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ויקח קרח בן יצהר בן קהת

Korach ben Yitzhar ben Kehas took (himself). (16:1)

In his commentary (Shaar HaPesukim) to Parashas Korach, the Arizal makes a somewhat cryptic statement. “The gematria, numerical equivalent, of Moshe (Rabbeinu, our quintessential leader) is 345. If one were to deduct the gematria of the name Hevel (son of Adam and Chavah, who was killed by Kayin), which is 37, the sum would equal 308, which is the gematria of Korach.” This implies much more than mere numbers. Ostensibly, removing “Hevel” – or whatever characteristics he has in common with the personality of Moshe – can produce a Korach. Conversely, “Moshe” and “Hevel” together seem to create a cure…

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כי כל העדה כלם קדשים

For the entire congregation – all of them – are holy. (16:3)

Korach crossed the line when he debated Moshe Rabbeinu. One does not impugn the integrity of the gadol/gedolim, Torah giants, of their generation. His statement, “The entire congregation, all of them, are holy,” is the basic argument of those who reject the Torah leaders, claiming that they are as well-versed in Torah as the gedolim. They do not require a teacher or a leader. Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl (who was the posek ha’dor, undisputed halachic arbiter of his generation), explains that without the mesorah, tradition, of the great men of the generation, one can easily err – just as Korach…

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ואני הנה נתתי לך את משמרת תרומתי לכל קדשי בני ישראל

And I – behold! I have given you the safeguard of My heave-offer was of all the sanctities of Bnei Yisrael. (18:8)

The offerings Korach controversy had concluded (veritably, it never ends; a new one will unfortunately rear its ugly head to replace the former debacle), and the Torah now lists the twenty-four various gifts, matnos Kehunah, that were allotted to the Kohanim. In Pirkei Avos (6:6), we are taught that the Priesthood is acquired through twenty-four procedures. Horav Shlomo Wolbe, zl, observes that this is no coincidence. A corollary must exist between these two “twenty-fours.” He quotes the Chovos HaLevavos, who teaches that everything which Hashem grants us comes with an obligation for reciprocity. Hashem shows His kindness to us. We…

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שלח לך אנשים ויתרו את ארץ כנען

Send forth men and let them spy out the land of Canaan. (13:2)

Moshe Rabbeinu relayed to Hashem the nation’s request for spies to reconnoiter Eretz Yisrael. Hashem told Moshe to send them. If the nation insisted on sending spies, it was best that Moshe be involved in the decision concerning whom to send. For if the nation were to act on its own, without direction from its spiritual leadership, it would be tantamount to rebellion. Furthermore, a nation without leadership is more like 600,000 leaders, each with his own opinion, acting independently of the other. Obviously, they were deficient in their emunah, faith, in Hashem. He had promised to lead them into…

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היש בה עץ אם אין

Are there trees in it or not? (13:20)

Was Moshe Rabbeinu interested in the land’s vegetation? Rashi explains that Moshe’s inquiry concerning a tree was an allusion to a tzaddik. He wanted the spies to discern whether a righteous man was in the Land, in whose merit its inhabitants would be spared. The righteous activities of tzaddikim are undisputed. If one were asked to paint a portrait of a tzaddik, he would probably depict a man with a saintly countenance, bent over a pile of sefarim, Torah volumes. Some tzaddikim are ordinary people, but have earned tzaddik status because they are mezakei ha’rabim, bring merit upon many people….

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ונהי בעינינו כחגבים וכן היינו בעיניהם

We were like grasshoppers in our eyes and so were we in their eyes. (13:33)

When the meraglim, spies, returned from their mission, the nation debated their negative report. They ruminated back and forth: Could they triumph over the giant Canaanites or would they be defeated? The meraglim were emphatic that they had no hope for success. The people listened to them, and they began their bechiyah shel chinam, unwarranted weeping – a weeping for which we have been punished with a bechiyah l’doros, weeping for generations. As a consequence, that night, which was the Ninth of Av, became the precursor of our national day of mourning. What did the meraglim fear? What was it…

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בהעלותך את הנרות

When you bring up/kindle the lamps. (8:2)

Rashi cites Chazal who derive from the word b’haalosecha, which is connected to alah, go up, that there was an elevation before the Menorah in the Bais HaMikdash.  The Kohen would ascend those steps in order to kindle the lamps. I once heard a profound homiletic rendering of this Chazal. Not only was it incumbent upon the Kohen to cause the lights of the lamps to rise, but he also had to rise up one step, to elevate himself spiritually as he kindled the lights. Many wonderful people illuminate society by kindling lights, but they do not necessarily elevate themselves…

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לכה אתנו והטבנו לך כי ד' דבר טוב על ישראל

Go with us and we shall treat you well, for Hashem has spoken good for Yisrael. (10:29)

Moshe Rabbeinu asked his father-in-law, Yisro, to join the nation in its journey to Eretz Yisrael. “We will treat you well,” Moshe says. “Because Hashem has spoken good (He will provide us with His beneficence: you, too, will benefit.) The term diber tov, spoken good, is found in only one other place in Tanach. In Megillas Esther (7:9), when Charvonah tells Achashveirosh that the tree which Haman ha’rasha had prepared for Mordechai — asher diber tov al ha’Melech, “who spoke good for the king” — is standing in Haman’s house (and why not put it to good use?). The Agra…

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שטו העם ולקטו וטחנו ברחים... ועשו אתו עגות והיה טעמו כטעם לשד השמן

The people would roam and gather it, and grind it in a mill… or make it into cakes and it tasted like the taste of dough kneaded with oil. (11:8)

Chazal (Yoma 75a) teach that the manna had within it a multiplicity of tastes, allowing the individual to experience any taste he wanted. It had no name until the first Shabbos it descended upon the camp. They called it Manna among themselves, a name which implies hachanah, preparation, for all foods; any taste could be experienced by eating it.  When on the sixth day/Erev Shabbos, however, a double portion fell, they called it Manna/man, because the mem and nun, two letters which comprise the word manna, are spelled out in double letters: mem = mem, mem: nun, nun (Kli Yakar)….

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כי תאמר אלי שאהו בחיקך כאשר ישא האמן את הינק

That You say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a suckling.” (11:12)

Moshe Rabbeinu implied with his words that if he were indeed their (Klal Yisrael’s) father, he would have an obligation to somehow carry on alone. The Chafetz Chaim, zl, derives from here that the buck stops at the parents. No parent may shirk his/her ultimate responsibility and turn from his/her children – regardless of personal difficulties or the (at times) difficult nature of the child. Horav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zl, gleaned from here that Moshe had the capacity to “carry” the entire nation. Obviously, this is a metaphor for his ability to care for and be sensitive to the needs of…

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