Torah Fax
Friday, June 15, 2007 - 29 Sivan, 5767

Torah Reading: Korach (Numbers 16:1 - 18:32)
Candle Lighting: 8:10 PM
Shabbat ends: 9:20 PM
Pirkei Avot Chapter 4

Rosh Chodesh Tammuz is Shabbat and Sunday, June 16 & 17

How Now Red Cow

Our Parshah tells us how Korach started a rebellion against his cousins Moses and Aaron. In the end, not only did he and all his cohorts fail in their conspiracy, but they were actually swallowed up by the earth.
The question that is asked by virtually all of the Biblical commentators is: how could Korach who was a wise man and a distinguished personality in his own right do such a foolish thing? After all, Moses was personally chosen by G‑d to bring the teachings of the Torah to them. How could Korach claim that Moses did not speak in G‑d's name so shortly after he and all the Jews witnessed G‑d saying to Moses at Sinai to be the one to transmit His teachings to the Jewish people?
It seems that this is what the Midrash had in mind when it asks: "What did Korach see that motivated him to rebel against Moses?" The Midrash most likely meant that it made no sense for Korach to have been so foolish as to create a baseless, doomed rebellion.
The Midrash provides a rather cryptic answer. The Midrash states: "He saw the parsha of the Red Heifer." This means that Korach reflected on the section of the Torah that discusses the way a person who has become ritually defiled after having come in contact with the dead may be ritually purified. A red cow, known as the Parah Adumah, would be taken and slaughtered, and its ashes would have to be sprinkled on the contaminated person.
What does the Red-Cow ritual have to do with Korach's revolt? One explanation is that Korach felt that Aaron was unqualified to be High Priest because he participated in the creation of the golden calf for which the ritual of the Red Heifer was an atonement. If the Jewish people had not worshipped the golden calf, the purifying teachings of the Torah that they had just received at Mount Sinai would have been enough to spiritually cleanse someone who had come in contact with the dead. The reason that G‑d introduced the purification of the Parah Adumah is a direct result of the Jews’ worshipping the Golden Calf.
Moreover, according to the teachings of our Sages, had the Jews not worshipped the Golden Calf, there would have been no more death. Death was introduced into the world when Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit. When the Torah was given at Sinai, the contaminating effects of their sin were removed and death would have become obsolete. However, when the Jewish nation regressed at the creation and worshipping of the Golden Calf, death was reintroduced to the world. And since Aaron was responsible (in a very limited way) for the creation of the golden calf, Korach reasoned, how could he serve as High Priest?
In addition, Korach felt that though Moses was on Mount Sinai at the time and was unaware of the golden calf incident, he was also adversely affected by their transgression. G‑d, when informing Moses of what transpired in his absence, said to Moses, "Descend." Rashi explains that this was not just a suggestion that he should go down from atop the mountain and see what the Jews had created, but it is also a statement to the effect that Moses was diminished from his own exalted stature on account of their sin. "Why have I given you greatness? Because of the people. Now that they have degenerated, you too will be diminished."
Hence, Korach felt that the Moses that G‑d authorized to be His exclusive spokesman no longer occupied that position of authority. Moses had had a downfall and therefore no longer deserved to be leader. BY extension, he also felt that Moses had appointed his brother without authorization from G‑d.
Obviously, Korach did not take into account that when G‑d appointed Moses to be their leader it was forever. It was not Korach's prerogative to decide that Moses was no longer qualified to be his leader. The fact that Moses' stature was diminished because of the golden calf debacle was between G‑d and Moses. Korach had no right to use that as a basis to reject Moses' role as the leader.
Another point: it is well known that the Red Heifer ritual is considered to be Judaism's most enigmatic commandment, full of contradictions and anomalies. The most notable example is that while it purified those who were contaminated, it contaminated some of the people who were pure.
The ritual of the Red Heifer was so enigmatic that even King Solomon commented "I tried to understand it and it was distant from me." Only Moses was privy to the mystery of the Red Heifer. 
When Korach reflected on the inconsistencies in that ritual and how it was totally beyond any rational analysis, and that only Moses could comprehend it, it suggested to Korach that Moses had made it up himself.
Korach knew that in Judaism some things are understandable and other commandments are beyond our intellectual capacity. However, he reasoned, how could it be that Moses was the only person who could fathom the secret? Either it is incomprehensible to everyone, or it can be understood by others as well. He didn’t realize that Moses was unique, and head and shoulders above everyone else.
There was another factor perhaps that buttressed Korach's argument. Korach, we are told was a visionary. He saw things they way they will be in the future Messianic Age. In the Messianic Age, even those teachings of Torah that are mysteries to us today, will be fully revealed; all of the elusive teachings will become comprehensible. From this futuristic vantage point Korach could not comprehend how there can be a teaching that made no sense to anyone but Moses.
Korach, with all of his flaws wanted to see the realization of the future Messianic Age. Korach's error was that the world was not yet ready for the Messianic revelation. However, today, the coming of Moshiach is long overdue and we all have the right to demand from G‑d to bring an end to the exile and usher in the Redemption at which time we will be able to comprehend all of the mysteries of Torah and of life. 

Moshiach Matters

A Special Time - it should be proclaimed and publicized that we are living in a special time, when only one solitary thing remains to be done: "Stand ready, every one of you," for the forthcoming rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash with the coming of David, the King Mashiach. From a talk of the Rebbe on Shabbos Parshas Vayigash, 5747 [1987]
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit


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