THE JERUSALEM JEWISH VOICE
THE WEEKLY TORAH READING -- A FIRST GLANCE
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A. AN OVERVIEW, WITH THE BACKGROUND, OF KORACH
The Exodus generation, who were great individuals, "COUNTED BY NAME" (1:2; cf. 26:2), were indeed capable of setting up a non-destructible State of Israel. But, after buying the spies' anti-Zionist message of doom, they would NEVER enter the land; Moshe could only postpone their death-- none died before 60 (Rashi). They and their leaders would not FIGHT for the beloved land, "flowing with milk & honey" ("But don't most folks prefer steak & ice cream?", asked A. T. Fogelman). Only those who could see the depths of Israel, the fruit of the Tree of Eternal Life (13:20), would sacrifice themselves to build it (cf. the souls of ostensibly secular chalutzim, with those absorbed with glatt kosher restaurants and maleve malkas in Boro Park). Almost no one was then on that level-- only the Levites, the women, Calev, and Yehoshua could form a truly religious council, by the end of the Exodus Generation. Inspired diaspora religious Zionists tend to make aliya; but many Israelis trade TA for LA, Bnei Black for Boro Black. Bringing universal redemption from Zion may justify great sacrifice (e.g. hesder yeshivot); creating another somewhat western, materialist and uninspired society does not, tho it may inspire a bit of "meretz" (effort)..
Those who lost faith in Israel's mission now joined those who wanted to lead it themselves-- both groups, each to further its own agenda, wanted to overthrow Moshe and Aharon (see Ramban); communal discipline disintegrates upon a great national setback, such as the spies' debacle (Josephus, Antiquities IV:2:1). Most people aren't so learned and inspired; they expect a fair reward when they follow others-- society and religion too! When the latter can't deliver, their followers abandon them (cf. Jewish communists' eventual disappointment with the horrible USSR people's "democracy", and Israel's election upset, after Labor's peace plan did not stop terrorism; will street mobs now scream: "Bibi resign!", if such incidents, God forbid, continue to occur?)
So Jews, stricken by poverty and persecution, left saintly, but ineffective, rabbinical leaders, and followed down to earth savvy secular savants and activists, who could deliver physical and economic security (cf. ILGWU & Histadrut w/Agudas Harabanim & Shas, Ben Gurion and the Hazon Ish). Picture the outcome if great rabbis had themselves effectively organized oppressed laborers and the Zionist Movement-- if Mea Shearim girls were taught to sew parachutes and bake cookies for Tzahal, not to avoid National Service-- if Degel and Shas fought our enemies, not each other-- if the "yeshiva world" regularly prayed for our state and army. So some Jews unconsciously condition their piety upon obtaining a pleasant family and communal life-- if not, bitterness and a sense of betrayal may set in (cf. Job, divorced or never-married pious men and women, kollelniks who don't get a good shiduch). They may then vent their anger upon God's true or alleged spokesmen.
Many recent books, especially those of oral history, give a true account of the lives and reactions of our immigrant grandparents and great-grandparents. It just wasn't like we'd like to think it was *. Jewish immigrants in Manchester, England, 1910-1930, are portrayed in Magnolia St., by Louis Golding; in Choosing Sides, Cary Goodman explores playground and street life on the lower East Side of NYC, 1890-1914, and the contributionss of the organized play movement upon the acculturation of immigrants to American mores and the values of industrial society. Emma Goldman portrays the early 20th century's anarchistic amoral crowd in Living My Life. Andrew R. Heinze connects Jewish immigrants, mass consumption, and the search for American identity in Adapting to Abundance.
Religion was often dismissed as irrelevant to the immigrants' concerns and agendas. Sexual morality was often cast aside to get ahead-- sexual and economic exploitation by employers was taken for granted. Some young Jews today, seeking their roots, may also return, in the process, to the miserable economic and social conditions which their grandparents suffered; they're likely to burn-out and/or rebel (often divorce) further down the line, saddled with many kids and poverty. Many old-time (and many very modern) "rabbis" used religion as just another way to make a living, inspiring neither themselves or others. Some gave tacit consent to the secular life style of their own children, who had to adapt to the New World.
* So The Penguin Book of Infidelities exposes the core rottenness of allegedly "noble" British and European society for the last 400-500 years; Lord, Lady, PM and bishop were often the titles of those whose children were of highly questionable paternity, while famous poets and other artists were even worse; decadent Boswell railed against his rebbe Johnson's high moral standards, unlike Rav Natan, l'havdil squared, who both lived and spread Rav Nachman's teachings.
Black Isn't Always Beautiful: We see a similar confrontation of modernity with a noble and spiritual, but burnt-out and insular, medieval civilization in Prof. Chaim Brandwein's tales, "In the Courtyards of Jerusalem"; his stories depict the dreams, hopes and tense conflicts of the denizens of Mea Shearim, so detached from God's great miracles, His Revelation of Science and the rebirth of Israel; but the outside world suddenly thrust itself fiercely upon their lives, as the infant State fought for its existence. Moody and silent Malkala regains her vitality in Tzahal, as the quarter's generation gap turns into a vast chasm. Brandwein himself grew up haredi in Mea Shearim, 1 of 7 poor children, but was one who flew over the chassidic nest; he wound up a poet, Professor of Hebrew Lit at Brandeis, and a leading figure in the heretical Conservative movement (JTS). His father blended his haredi background with the modern age, and his siblings and children are of all hues, from deep black to bright rainbow. His cousin's son, modern erudite hassidic Rav Avraham Brandwein, remembers him as a warm and fascinating personality, combining many worlds.
50 years down the Messianic road, much of Mea Shearim still lacks appreciation for modern Israel and the great sacrifices of its armed forces-- this past Thursday night, about 1 AM, when I returned from Bnei Black to Jerusalem, the 400 bus couldn't reach Kikar Shabbat, the entry to Mea Shearim, due to wild demonstrations of ultra-haredi youth, allegedly protesting grave grave violations (not reported in Friday's JP, tho Sat. night's encore was on the radio newscast and in Sunday's JP); I saw overturned trash bins, streets filled with garbage and fires set by these haredim, who attacked brave young soldiers and Israeli police who tried to disperse them and restore order. As similar Arab actions, one cannot dismiss this as the action of a few fanatics, when the neighborhood and its rabbis do little to stop them; the rabbis of the Badatz, etc. should appear on the scene and make them cool it, so that traffic can flow in peace and the soldiers and police can focus on our external enemies; I noticed that almost all the young haredim were smoking, despite the recent bans of the Bostoner Rebbe and Rav Ovadia Yosef; apparently, the same frustration, anger and envy which ignites their external fires also ignites their poisonous internal fires-- cf. PLO.
The JP did report an earlier incident-- a group of American Jewish women brought 5000 notes from Russian Jewish youth to the Wall and joined youth groups singing near the kotel checkpoint. A band of haredim appeared, and insulted and threatened the group for letting women join their singing; the police dispersed the youth groups, rather than arresting the haredim, a perversion of justice. Haredim don't own the kotel, tho they constitute a high percentage of its beggers; if their halachic position is that they can't pray in the presence of singing women (a quite questionable position-- see our Vaera study), they can simply stay away when such groups are around; there's no mitzva to pray at the Wall; indeed, it's rather distracting.
Tho most mature Mea Shearim residents don't so self-destruct, why is haredi violence far more prevalent there than in other extreme haredi communities, e.g. Matersdorf, Bnei Black, Geula, Safat, etc.? I have a hunch that being so cut off from God's manifest presence in this world, in Nature, is a factor; the drab dreary area has no parks, very few trees, birds and butterflies; it's even hard to see the sky, amidst its narrow alleys. Early hassidic experience was imbued with mystical contemplation of nature, with walks into the forests; but most later hassidim were content to tell tales of the rebbe's adventures in the woods, rather than going there themselves. Bnei Black has many more parks, etc. than Mea Shearim; Safat, the most peaceful haredi community, has a beautiful natural ambiance, which moves the soul to contemplation and poetry, rather than screaming and throwing rocks. Modern spiritual contemplative movements, e.g. The Celestine Prophecy and Zen, and big doses of Carlebachism, may help Mea Shearim achieve basic spirituality, peace and love, a necessary foundation for their more arcane pursuits (tho nature has its savage side too).
Moshe's image was tarnished by Miryam and the spies, who questioned his SENSITIVITY & COMPETENCE; Korach & Co. now go even further, and attack his INTEGRITY-- they accuse Moshe of power plays and nepotism, in appointing his mercenary relatives as priests. They even kept their wives at a safe distance from the chief rabbi (San. 110a); Moshe, in response, pitched his tent outside the camp, to avoid suspicion! In our amoral age, rabbis must indeed not only act correctly, but also avoid any impression of impropriety. But Ibn Ezra claims that Korach's rebellion took place long before this, when the Levites replaced the firstborn in Divine Service (3:44-51); Ramban, however, unlike Ibn Ezra and Rashi, claims that the Torah IS in chronological order, except where it says otherwise.
Korach & Co. unfurled the banner of religious equality and democracy (cf. Russia, China, Mapam, H.U.C.). Korach, prominent candidate for chief rabbi, is disappointed when he's bypassed for Levite leadership by Elizaphan, whose family credentials are less impressive than Korach's (3:30-- cf. David Levy). As many a defeated leader, he forms his own anti-nomian establishment, attracting assorted fellow malcontents (cf. Gesher); he even accepts those who oppose his own ideals (cf. Robin Hood, rejected Karaite founder Anan b. David, pre-establishment Yiftach & David, and Shas and Meretz, l'havdil squared).
Moshe forgives those who tried to kill him, but not those who attack his integrity; this endangers his mission-- to be a model teacher of Israel; this time, Moshe seeks and obtains strict quick judgment of his accusers. Per Rav Yehoshua Engelman, Moshe's own self-confidence may have been sapped by Miryam's criticism; his ensuing burnout may have led to God's appointment of 70 elders, to share his task. The elders' less inspiring indirect Torah teaching, in turn, may have failed to give the spies' confidence in Israel's Divine mission, and made the Jews easier prey for Korach; so Adoniyahu took advantage of David's weariness to start his insurrection, subject of a sordid and silly drama on destructive decadent Israel TV. In any analysis of individuals and groups, tiredness, burn-out, is a key factor (Rav J. Soloveichik). We pray for national spiritual strength during our Messianic dawn; after the Messiah convinces most Jews to live in Israel, we'll then get the Torah much clearer, directly from God. Only non-Jews will then be taught their Torah (the Noachide Code) by Messiah, a great and inspiring, yet fully human, teacher from Israel, God's kingdom of priests (Genesis Raba 98:9; cf. Isaiah 2).
Other religions were useful in their time, to bring the world close enough to moral monotheism, so that the Jews could conclude the process (see Rambam's Letter to the Jews of Yemen); they may be obsolete in the Messianic Era (cf. typewriters and B&W TV; books too?-- Rabbi Monson, director of JPS, recently told me that they intend to reissue all their out-of-print titles within the next 5 years, but only on disks and CD-Rom). Rav Eliyahu Benamozegh founded the modern Noachide movement, together with formerly Catholic Aimee Palliere; he claims that Chistianity and Islam, refined and purified by eliminating their non-Hebraic elements, will continue to lead most of the world back to Israel and Mankind's joint messianic destiny (Israel and Humanity-- $35 from TOP)
Those Jews, who preferred to return to Egypt (U.S.A. Today?), rather than enduring a hard struggle for Israel, blamed Moshe for not bringing them into the promised land! A slave or child, especially if over-dependent and tied to its master or parents, may be very angry, when forced to be responsible for him/herself. Giving up at the first difficulty, he/she blames his parent or master for his failure. God tells Moshe and Aharon that the Jews are out to get Him, in attacking them, His spokesmen (17:20)-- Israel now rejected God's challenge to develop their own Divine Image. Thruout their exile, God's "kingdom of priests" (Ex. 19:6) was similarly maligned for trying to raise man to his Divine potential. Now many non-Jews are ready to learn their true religion, Torah's 7 Laws For The Sons of Noah. May we soon be a true model for our congregation, universal mankind-- Arabs too; they may be the first to join us. Last week, the Jews lamented that they were as mere grasshoppers in their own eyes, and also, as a consequence, in the eyes of the 7 nations. Besides the usual interpretation, lack of confidence in their military ability, they may have lacked confidence in their ability to be spiritual giants, a model nation to inspire others, the raison d'etre of The State of Israel.
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B. A SYNOPSIS OF KORACH
Our portion opens: KORACH... SON OF LEVI "TOOK" (what?), AND DATAN & AVIRAM... AND OHN... CHILDREN OF REUVEN. THEY ROSE UP BEFORE MOSHE, WITH 250 DISTINGUISHED ISRAELITES, PRINCES OF THE COMMUNITY, PROCLAIMERS OF THE HOLIDAY (calendar), MEN OF NAME (16:1).
"Took", intransitive here, denotes grasping unauthorized power, as in: AVSHALOM "TOOK" AND ERECTED A PILLAR FOR HIMSELF (2 SAM. 18:18-- Hirsch). "Korach" can be read (transposed): KACH RESH, "take charge" (J. Persky). We thus might render the first words in Korach: "KORACH WENT AROUND, TAKING OVER". Per Ramban, "took" means "took counsel" (cf. Zohar 176a)-- with his wife, who allegedly egged him on, hoping to be Israel's First Lady! (Numbers Raba 18:4). "Take" indeed also denotes marriage: WHEN A MAN SHALL TAKE A WOMAN... (Deut. 22:13, 24:1); thus 16:1 may be read: KORACH, ETC. "TOOK" (WOMEN), who urged them to "take over" (cf. Sara and Sonia). Strong women can often achieve power only by manipulating weak husbands. But Mrs. Ohn argued with Ohn: "What do you gain if Korach replaces Moshe? (why care so much about which political candidate or baseball team wins the game?)"-- Ohn then left Korach, saved by his good practical wife (see Prov. 14:1, San. 109b, Midrash Hagadol Numbers 16:32).
"Took" may also imply that Korach persuaded others to join him, "took them in" (cf. Rashi, 8:6); he embraced other deposed discontented leaders, Reuvenites (Yaakov's firstborn's tribe) and 250 renowned communal figures (some say that they were firstborn males, who were Jewry's pre-Calfian and pre-Levite religious leaders), who resented Aharon's monopoly on Divine Service. Chizkuni reads: "AND DATAN & AVIRAM" as the object of "took", the connective "AND" being merely stylistic, or a hint that they TOOK Korach too, while ostensibly being taken by him-- they temporarily allied with Korach for their own ends, to return to Egypt, their land of milk and honey (16:13; cf. Knesset coalitions, e.g. Meretz and Shas); they didn't appreciate the unique holy qualities of the Holy Land, and its impact upon those who dwell in it, reflected in special laws regarding disposition of its fruits, at the end of Korach (18:8f). Reubenites Datan & Aviram, who encamped near the Kohathites, hastily joined Kohatite Korach's rebellion-- "woe to the wicked and woe to his neighbor" (Tanchuma)-- quality people, not buildings, determine a quality neighborhood-- God lives in Jerusalem, per Psalm 135; but, like a multi-national executive, He also has "offices", His "glory", everywhere, per Isaiah 6:3; Ezekiel ends his prophecy with "and the name of the city (Jerusalem) from that day (shall be): God is There". Rav Moshe Eisemann explains that God's holiness will be revealed thru Jerusalem's holy residents, not thru the Temple, which will be 45 mil north of the future Jerusalem.
One might translate: KORACH WAS "A TAKER" (a TAKING personality); Sylvia Mandelbaum divides people into "givers" and "takers"; "takers" often approach potential victims as idealistic "givers"-- Israeli politicians enjoy luxurious government autos, but impose huge "fines" on ordinary workers who want a nice car. So "rabbis" at the Wall, friends of the guards, demand big donations from tourists whom they've "blessed"-- better that the tourists bless the beggers, who are in far worse shape. "Taker" Korach, grasping and exploiting, attributes similar motives to "givers" Moshe and Aharon. Korach & Co. accused Moshe, most modest and other-oriented, and Aharon, most peaceful and loving, of SETTING THEMSELVES UP as leaders of Israel-- they claimed that ALL JEWS (or at least the firstborn, ex-priests) WERE HOLY VESSELS FOR GOD'S PRESENCE. Per Resh Lakesh, "took" means "purchased"; rich Korach bought popularity, always a bad bargain (cf. Flatto Sharon; San. 110a)
Moshe shared Korach's ideal!-- ALL Jews would SOMEDAY be prophets (11:29, Joel 3); so Moshe, just like the spies, warned Israel of their more powerful and well fortified enemies (Deut. 7:1, 9:1). But Moshe urged them to fight, despite their fears; so he realizes that Korach & Co. jeopardize Israel's eventual spiritual triumph, by falsely proclaiming that the Jews are already on so high a spiritual level, that they have no need for leaders (so some Jews today wrongly abandon Tisha B'Av, tho the Messianic Era has just begun). A good leader or parent must both encourage and discourage, develop both reasonable risk-taking and appropriate caution in his children or pupils; Ezrat Nashim Hospital researchers discovered a genetic component to risk-taking and adventure last year.
Moshe fell down on his face (16:4)-- he could do nothing; God would forgive no more rebellions (Rashi). He couldn't even prove his own integrity, without God's intervention and demonstration. Embarrassed, he buried his face in the ground and prayed (Chizkuni); God responded with a test, to determine the true priests--
Moshe proclaimed that, TOMORROW, God Himself would show who's fit for Divine Service (giving Korach & Co. a chance to sleep on it, to recant before the "proxy battle"). Korach & Co. are then to offer incense, together with Aharon. Moshe urged spiritual, allegedly socialist, Levite leader Korach to be content with his already tremendous prestige. He labeled the attack on Aharon a veiled attack on God Himself (A. Kaplan). Moshe summoned anarchist rebel leaders Datan & Aviram, who refused to come up; they label Moshe's mission a failure, a fraud, a profiteering power trip. Moshe THEN got VERY ANGRY; he prayed that God NOT accept their offerings-- he never took a dime from any Jew (yes, I know that there were no dimes then!). God's glory appeared the mext morning, before ALL THE PEOPLE (Korach's cheerleaders and groupies). God again offered to destroy the rebellious folk for Moshe's sake; Moshe again prayed for them, blaming it all on Korach. God told Moshe and the elders to warn the people to stay away from Korach, Datan & Aviram. Moshe predicts that the earth will suddenly open up, swallow them all, and close up, a sign of his truly Divine mission-- earthquakes don't immediately close up (Sporno)!
So it happened, amidst general panic. Divine fire consumed the 250 ecstatics, as Nadav and Avihu, for doing their own thing in Divine service (tho "it worked for them"); this was either a punishment, or just a simple response to their desire and efforts to leave earth, to merge with Divinity. So the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden may have just been God's acquiesence to their desire for independence, to do their own thing; yet He appointed angels with flaming swords to guard, to preserve, the way back to the tree of life (i.e. the Torah), that it will still be there when they're ready to return home-- parents, whose obnoxious teenagers threaten to leave home and never return, may ask: "Is that a promise?"; nevertheless, they leave the kids' rooms intact, praying for their eventual return.
Rav Yehuda Henkin sees Korach's putsch as another attempt to replace Moshe & Aharon with a "people's democracy" (see our Shlach study)-- the Jewish people, who had no voice in the selection of their Divinely chosen leaders, now "picked" Korach & Co. Moshe went along with the popular demand for spies; so he responds here: "let's try it-- bring incense!-- see if it works". When he tries to negotiate, true anarchists Datan & Aviram refuse to "go up"-- they won't represent anyone else! They said Moshe must speak to everyone, in order to sabotage negotiations, which they labelled sham.
Eleazer's told to gather the rebels' SACRED firepans and beat them into memorial plates, to cover the brass altar, a reminder of Aharon's role-- exclusive offerer of incense before God. A violent mass demonstration against Moshe and Aharon the next day, as after the spies' death, shows Korach's charisma and appeal-- Jews aren't easily scared (and shouldn't be?-- see A. Dershowitz's politically so great, religiously so ?able, "Chutzpah")! God appeared, about to destroy Israel-- Moshe and Aharon understood that He wished them to pray for His Folk (Ramban). Moshe, most humble (other-oriented) of all men, did so.
14,700 died in the ensuing plague (vs. 3000 at the Calf-- Ex. 32:28), before Aharon stopped it with a pan of Divine incense-- an A-1 proof of both his choice by God, and his self sacrifice (Hirsch). A rod was taken for each tribe; on it was written either the tribal name (per Josephus), or that of its prince; "Aharon" was written on Levi's rod. They were placed in the Communion Tent, for God to clearly indicate HIS chosen FRUITFUL religious leader-- he whose rod would blossom (whose path would generate great men and women of spirit, not just momentary highs or academic recognition). God's chosen teachers appoint their own successors to this day (see Avot 1:1, Rambam-- Introd. to the Mishna, where he values and validates only rare brilliant scholars, just as his own father responded only to his intellectual worth)-- cf. choosing rabbis by religious councils, in part controlled by non-believers; a non-Zionist haredi chief city rabbi can be elected by secular Zionists!-- cf. Jerusalem.
Only Aharon's rod blossomed, giving forth ripening almonds, amidst leaves and/or blossoms (see The Living Torah); many make the annual beautiful blessing on flowering trees on the almond, the first fruit tree to blossom here. Moshe showed Israel the rods. God ordered that Aharon's be placed BEFORE the ark (per Midrash Hagadol; IN the ark, per Ralbag), as a reminder, to stop future destructive rebellions. The people panic at so many deaths due to God's high standards for His intimates. God thus told Aharon that all tabernacle ritual was, indeed, to be performed only by experts-- he and his sons; only they may risk death due to improper service (leave suspected bombs for trained police detonators).
GOD SPOKE TO AHARON (affirming his role-- Hulin 133): AND I, WOW**, GAVE YOU THE DUTY TO DEAL WITH MY RAISED OFFERINGS IN PURITY (Rashi), WITH ALL HOLY OFFERINGS OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL-- I'VE GIVEN THEM TO YOU AS STATUS SYMBOLS (Sifre, or AS PART OF YOUR CONSECRATION-- Lev. 7:35), AND TO YOUR SONS, AS AN ETERNAL DUE (Hirsch). Priests consume, in exemplary holy fashion, specified sacred gifts of food from ordinary Jews-- communal peace offerings (Rashi), grain meal oblations, and sin and guilt sacrifices; in processing them, God's sovereignty over the material world is reacknowledged (Hirsch). Male priests may eat them in the courtyard (azara), in a holy manner. ALL ritually pure members of a priest's household may partake (in Jerusalem) of those portions of individual peace and thanksgiving offerings, which are waved and given to the priest (kadashim kalim-- Hirsch). The priest's agricultural dues, trumah and first fruit offerings could be consumed ANYWHERE IN ISRAEL (kadshei gvul).
While firstborn children ARE to be redeemed by the priest for 5 Biblical Shekels, firstborn UNCLEAN animals MAY be redeemed (Hirsch). Firstborn animals fit for sacrifice, and anything designated as `cherem' (taboo), are also priestly property, after burning their blood, kidneys, and certain fats. Teaching "holy eating", showing how eating, the source of animal biological existence, can be a transcendental Divine experience, is the cohen's role. As `salt', his dues are a PERMANENT preservative part of religious life, which should PERMEATE every aspect of national and domestic life (Hirsch). Intense study of how food grows and works, aroused by its specific blessings, also engenders God-awewareness, and gratitude to Him for sustaining us. At the other end, we bless God upon the completion of the miraculous vital digestive process.
**henei, WOW!, expresses amazement (YF); Sifre says that it's a joyous exclamation (Ex. 4:14), e.g. when the wicked are overthrown (Gen. 6:13,17)-- HOORAY! It may express an amazing connection of 2 things, one the purpose or essence of the other; the similar exclamation, "Hain" (e.g. 11:6, Gen. 4:14), may express the impact of only 1 item (Rav G. Fleer-- cf. Gen. 1:29, 31; 22:11; 27:6; Num. 18:6). A definition must both fit every use of the term, and explain why the term is NOT used elsewhere, e.g. (HENEI!) THE LORD CREATED THE MAN IN HIS IMAGE... (Gen. 1:27). "Henei" can take pronounal suffixes, e.g. "heneini"-- WOW, ME! (Gen. 22:1, 11; Ex. 3:4).
Levites, other than priests, get the first tithe, PAYMENT for their work. They get no "portion" in the land, only 48 SCATTERED cities, with pasturage-- God Himself is their "portion", their lifework. Yaakov feared the concentration of Levite and Shimonite holy wrath, e.g. re Shchem & Korach-- I'LL DIVIDE THEM IN YAAKOV AND SCATTER THEM IN YISROEL (GEN. 49:7); all Israel will thus have nearby Levite religious centers, while Shimon may be scattered among Yehuda (see our Vayishlach study). Should today's zealous yeshivot be scattered throughout Israel, diffusing holy wrath?-- cf. Bnei Brak! Kollels located in unused areas of rich public institutions, e.g. H. U., might spur secular-religious dialogue.
21 Levites surround the tabernacle exterior; with 3 cohanim, inside, they're the Temple's guard of honor-- it needed no human protection. The guards themselves are guarded by Ish Har Habayis, the Temple Mount Man. When a sleeping guard didn't return his greeting, he set his clothes afire! His screams exposed him as a derelict Levite in God's Army, lacking awe of the Temple (cf. Modesty Patrols-- see Naomi Regan's works). The holy, as Korach and Miryam, must feel awe of the even holier. Otherwise, the unholy may mock all holiness (cf. rabbis and great rabbis). So the Levites must give an equally sacred 10% trumah, a tithe of their tithes (trumas maasar), to the cohen; the remaining 90% of their tithe is no longer sacred. One should give one's trumah gifts to priests of Aharon's moral and spiritual character (Hirsch); a donor should care how his charity's used. Don't degrade agricultural gifts, by linking them to a Levite's favors or labor in return (Bech. 26b).
C. A VEILED DISPUTATION
Last week's portion closed with the law of fringes on 4-cornered garments, one blue string among 7 white; Midrashim relate that Korach's 250 men donned solid blue 4-cornered garments and ridiculed Moshe's ruling-- that they still needed the blue string, amidst the other fringes, at each corner of the garment. Midrash Tanchuma associates the law of fringes with Ps. 97:11 (see Hirsch)-- THERE IS SOWN LIGHT FOR THE RIGHTEOUS AND GLADNESS FOR THE UPRIGHT IN HEART. Rav Y. Hadari quotes Meshach Chochma, Rav A. Kook and Sefat Emes to explain the connection--
The word "tzitit", fringes, is related to that which bursts forth with life from seemingly dead earth and trees; this week, after Korach's debacle, we read that only Aharon's rod flowered, "Vayatzetz Tzitz", and put forth buds (Num. 17:23). The garment, "beged", represents external physical reality, the illusory world of the senses, limited by its 4 corners, unless one progresses to the transcendental world of truth and eternity, via the mitzvos, linking every aspect of mundane life to God-- it's represented by the blue string. So the righteous, tho their physical circumstances be the darkest, as in the Holocaust, have "sown light", the ability to transcend and see God and eventual eschatological joy in even the worst conditions, just as the seed sown in the dark earth rots and decays, only to bring forth glorious new life; so Aharon's descendants are able to kindle the menora out of the utter devestation preceding Chanuka. Korach can't see the eventual glory of Israel, amidst the bleak desert trek, or that a totally spiritual life, "a garment all blue", is no substitute or escape from dealing with the most mundane and transforming it.
So Korach mocked Moshe's ruling that even a house full of Torah scrolls needs a mezzuza (Tanchuma, Rashi). True, those lacking true holiness are often preoccupied with ritual, overJewing it, substituting Torah for life. But Korach implies that Moshe made up the mitzvos, that they're subject to common sense. He doesn't see them as God's detailed laws, flowing from abstract concepts, as in science. So modern man looks at religion as only subjective and aesthetic, not scientific, following his heart and eyes (from Rav J. Soloveichik's Korach tapes at TOP). Korach also attacks Aharon's priesthood, as a superfluous insult to a folk who are ALL inherently holy.
Another Midrash repeats Korach's tale of a poor farmer's widow-- Aharon took all that her farm produced, under one holy legal guise or another (Mid. S. Tov. Ps. 1:1). Indeed, religious leaders often convince ignorant pious masses or sick individuals that they'll burn in hell, unless they adhere to, and finance, their particular religious customs, howbeit a "rip-off" (cf. "N-No-Non-Nonsense" and "We want only God Now"). The money's then used to further "the cause"-- cf. prices of the same chickens under various kosher labels; Pikanti offered ultra-haredi chickens, but under the supervision of the chief rabbi of Bnei Black, for only 13.90 Sh/kilo, far less than the price of the same chickens with famous haredi approbations. Will Bnei Brak residents heed the Torah's warnings against waste, and that one witness suffices for ritual matters, or will they continue their wasteful worship of particular rabbis, even refusing to eat their competitive counterparts' chickens (e.g. Degel vs. Rav Landau)? Cohanim, a small % of Israel, could indeed be wealthy from just their 10% of levitical tithes, almost 1% of the Israeli national agricultural product.
None of Korach's complaints are openly voiced in the Torah; the last one is indeed an impossible tale-- the Jews had no land yet! But the juxtaposition of fringes, reminders of mitzvos, and Korach may be used here for a veiled critique of Christianity; as Islam, it discarded formal mitzvos of God, only concerned with "spirit"; it rejected the eternal choice of God's "kingdom of priests"-- all mankind is holy! A new religion replaced The 7 Laws of Noach-- God allegedly "changed His mind"! The Church also accused our holiest men, THE PHARISEES, of profiteering from Torah; Per Rambam, true rabbis won't take money for teaching Torah; the Pharisees worked-- is it better to be a doctor than a salaried rosh yeshiva? (see Avot 4:7).
Rabbis would be exiled or killed if they openly criticized Christianity; Korach symbolized The Church, led by bald monks-- "Korach" literally means bald (or ICE, a kabbalistic symbol of self-negation, which Korach lacked!). The other "secret symbol" was Bilaam (literally "without a people"), the great theologian who opposed Israel's unique role (cf. Luther's virulant anti-Semitism and today's churches).
Prof. Yaakov Millgram claims that the Biblical blue-purple thread, reserved for royalty in ancient times, in each Jew's fringes is an egalitarian sign of his royal status, as a member of God's Kingdom of Priests (Ex. 19:6); when Aime Palliere saw Jews, enwrapped in tallesim, praying on Yom Kippur, he truly experienced them as God's Kingdom of Priests. YF: that little bit of ultra-expensive tchelis dye may proclaim him a king, but he must still subject himself to Israel's kings of kings, above him; they, in turn, despite garments completely dyed with tchelis, have to subject themselves to the King of Kings of Kings, the Holy One Blessed be He, Who's "clothed", so to speak, in the much more magnificent garments of the seas and sky; the latter resemble tchelis in its various colors, sky blue to purple, depending upon its interaction with light and climate (Baruch Sterman). Millgram's association of tchelet with kingship and priesthood would also explain why women needn't wear tzitzit (fringes on 4 cornered garments), as these public realms are only masculine (besides the traditional limitation of the mitzva of tzitzit to daytime hours, rendering them a time-linked mitzva, from which women are exempt); yet Millgram notes that they form half, possibly the major component, of Israel's Holy Nation.
I found Millgram's talk fairly well-researched and engrossing, while bearing in mind his non-traditional Masorati (traditionally heretical) views-- that the Torah is not the unified dictated word of God, and that the oral law is not handed down with it, from Sinai; theologically, there's no difference between Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism, tho they differ in taste and temperment (Milton Himmelfarb, The Condition of Jewish Belief, AJCom). Millgram told me that JTS asks rabbinical candidates no ?? about their beliefs, only if they observe Shabbat and Kashrut (why not mikva and shatnes too? Does anyone know the talmudic source of his claim tht the rabbis banned tchelis, when poor people couldn't afford it?-- neither I or he could find it).
D. PREMATURE CHARISMATICS
God clearly delineates the positions, rights, and duties of priests and Levites; He quickly rejects Korach's impressive, but premature, attempt to establish a Messianic demo-theo-cracy. The wicked both quickly flourish and quickly wither (the Dallas-Dynesty syndrome); saints and a saintly nation grow slowly: WHEN THE WICKED THRIVE LIKE GRASS, AND ALL EVILDOERS BLOSSOM, IT'S TO BE DESTROYED FOREVER ... A SAINT FLOWERS LIKE A PALM TREE ... (Ps. 92). The final letters of that verse's last 3 words TSADIK KATAMAR YIFRACH spell KORACH-- in the END of days, his egalitarian vision will indeed prevail (Joel 3). Charismatic leaders often jumped the messianic gun, preaching great truths and ideals, unencumbered by the day-in day-out discipline of the commandments and the hardships of life; the pagan world adopted and distorted their ideas; would it have been better off without them? (wouldn't Jesus the Jew be shocked at being turned into God by the Nicene Creed at The Council of Nicaea in 325?-- any Christian proclaiming the "Unity of God", against the pagan trinity, was excommunicated; Sabbath became Sunday and Passover pagan Easter-- recently discarded by David Davis' Emmanuel Church in Athens, Tenn., with other pagan elements which crept into Christianity, in a return to the 7 Laws of Noah; to get their newsletter, The Gap, contact Davis at P.O. Box 442, Athens, TN 37371-O442, 423-745-O851, fax 423-744-9414, e-mail: BenNoahOO7@AOL.com).
BUBER ("Moses", 186-90) says that Korach rejects externally imposed commandments from God; he only accepts what his own sense of holiness suggests. Buber compared Korach & Co. to the antinomian Nazis, whose only god was their own passion. Isolated "Divine Freedom", opposed to "Divine Law", e.g. in science, abolishes itself. To take away the authority of God's Chosen ones, thru whom He rules, is to end His dominion. There's no historic continuity of Divine Rule upon Earth without law, clearcut transmissible lines of demarcation as to what is or is not pleasing to Him (cf. Buber elsewhere, L. Jacobs, Z. Schacter's Jewish Renewal Movement etc., who seem to limit God's Law to that which appeals to Man-- cf. those who use prayer to decide God's Will, "revealed" in their subsequent soul-set). But law must again and again immerse itself in the fire of the spirit, to renew itself, and refine anew the genuine substance, out of the dross of what has become false (determined by whom-- Buber? cf. Bialek's essay on Halacha & Agada). The rebels, however, argue that the law, as such, displaces spirit and freedom. They thus posit eschatological Divine Presence in all creatures. For Moshe, the people are only on their way to holiness (so Rav Kook viewed Zionism as but the beginning of the gradual growth of our redemption); Korach & Co. convince themselves and others that they're already there (cf. Sabbatarian, Frankist, and post-mortem Chabad movements).
Jews are afflicted with Messianic compulsion to change the world, sacrificing their lives and fortunes to do so (per both Rav A. Steinsaltz and Eugene Borowitz, l'havdil squared); University Hospital Prof. Robert Morris proposes a large grant for each ghetto girl who finishes high school w/o getting pregnant, saving society huge welfare and medical payments, and encouraging her to live a meaningful positive life; he also helped a very young fine religious couple, likely to establish a good home, to get married. Human activity and motivation can be divided into inner spiritual, social relational, and bodily biological realms. 3 major premature Messianic personalities, of Jewish descent, tied human salvation to their ideal scheme in one of the 3 realms-- Jesus, Marx, and Freud. Korach rejects Jewish priests-- The Christian Jesus, as reported, rejects the unique Jewish kingdom of priests of mankind. His PR men, Paul & Co., declare God's Law passe (see "A Living Tree", Dorff & Rosett; but Rav Yaakov Emden views Jesus and Paul as great Noachide leaders, out to wean idolators from idolatry, not out to take Jews away from their eternal covenant with God-- see end of Sefer Hashimush). The result of this new religion of democratic spirituality was countless Jewish bloodbaths, from the Roman-Byzantine beginnings of the Church to the bloody sword of the Crusades & Inquisition; the Reformation added Luther's anti-semitism, all culminating in the gas chambers of Christian Europe. Hitler hated God's Folk, who repressed pagan savage Aryan nature, via Christianity (Mein Kampf-- see A. Dershowitz's religiously chutzpadik Chutzpah for a concise poignant history of European Christian anti-Semitism).
MARX, another Messianic pretender, Rashi's descendant, planned a great new social order-- no more class differences and poverty. The result-- repressive Red regimes, run by and for privileged officials (how can Israelis celebrate May Day?)-- see G. Schmerling's politically great, but religiously terrible, Memories of An Ant. Marxian ideas were spread by other perverse Jewish Messianists, e.g. Rosa Luxemburg, descendant of the Pnei Y'hoshua.
FREUD dwelt upon man's yetzer hara, his unconscious direction by his primal drives. This odd Messiah wanted to free man of his id (& yid-- he forced his wife, Martha Bernays, to abandon her distinguished family's Torah observance), to help him conquer himself, sublimating these drives into creativity; instead the world used his ideas to justify complete abandon of self-control, to forsake lives of meaning, depth, purpose and commitment, for momentary impulsive pleasures. His granddaughter posed for a Playboy clone. In reaction, puritanical extremists conclude that God's only happy when they're not.
So anti-nomian seeker and searcher Ram Dass (nee Reuven) discussed his "spiritual" odyssey with Rabbi David Zeller at Yakar, upon his first visit to Israel and exposure to its Torah world (Zeller's prime response was inspiring nigunim-- tapes available at TOP). Pagan-Dass' many flavors, fine and deep insights into the human condition, based on wide life experience, were eloquently expressed. He first tried to leave this world to merge with Indian Infinity, then became a "lusting celibate", constantly preoccupied with his deprivations (cf. those hassidim who think all day about how not to think about sex). He's now trying to blend worldly involvement with detachment and transcendance, which helps him comfort the suffering and dying. He thus reflects his kind ancestor Avraham's self-definition as "a stranger and settler" in his society (Gen. 23:4).
Many such Jews who wander Eastward, before returning Home, would have been spared painful and harmful trips, and might have had larger and more stable Jewish families, had they received a good Jewish upbringing based on Torah-- God's factory authorized instruction manual, rather than Eastern wisdom, tainted by idolatry, immorality or monasticism, and lack of social activism. Saadya Gaon claims that the whole Torah is rational, but man would waste his fleeting short life, and develop bad habits and biases, if he didn't first accept and live it as Divine fiat, while constantly trying to better understand it (cf. childhood education-- little kids may not run out into the street, tho they don't yet understand why). Reuven claims that one's situation, whatever it be, is his own ordained means toward God and his destiny; Rav Kook and Rav Soloveichik agree that all paths ultimately lead to God-- but they distinguish smooth direct paths (e.g. Y.U.) from bumpy detours (e.g. GurU).
Reuven still arbitrarily rejects absolute truth and halacha in religion. One's own feelings, rather than objective halacha, are his Korachian-Zalmanian Guide-- do something only as long as you feel "it works for you". Let's pray for this great soul's return to its roots and source. Yakar's Torah atmosphere, open to all Jews and their opinions, is a great contribution to Outreach; many intelligent secular Israelis attended the lecture; other centers, somewhat burgeois, spiritually and intellectually constipated, avoid anything and anyone controversial, non-establishment, or not living a normal harmonious family life-- would they also bar Kings David and Solomon? The Kotzker? Rav Nachman?
E. THE HAFTARA, I SAMUEL 11:14-12:22
Korach's greatest descendant, Shmuel, gives an accounting to his suspicious flock; they aped Korach, who implied that Moshe and Aharon were on the take. Shmuel is likened to BOTH Aharon & Moshe, who represent peace AND truth, in Ps. 99:6 (see Ber. 31b, cf. Olat Re'iyah II, p. 18): MOSHE AND AHARON ARE AMONG HIS PRIESTS, AND SHMUEL WITH THOSE WHO CALL UPON HIS NAME-- THEY CALL TO GOD & HE ANSWERS THEM (a beautifully Shlomo tune, often sung by Danny Horowitz at the Cave of Machpala). Korach knew that he combined their qualities; but this unified blend didn't ripen until Shmuel, who led his generation, as Moshe his; Korach's traits may have required maturation and blending with those of the family's wives. Similarly, Mrs. Potiphar may have sensed a child would come from her and Yosef; but it was to be only thru her daughter, Yosef's future wife. So Adam and Eve just ate their Shabbat fruit too early!-- on Friday; knowledge must interface with Shabat sanctity and Divinity to become a true "tree of life", for those who grasp it eagerly. So Jewish intellectual institutions, e.g. H.U., H.U.C. and Machon Shalom Hartman, should blend prayers, meditation and music with all their logical forays; Rav Mordecai Gafni, Jerusalem's most popular teacher in english, starts each of his high-paced high-level lectures with a Carlebach tune.
Korach's sons, Assir, Elkanah, and Avaisaph, saints and prophets, repent before it's too late-- they survive (26:11, R); they're the first of 48 prophets succeeding Moshe-- Vilna Gaon, Seder Olam 20; see Ex. 6:24, I Chron. 6:7,22, 9:19. They authored Psalms 42, 44-9, 84-5, 87-8. Many immigrants set the stage for their great descendants. Shmuel "fixes" Korach-- he defends God's chosen prophets and generals, vs. the people's choice-- a king (P.M.?), as all the nations. Tho only a Levi, as Moshe, Shmuel serves as Cohen Gadol (High Priest), Korach's dream (Mid. S. Tov 25). Rashba (responsum 3:639) claims that Shmuel was a temporary exception-- only he could preserve the fallen folk at that time (see also Ibn Ezra, 18:7; cf. Golda).
F. Korach's FATE
Some say that Korach himself didn't fall into the pit, and wasn't consumed by fire; others say that he suffered both (San. 110a)! Korach's ancestry isn't traced back to Yaakov in our portion. Dying Yaakov prayed that he not be associated with later rebellions of Shimon & Levi, angry self-appointed holy avengers (Gen. 49:5-6; cf. today). Korach's descendants were outstanding Temple singers, led by Aharon's descendants. They redeem Korach, and are traced back to the highest aspect of Yaakov-- Yisroel (I Chron. 6:25-- Rashi; so we try to redeem our departed forefathers on YK). So Efrayim's name isn't associated with his dad, Yosef, when his descendant, Yehoshua, refuses to slander the Land of Israel, tho Yosef had slandered his brothers (see Numbers 13:8, 11; we must be critical of our ancestors and teachers too!-- Rav A. Kook). A Tanna, however, cites Moshe, claiming that Korach's sons have a special choir in Gehenna! (where they have 4 hour services?-- see San. 110a; cf. The Great Synagogue and Shlomo Minyanim).
Moshe omits Korach's tale in Deut. 1; it may have no major effect upon Israel's mission. But David recalls it, tho w/o Korach (Ps. 106); some see Korach as a righteous man, temporarily distorted by envy (the Kotzker, who loved independent spirits, called him "our old grandpa"); his evil followers used him for their own ends. Others view him as an EVIL scholar, as Yeraboam & Achitofel. Pirke Avot 5:20 implies that his ultimate dispute would be with his own colleagues, with opposing interests (cf. Lebanon, religious politics, Likud and Gesher); their alliance was only for temporary political expediency (cf. Habad & Aguda, Hitler & Stalin, Labor & Arafat, l'havdil squared). "Freedom fighters" are often themselves frustrated potential dictators (Rav A. H. Leibowitz-- cf. USSR, Cuba)-- Moshe knows that Korach wants to be high priest himself (16:10). After the elections, God says that only Aharon may offer incense, DUE to his persecution (T.D.E. 19). So Maimonides and M. C. Luzzato (messianic pretender, author of Mesillat Yesharim, love poems, plays, etc) were granted far greater fame than their inquisitorial detractors (cf. Rav JBS, Rav Riskin, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and these sheets). God's with the persecuted, perhaps even when the righteous pursue the wicked (e.g. an unduly strict court, re alleged illegitimate children-- see Ecc. Raba on 3:15, 4:1).
G. THE MYSTICAL CORNER: ZOHAR (176a-177b)
Korach attempted to reverse left (Levites) and right (Priests), laying waste to the world (BESIDES being punished for slander). He quarreled with peace above and below, when he tried to stop Aharon, the "best man", from offering the incense-- it increases peace and bonds the knot of faith, to form the link and union of the lower and upper; he lost what was his, in pursuing that which wasn't (cf. adultery; so Yaakov`s blessing to his sons is their self-knowledge, including their limitations). Korach's folks are called MEN OF NAME, not MEN OF GOD, as they banded together to fight for power and fame (cf. The Tower of Babel-- LET'S MAKE US A NAME... Gen. 11:4). Levites raise their voice in song; the priests QUIETLY offer incense. Aharon's "right hand" appeases the left, from which judgements issue. The inner altar of incense atones, despite lack of rightousness on the outer altar of worldly animal sacrifice (as do hidden saints in a corrupt world?). Aharon ran between the trees of life and death with the incense; the right hand drew them near to each other, and the plague was stayed. Happy the lot of the priest, who has power and brings peace-- both above and below! Cf.: WHEN THE LIPS OF THE COHEN SHALL GUARD DEEP KNOWLEDGE, THEY'LL SEEK TORAH FROM HIS MOUTH-- WHEN HE'S A TRUE ANGEL (or AGENT) OF THE GOD OF HOSTS (Mal. 2:7)-- they come to him, the quiet saint, not to the eloquent Levite preacher, for their highest and deepest needs.
H. MUTED MYSTICISM
Rav G. Fleer's ideal cohen transcends worldly existence; he enters Infinity, The Holy of Holies, symbolized by the intangible fragrance of incense, chesed, infinitely outreaching kindness. At that level, he's "silent", beyond words of critique and ?, of answer and discussion; so his highest holy oil OF (not just "for") annointing and lighting the menora pours quietly-- noisy wine symbolizes the Levite world of words and song (there's also a lower oil FOR, not "of", annointing-- cf. the higher and lower light). The cohen is forbidden wine, which limits his judgement-free transcendantal acceptance of all existence as ultimately being one (Zohar Shmot 39a; cf. Zen inter-being). The Levite copes with our limited (gevura) world of judgement, explaining and teaching, singing and wailing, per the revealed Torah. Some say that Levites will be high priests, Korach's dream, in the messianic age (see Vital on Zohar Truma 148a), including reborn Korach (but see San. 110, alleging that the spies and Korach's folk have lost the world to come; but also see Vilna Gaon's emendations thereon-- as in science, getting God's Word straight is darn complicated!-- see Full House, S. J. Gould, Harmony Books).
Some verses (Deut. 27:9, Joshua 3:3, Ezra 10:5, 2 Ch. 5:5, 23:18) speak of THE PRIESTS, THE LEVITES; Ezek. 44:15 so refers to the sons of Tzadok, who will be cohanim in the 3rd Temple. Per Korach's vision, he who can structure life in this world should simultaneously enter the world of Infinity, in equal harmony. The Zohar (Pinchas 141a-142) discusses the merger of the 2 worlds-- when Divinity enters this world, it takes on the forms and customs of earth, and v.v. The angels eat at Avraham`s house and Moshe fasts Upstairs. This theme is expressed in our prayers (Messianic Psalm 132, v. 9): YOUR PRIESTS SHOULD BE CLOTHED WITH JUSTICE (as Levites) AND YOUR SAINTLY ONES (cohanim) SHALL SING (as Levites).
I. PEACEFUL PERSONS
Mosrei Hashla notes the terrible punishment meted out to those who instigate quarrels (as opposed to legitimate friendly, tho drastic, differences of opinion); neither Korach's prominent role-- ark bearer (Num. Raba 18:3), nor his illustrious forebearers and descendants, can bail him out. Datan & Aviram's kids are also wiped out, tho God usually doesn't punish people before 20 (16:27,32-3, Rashi). We must always strive for, and love, peace, as Aharon, the true prince of peace (see Avot 1:12). He remains silent, despite Korach's defamations; Levite Moshe argues and tries to persuade; yet he too waives his dignity and goes, together with the elders, to make peace with Datan & Aviram. Moshe, not eloquent, was never chosen, liked, or appreciated by the Jews (Y. Eldad). While Israel may have yearned to leave Egypt, they weren't up to Moshe's great challenges (cf. Soviet Jewry). Moshe also killed their Calfian fun. Growing up in Pharoh's palace and marrying into Midian, yet intimate with God, Moshe was somewhat alien, tho indispensible, as God's chosen prophet and leader (cf. Rav JBS, Herzl); perhaps Yehoshua was his only intimate; to others, he was the lonely veiled prophet. His sole source of authority is God. The Jews constantly search for his flaws, excuses to rebel against him.
ENVY destroys the good and beautiful in life. Freud called it Thanatos, the death instinct, deeming it natural, tho unconscious; it's highly pronounced in psychotics (cf. Melanie Klein's studies); Norberto Keppe viewed it as the root of ALL individual and societal difficulties. It's Latin origin, invidere, means "not to see". An envious person is unwilling to see the good, beautiful, and genuine; all reality was such, before humans (e.g. Adam, Eve and Cain) spoiled it with envy. The goodness of Moshe & Aharon makes Korach conscious of his own evils; he'd destroy Israel's leaders, as an ugly person smashes a mirror; Man's wish to be the only light in the universe (gaava) leads him to theomania (the wish to be God), megalomania, narcissism, arrogance, alienation, and an inversion of values. Universal envy is directed at God's masterpiece, the universe. But awareness of one's envy engenders better control of his behavior, and increased happiness. A small group of powerful people (Korach was rich!) have created a sick envious society, with the tacit consent of the masses. They ignore natural happiness, and create complex and problematic social systems, which invariably cause incredible difficulties for all (cf. Israel's socialist bureaucracy, the West Side). If one is not presently grateful and happy with the good which he has, he'll respond similarly to any change in his situation (from The ABC of Analytical Trilogy, C. B. Pacheo):
"Yes-- good and truth will pursue me all the days of my life" (Ps. 23)-- they must pursue man, who runs away from them (the Kotzker)! Ben Zoma said: "Who's wise-- he who learns from all men... Who's mighty, he who conquers his inner impulses... Who's wealthy-- he who rejoices in his portion (tho he may try for more)... Who's respectable? He who respects all Created things (ecology? Avot 4:1)".
J. is for JERUSALEM JOUSTS
FOLLOWUP: In Truma, we noted the predicament of outspoken Jeff of Aish and Shappel; the latter institution, among others, refused to allow him to continue learning there, after he decided to attend JTS (tho he continued to work for tolerant Phil Chernofsky of NCSY); some young folks wouldn't even count him for a minyan. JTS then set up a program for him at Neve Shechter, featuring Richie Lewis, who used to teach at Shappel, and still gratefully respects it-- the Lord works in mysterious ways! Will Jeff, Miriam Knight and their few JTS cohorts, who claim adherance to truly traditional beliefs in one divinely revealed Written and Oral Torah, and to the authority of halacha, be able to survive the contrary atmosphere of JTS? Will they wind up with protesting Prof. Dovid Halivni Weiss? Will they be able to reject JTS teaching of the documentary hypothesis, and widespread ignoring of basic halachos, even by Conservative leaders, e.g. shatnes (see The Condition of Jewish Belief, M. Himmelfarb, AJC), mikva and the prohibition of yichud, e.g. male and female flatmates and hotel mates? A 1996 followup to this followup-- Ardent Jeff has left dry academic JTS for parts and preferences yet unknown. Tanya Malinsky, who went from TOP to Russia, is checking it out! (firstname.lastname@example.org until 7/14/97).
CHANGE YOUR SHEETS?: Congratulations to Phil Chernofsky on the 5th anniversary of his popular popularized Israel Center (NCSY) Parsha Sheet, Torah Tidbits (TT); in reminiscing on his experience last year (Shlach), Phil expressed his own preference for the name Torah Tidbits, tho it sounds flippant and corny to some people, reminding them of chopped liver on a cracker! But Phil feels that his sheet, chock full of short divrei Torah, is indeed a potpourri of succulent tidbits. However, as his sheets constantly grow longer (up to 20 pages), including editorials, comprehensive halachic summaries and a complete synopsis of the parsha, I think he's coming closer to our own giant banquet, with exotic delicacies, than to a "nosh" of tidbits. Eating and drinking is perhaps our most basic or primary conscious life activity, the source of our earliest security and comfort; Freud showed how we constantly return to oral satisfaction, amidst the trials and tribulations of life; when someone can no longer enjoy even food and drink, they're in pretty bad shape.
So food and drink serve as metaphors for all satisfactions and accomplishments, including Torah Tidbits; our particular choice of such metaphors, as our eating habits themselves, may indeed reflect our early psychoanalytic origins, our self-image and the essence of our personalities, e.g. disciplined, orderly and obedient, vs. unfettered, creative and non-conformist; many years ago, I frequented Grossinger's Hotel, where I was asked which incredible dessert I'd like. My standard reply was: "All" (it cost no more)-- why limit oneself? (not necessarily my current attitude); but Peretz's Bunche Schveig would just like a tidbit-- a bit of herring and a roll-- as his ultimate heavenly reward.
This study sheet also started at the Israel Center, where I taught the weekly parsha to large audiences, and served on the advisory board, about 14 years ago; someone called the Israel Center last year and asked for Phil Fogelman, editor of the parsha sheet! The sheet soon became my major activity; it was widely distributed for many years before Torah Tidbits entered the scene-- TT's great expansion in quality and quantity occurred during the last few years.
Both TT and the Jerusalem Jewish Voice (JJV) are Religious Zionist, the only such studies which encompass the entire Parsha; Israel's new third widespread English Religious Zionist study sheet, Machon Meir's "B'Ahava U'bemuna" (BUB), "With Love and Faith", contains about 5 short articles on Israel Today and the parsha in 2 large pages; it gives only a religious right wing (tho not Kahanist) political viewpoint. All 3 studies are available on WWW, TT and JJV on E-mail too. TT is more mainstream bourgeois establishment Modern Orthodox than the others, and filled with all sorts of statistics on the parsha, plus advertisments and the Israel Center's schedule; JJV is more esoteric, without advertising, and interfaces far more with secular knowledge and culture; it give many more sources and alternative views, and was called Israel's most comprehensive parsha sheet a few years ago in Yom Hashishi. Some indeed find JJV too complex, outspoken, controversial and sophisticated; they might enjoy TT or BUB more.
Only JJV is also available in short compact summaries, books, and disks. JJV and BUB also have a Hebrew edition, both in print and on WWW. TOP distributes a German version of BUB; English is JJV's original text, BUB's Hebrew. Hebrew and Russian TT would probably be quite popular with "amcha", but Phil, like me, seems to be already overworked (including all-nighters on Wednesday). Perhaps Mr. Falk will finance TT translations! Maybe JJV's too! We already have a few sheets in German and Spanish, and hope to expand our translations. We need donors or volunteers to do Russian, French, German and Spanish. Many Russians, who read English, seem to appreciate our viewpoint, including several prominant former Prisoners of Zion.
Why pick just one sheet (unless your time is very limited)? Get them all-- For TT, contact The Israel Center, 10 Straus St., POB 37015, Jerusalem 91370, tel. (02) 384206, fax 385186, e-mail:email@example.com; for BUB, which usually contains some very deep and relevant ideas of Rav Kook, contact Machon Meir, Sderot Hameiri 2, Kiryat Moshe, 651-1906, URL:http://www.virtual.co.il/almark/machon-meir The english translation of their hebrew sheet is pretty good, despite occasional misspellings; but they don't translate, or even transliterate, their title, masthead, and mottos! There are also several non-Zionist English parsha sheets; easy to read Ohrnet of Ohr Somaach may be the nicest sheet of all graphically; Why do they also call their printed version Ohrnet? It resembles BUB, is slicker, but usually less profound-- with no mention of Rav Kook or Rav Soloveichik. Revered and really relevant Rav Shlomo Aviner discussed The Israeli Government and the Eternity of Israel in BUB:
"Governments may come and go, but the State of Israel will exist forever... The government does not make our history-- Am Yisrael makes history; the government is for the nation, not v.v. The government actualizes the potential powers hidden in the nation... A government is the government of the whole nation, not just of the party it comes from..."
Rav Kook writes: "It's a bad sign for a party, if it thinks that the source of life, of all wisdom and propriety, is only with it, and that anything else is transitory and of evil spirit... (Letters 1:17; citations aren't given in the English BUB). Let no party's victory be too great, for blessing is always found in balance... (ibid 276). I'm not a politician, and am unable to distinguish myself in those (national) matters about which there are differing opinions. I see only the good in every phenomenon, and I relate to it with affection and respect (The Vision of Redemption, 333)... It's impossible and forbidden for a rabbi to put himself in the framework of a party, even when he prefers its program, and it's closer to his heart (Sefer Azkara, about Rav Kook; Rav J. Soloveichik held similar attitudes)...
"I call heaven and earth as my witnesses, that my affection is great, literally with my whole heart and soul, for the whole of our nation and all its individuals and parties, for I believe, with a full heart, that every part and parcel of them is a special limb of that wonderful holy value, which is the Whole of Knesset Yisrael, with all that it entails... in every party and every movement there are, of course, things with which I cannot agree, but this can't cause the burning flame of love within me, for our holy nation and all its individuals, to be damaged by even a hair's breadth... My love of them all knows no bounds (The Vision of the Redemption, 275; Rav Kook's great love overflowed to all mankind, even to all of Creation)".
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Extensive Torah Reading study sheets and video lectures on many Judaic subjects, as well as Jewish educational gifts and music, are available at TOP. Your purchases and donations enable us to continue our mission. The perspective is eclectic and holistic, but traditional-- that the written Torah is the word of God, much of the oral His explanation. Together with science, they comprise His factory authorized instruction manual for mankind.
Help support these studies and our other Jewish information projects-- a complete set of our weekly & holiday torah reading studies or our monthly summaries and general studies is sent upon request with your donation of $36 or more-- $54 for a spiral bound enlarged book of the torah studies; older editions of both are 1/2 price. Both on ibm or mac discs are $80. $250 funds an 8 page weekly study, in honor or memory of whomever you wish, or a monthly Jerusalem Jewish Voice (2000 copies; $150 funds 1,000 copies).
We seek major donors to sponsor Jewish information centers worldwide, including dedication of our present center.
We have a large selection of Jewish video visions. Send a disk for a free catalog.
TOP is an attempt to present authentic Jewish tradition thru modern language and outlook. Visit our 900 year young reading room and Jewish video center at 54 Chabad St. as the state of Israel begins god's messianic redemption, so photos, tapes, & video may be a prelude to eternal life and resurrection of the dead! Imagine seeing moshe, rashi, the Besht or your great-great-grandfather on video!
Yaakov Fogelman, directs TOP, the Torah Outreach Program and The Jerusalem Jewish Information Center, in the Jewish 1/4 and edits these Jerusalem Jewish Voice Torah study sheets. He studied at The Rabbinical Seminary of America, is a graduate of Yeshiva University and Harvard Law School, and a member of the Massachusetts Bar. A synopsis of his teachings, together with those of 19 other contemporary Torah teachers, appears in Seymour Friedman's "In The Service of God", published by Jason Aaronson.
This work is copyright, but I'm most happy to have anyone reproduce it in any form, without charge, subject to two conditions--that the meaning not be distorted, and that ideas not be taken out of context, and that credit be given for the source. God gives us the Torah free and we must so share it with others; there are other ways to make a living. To cite the source of an idea brings redemption to the world (Avot 6:6)