even shame and indignation, at being a recipient.
The differences arise from the ego. A person whose ego is in check will always appreciate the gifts of G‑d and others and show gratitude for them. On the other hand, persons whose ego is inflated can respond to a gift with resentment caused by a bruised ego.
Moses, in his humility, states to G‑d that, even if he had had an inflated ego, he had no reason to personally begrudge them the position of leadership because they had not bruised it. Korach and his allies hadn’t done anything “nice” for Moses that might have caused him to resent them.
Three Refutations
Based on the above analysis it appears that Moses was giving three reasons to refute any possible merit in Korach’s rebellion:
The first reason they might use to “justify” the rebellion is that they were sincere about getting close to G‑d. To counter that argument, Moses pleads with G‑d “not to turn to their offerings.” The meaning of “turning” here is that G‑d should focus on the objective truth and not turn away from that focus to consider the positive feelings of a rebel. Moses beseeched G‑d not to accept the argument that although they are rebelling against G‑d’s wishes, at least they are sincere in their quest to get closer to G‑d.
The second argument to “justify” the rebellion is that Moses might have been insulted by their actions and responded with a personal vendetta. To allay the suggestion that he might be upset that they put him in a position of a taker, tainting his intentions and making him less sincere than his detractors (e.g., while they wanted to get close to G‑d, he wanted to avenge his bruised dignity and honor), Moses stated that he was not, in fact, a taker.
The third possible rationale for the rebellion against Moses was that he had wronged one of them and the attack on his leadership was a justified retaliation. To counter this, Moses concludes with the words, “and I have not wronged a single one of them.” This statement was designed to dispel the suggestion that his position of leadership was being challenged because he wronged one of them and this was his retribution.
Paragon of Truth
In summation, Moses did not possess even the slightest tinge of desire to pursue personal honor. Moses was the paragon of truth and, as our Sages teach us, in the end Korach and his sons declare: “Moses is true and his Torah is true and we are the liars.” The reason for the repetition is that they acknowledged that truth defined Moses in terms of his subjective character as well as the objective aspect of his teachings.
Some people teach Torah truthfully but lack sincerity. Others are totally sincere but teach a distorted Torah. Moses combined Torah truth with complete sincerity.
Geulah: Synthesis of Objective and Subjective Truth
One of the casualties of Galus is the lack of subjective and objective truth. While Torah was, is and will ever be consistent and the ultimate transmitter of truth, there is still a problem with the way Torah is understood subjectively. Galus-tainted minds may learn a section of the Torah but distort its meaning. The Torah could describe certain behaviors as an abomination, for example, but there will be some who attempt to explain away the prohibition and assert that it no longer applies in our modern day and age.
This is like the Talmud’s description of one who can find 150 ways of proving that a sheretz-a dead rodent is ritually pure contrary to the Torah’s explicit statement of impurity concerning eight types of rodents.
This teaches us that the objective truth can be compromised in Galus.
But, Galus also affects the subjective way in which we approach the Torah’s teachings, even when we do not distort their essential meaning. It is true that our Sages declared that the deed, i.e., the act of the Mitzvah, is the essential thing. Moreover, they asserted that one should perform a mitzvah even if it was for ulterior motives. Nevertheless, the ideal is for us to perform the Mitzvos with integrity, sincerity and profound inner feelings. The objective truth of Torah and Mitzvos should be augmented with subjective truth.
Moshiach is a leader who, like Moses, epitomizes Torah in its most unadulterated form; combining objective truth of Torah and subjective truth. The Geulah, which Moshiach will inaugurate, will therefore expose the truth of Torah to the world. Nobody will be able or desire to distort it. In addition, we will learn Torah and perform Mitzvos with unmitigated truth and sincerity. The synthesis between objective truth and subjective truth will be complete.
Moshiach Matters:
"Every Jew's soul is an actual part of G‑d. Therefore, in the Era of the Resurrection when the essential
G‑dliness that pervades every dimension of our existence will be revealed, this holiness - the fundamental vitality present in every Jew - will emerge. Our material world will then be G‑d's dwelling. Just as a person reveals the innermost dimensions of his personality only in his own home, so too the essence of G‑dliness - those dimensions of His Being that transcend even spiritual existence - will be revealed in our material world."