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Korach 5771

Korach (Numbers 16-18 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Each week about 50,000 Shabbat Shaloms go out by fax and 50,000 by email. I once received a rather strong message on my voicemail: "Take me off the Shabbat Shalom Fax! I didn't ask for it, I don't want this (expletive deleted). Remove me or I'll put the Attorney General on you for unsolicited faxes. You have been warned, guide yourself accordingly." Unfortunately, in his anger, he did not give me the name to remove, the fax number to remove or a number to call if there is a problem. Luckily, I was able to cross-reference the time and date of the call with the Caller ID to find a name and number.

I called the gentleman and asked him if he had left a message to be removed from the Shabbat Shalom Fax.  He proceeded to erupt again in a volcanic display of harsh tonal qualities, threats and name-calling.  When he calmed down, I told him that I would be delighted to remove him from the distribution list, but I needed his name or fax number to remove him which he had not left in his message.  He gave me his name.  It was not in the database.  I asked for his fax number figuring perhaps there was a data-entry error which mistakenly directed the fax to him.  His fax number was not in the database.

I then asked him to please read the very small letters at the very top left side of the page and to let me know who had sent him the fax.  He responded, "Oh, look at that.  One of my friends sent me a copy of your fax.  I wonder why he did that."  I wonder if he ever made the connection why his friend sent him the fax with the topic of the fax -- "How to Conquer Anger."

The Sages tell us (Talmud, Shabbat 105b) regarding a person who gets angry that it is as if he worshipped idols.  What idol is he worshipping?  Himself.  We get angry because we have expectations that everything must be exactly like we want it.  The Orchot Tzadikim (Ways of the Righteous) --available from your local Jewish book store, or 877-758-3242 -- teaches that a person controlled by anger denies himself happiness in life.  An angry person is out of control and at the whim of outside forces!

Let's analyze why we get angry:  We trip on something, someone bumps into us; a colleague, spouse or child doesn't listen to us.  In the first two cases, something happens that we aren't expecting.  In the latter case, it is the frustration of having our will thwarted.

Anger comes from having a fragile ego.  We interpret what happens as a direct personal attack instead of happenstance, sloth, incompetence or inconsideration.  Internally, we are telling ourselves:  "How can this be happening to me -- I am too important for this to happen to me!"

There is a place for anger -- the most appropriate place being in the dictionary.  Also, if you are physically attacked, anger focuses our response.  An angry person may be listened to (if he has the power), but he appears like a meshugenah (a crazy person); will be feared, not loved; endangers his health (through high blood pressure) and is not being maximally effective or enjoying life.  If he is trying to rebuke his child or student, they may hear his point, but they will come away with an awful role model on how to handle stress or displeasure.  (A parent owes his child three things: example, example, example.)  It has been said that raising children by yelling at them is like driving a car by honking the horn.  One should appear angry when punishing a child to emphasize the danger of chasing a ball into the street.  However, one should not punish a child while he is angry.

Anger can be controlled.  Imagine that someone bumps into you very hard; you start to get angry and then you turn around to see that it is a blind man --or that special person you've always wanted to meet -- or a 6'6" bully.  Your perspective immediately changes and you might find that asking, "Did you hurt yourself?" is a more appropriate or judicious response.

Other tips on controlling anger?  (1) Realize that anger is counter-productive and commit to not getting angry.  (2) Appreciate how insane you look when you do get angry (perhaps carry a pocket mirror and refuse to get angry until you take it out to watch yourself!)  (3) Set up a fine system and pay someone (preferably someone you don't like) a large fine if you get angry.  (4) Imagine that you just won the Lottery -- would you still get angry over this trifle?  (If you don't get angry, you have just won the Lottery in the battle to control your behavior!)  (5) Delay getting angry -- yes, count to 10 -- or leave the room before exploding.  (6) If you do get angry, cut it short and be sure to apologize and set yourself to do better in the future.  (7) Read Anger The Inner Teacher -- A Nine-Step Program to Free Yourself from Anger by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin.

For more on "Anger" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

There are two rebellions this week.  First, Korach, a Levite who was passed over for the leadership of his tribe, challenges Moshe over the position of High Priest.  No good rebellion can be "sold" as a means for personal gain, so Korach convinces 250 men of renown that they must stand up for a matter of principle -- that each and every one of them has the right to the office of High Priest (which Moshe had already announced that God had designated his brother Aharon to serve as the High Priest).

Fascinatingly, all 250 followers of Korach accept Moshe's challenge to bring an offering of incense to see who God will choose to fill the one position.  This meant that every man figured he would be the one out of 250 to not only be chosen, but to survive the ordeal.  Moshe announces that if the earth splits and swallows up the rebels it is a sign that he (Moshe) is acting on God's authority.  And thus it happened!

The next day the entire Israelite community rises in a second rebellion and complains to Moshe, "You have killed God's people!"  The Almighty brings a plague which kills 14,700 people ... and only stops when Aharon offers an incense offering.

To settle the question once and for all, Moshe has the head of each tribe bring a staff with his name on it.  The next morning only Aharon's staff had blossomed and brought forth almonds.  The people were shown this sign.  Aharon's staff was placed in front of the curtain of the ark as testimony for all time.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"There shall not be like Korach and his congregation." (Numbers 17:5)

This verse is a source of the prohibition against being involved in quarrels.  What insight does this verse give us into the nature of quarrels?

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, the former head of the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, commented that the verse can be understood that "There will not be other quarrels like that of Korach and his followers."  By the argument with Korach, Moshe was 100% right and Korach was 100% wrong.  In every other argument, even if one side is more correct than the other, both sides are making some mistakes.

Rather than blame the other person, it is more productive for both sides to ask themselves what they did to contribute to the quarrel.  When you stop blaming and condemning the other party, you will be calm enough to work out peaceful solutions.


(or go to

Jerusalem 7:13
Guatemala 6:16 - Hong Kong 6:52 - Honolulu 6:58
J'Burg 5:06 - London 9:03 - Los Angeles 7:50
Melbourne 4:51 - Mexico City 8:00 - Miami 7:57
New York 8:13 - Singapore 6:52 - Toronto 8:45


Better to rise to the occasion
than to hit the ceiling.


With Special Thanks to

Mr. Mario Sapoznik


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