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ובני קרח לא מתו

But the sons of Korach did not die. (26:11)

It is not as if Korach had protected his sons by excluding them from his ill-fated debacle. Rashi comments that they had been involved from the very beginning. At the time of the dispute, however, they were meharher bi’teshuvah, had thoughts of repentance in their hearts. Therefore, a place was fortified for them in Gehinnom, Purgatory, and they resided there. This means that the earth beneath them hardened above the spot designated for them in Gehinnom. Thus, they were spared due to the teshuvah thoughts they harbored. This is a powerful and inspiring lesson. Teshuvah saves. When the Ponovezher Rav,…

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קח לך את יהושע בן נון איש אשר רוח בו ... ונתתה מהודך עליו למען ישמעו כל עדת בני ישראל

Take to yourself Yehoshua ben Nun, a man in whom there is spirit…You shall place some of your splendor upon him, so that the entire assembly of Bnei Yisrael will pay heed. (27:18,20)

Targum Onkelos comments, B’dil di yikablum minei kol k’nishta divnei Yisrael; “So that the entire congregation of Bnei Yisrael will accept him.” Rashi writes, “So that they treat him with respect and fear, in the manner that they treat you.” It is wonderful to have Moshe Rabbeinu’s approval, but is it not superfluous? Once Hashem gave the order, “Take to yourself Yehoshua,” what else was necessary to segue to Yehoshua becoming Moshe’s successor? Is Hashem’s approval insufficient that it was necessary for the people to see that Moshe, too, was on board with this choice? Why did Moshe have to…

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וביום השבת שני כבשים בני שנה תמימים

And on the Shabbos day: two male lambs in their first year, unblemished. (28:9)

Shabbos bears testimony that Hashem created Heaven and earth. Hashem imbued this day with unique spiritual character, distinguishing it from the other six days of the week, elevating it to a higher level of sanctity. Thus, on Shabbos when the Bais HaMikdash was extant, we could offer a Korban Mussaf, Additional Offering, similar to what is offered on Festivals and holy days. The Sefer HaChinuch explains that when we bring an offering, we fix our thoughts on the significance of the day and its broad degree of sanctity. Man is impacted by his actions. Thus, Hashem commanded us to perform…

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ויקחו אליך פרה אדומה תמימה

And they shall take to you a completely red cow, which is without blemish. (19:2)

The mitzvah of Parah Adumah, Red Cow, which is used to purify one who is tamei meis, spiritually defiled by coming in contact with a dead body, has become known as the paradigmatic mitzvah whose reason is beyond human cognition. Actually, this is true with regard to all mitzvos. We have no idea of the reason for any one of the 613 mitzvos; it is just that some are easier to relate to, because they are common-sensical. The laws of Parah Adumah are replete with anomalies. The most difficult to accept is the fact that the Kohen who carries out…

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וישלח ד' בעם את הנחשים השרפים ... ויאמרו חטאנו ... והיה הנשוך וראה אתו וחי

Then Hashem let the poisonous snakes loose against the people … They said, “We have sinned” … that everyone who is bitten when he looks upon it he shall live. (21:6,7,8)

It was not the first time; once again, the people did not receive what they perceived they needed. Their first reaction was to complain, “This is no good; that is no good.” Immediately, they directed their discontent against Hashem. They did not doubt the authenticity of Moshe Rabbeinu’s leadership; they had issues with Hashem’s guidance. They would never reach the Promised Land if they were to continue along this path in the wretched wilderness. Veritably, they had nourishment from the manna, but what about some real food and drink? Furthermore, obtaining manna was effortless, almost monotonous. They wanted some excitement…

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וישלח מלאכים אל בלעם בן בעור

He sent agents to Bilaam ben Beor. (22:5)

Is it possible that, concerning all outward appearances, one not only manifests himself as righteous, but he even receives the fringe benefits and special treatment accorded to a tzaddik; yet, he remains throughout a despicable rasha, wicked person, of the lowest order? Yes! Bilaam showed us that it can be done. Bilaam was Hashem’s “gift” to the pagan/gentile world, so that they could not assert that they had no worthy spiritual leadership. Bilaam was on a lofty spiritual plane, a prophet of the highest order. He was the gentile world’s Moshe. So what happened? He refused to purge himself of…

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מה טבו אהליך יעקב

How goodly are your tents, Yaakov. (24:5)

What impressed Bilaam about the Jewish tents? Bilaam saw that the entrances to one another precluded intrusions on the privacy of other families. Furthermore, tents refer to the batei medrash, study halls. (According to Rashi, it refers to the Mishkan and Batei Mikdash when they were extant). At first glance, tznius, privacy and modesty, and study halls do not seem to coincide, unless the Torah is suggesting to us that the study hall – or Torah study of those who occupy the bais hamedrash, who devote themselves wholly to studying Hashem’s Torah – should reflect tznius, privacy and modesty, in…

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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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