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Friday - Shabbat July 24 - 25

Torah Reading:  Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:22) 
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Shabbat ends 9:06 PM
Pirkei Avot Chapter 2

Shabbat Chazon

Who Came First? 

This week we begin reading the fifth and final book of the Torah, Deuteronomy. The book begins with Moses rebuking the Jewish people. Since Moses knew he was soon to pass away, he wanted to prepare the Jews as they were about to begin a new life in the Land of Israel and exhort them to remain strong in their commitment to G‑d and His Torah. Throughout our Parshah, Moses reminds them of the importance of keeping the Torah and of the consequences for forsaking it.

At the beginning of our Parshah, Moses rebukes the Jews in a very subtle manner; he merely mentions the names of the places where certain sins took place. In this way, he hoped to remind the Jews of their sinful past without going into great detail.

One such place was called Chatzeirot. It was there that Moses' cousin, Korach, staged a rebellion against him, claiming that Moses had arrogated to himself and his brother Aaron positions of power. The next location identified with a major sin was called Di Zahav, meaning an abundance of gold, alluding to the sin of the Golden Calf.

Commentators wonder why Moses referred first to the sin of Korach and only afterwards did he mention the sin of the Golden Calf. Chronologically, the Golden Calf came first, immediately after the Jews received the Torah.

One answer to this question will become evident after a brief analysis of the difference between these two sins.

Korach’s rebellion represented the first time in history that the unity of the Jewish people was threatened. By attacking the leadership, Korach made a schism within the Jewish people, creating groups that recognized Moses' leadership and others that didn't. True, the sin of the Golden Calf succeeded in tearing away a large group of sinners from the mainstream that remained loyal to G‑d, but their transgression - as serious as it was - wasn't intended to make a schism within the Jewish nation. Korach's rebellion was designed to make a separate form of leadership, and by extension, separate groups within the nation.

The Ba'al Shem Tov taught that nothing happens by coincidence. Everything is by Divine plan and this is certainly true about matters in the Torah. Therefore, there has to be a connection between Korach's rebellion and the location where it happened, Chatzeirot.

Chatzeirot is the plural of the word Chazteir, which means yard. In Talmudic parlance, a yard is representative of one's property, one's worldly belongings. Before Korach's rebellion, the Jewish people had only one "yard," one community, one unified outlook and goal. Korach introduced the notion that it is possible to exist as Jews in different Chatzeirot, different philosophical camps. People could have multiple goals and values with no singular, underlying core belief. Of course, the different Chatzeirot were also replete with division, strife and discord.

True, the sin of the Golden Calf happened first. But, had Korach not created a schism within the Jews, planting the seeds of dissonance within our community that have survived to this day, the sin of Golden Calf could have been forgiven by G‑d. When the Jewish people are unified and share the singular goal of doing G‑d's will, the recalcitrant elements will eventually recognize that they have strayed and they will surely return to the fold. With the introduction of the idea that there can be different "yards" or institutions within the Jewish nation - and that they don't all necessarily have to be under the guidance of Moses - one can easily justify his aberrant behavior. He can say, "true, this group says what I am doing is sinful, but this other party claims I don't have to follow that value system."

Thus, Moses was careful to remind the Jews who were about to enter Israel that the most destructive thing that can happen to the Jewish nation - even more than the Golden Calf and the sin of idolatry - is the establishment of multiple "yards," or institutions, which don't identify with the path of Torah established by Moses. True, there are many paths to G‑d and, indeed, no two are alike, but they all share one common denominator: they honestly attempt to come close to G‑d based on the directives of Moses. They are not Korach-styled approaches that reject the guidance and guidelines set down by Moses.

We find ourselves in the week preceding Tisha B'Av, the day our Temple was destroyed because of the sin of strife and needless enmity. Our Parshah gives us advice about how to remedy this sin, helping us to remove the cause of our loss and bring about the rebuilding of the Temple.

We must realize that we are one unified Jewish community. We have to reject any attempt by the Korachs of the world to divide us and certainly any attempt to justify any feelings of ill will there might be among us. We must realize that we are all on the same mission by G‑d to bring more light and holiness to the world. By strengthening the bond between us, we will simultaneously strengthen our collective bond with G‑d and, hopefully, finally put an end to this exile and bring about the redemption.

Moshiach Matters  

The Talmud tells that Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi asked when Moshiach was going to come and he was told “Today!” This has to be the response and attitude of every one of us. Moshiach’s arrival should be so real to us that as soon as someone asks us when we think Moshiach will come, our immediate repsonse should be: “Today.” (The Rebbe, Simchat Torah, 1989).

Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue.
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