Korach (Numbers 16-18 )
GOOD MORNING! My friend, Charlie Harary (CharlieHarary.com), tells the story of an elderly and senior member of his real estate firm who was retiring. The gentleman came from an old American family, probably dating back to the Pilgrims. He was the exemplar of the cultured white Anglo-Saxon Protestant America.
Tradition in Charlie's firm had the retiree make the rounds to say goodbye to the employees. When the gentleman came to my friend's desk, Charlie asked him if he could share a piece of wisdom since he had so many years of experience in life.
The retiree smiled and told Charlie, "This may seem odd, but in my family we have a tradition which I highly recommend that has kept us close and strong as a family. We call it "Disconnect Day." We don't answer the phone, we don't drive places, we don't use the computer or the internet. We just enjoy our time together talking, playing games, eating, sharing."
Charlie smiled and when the elderly man asked why, Charlie explained, "We Jews have been doing that for thousands of years. It's called 'Shabbos' -- the Sabbath!"
The man immediately replied, "I always knew there was something special about the Jews!"
A non-religious Jewish essayist, Ahad Ha'am (Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg), once wrote "More than the Jewish people have kept the Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jewish people." Shabbos has always been an integral part of our heritage. If you read about our 40 years wandering the Sinai desert you'll read that we received two portions of maneh on the sixth day instead of the usual one portion (which is why we make the blessing over two Challahs, loafs of bread) because on the Shabbat we were commanded not to gather the maneh.
Shabbos is not just a day of rest, of feasting, of family -- it is a day of reflection and connection with the Almighty. It is a day of thinking of what we have accomplished and how we have interacted the past week. It is a day of spiritual recharge. On Shabbat we take a step back from creating to recognize that there is a Creator.
"When God announced that He was giving the Torah to the Jewish people, He said, 'If you fulfill all these commandments, you will inherit heaven -- the World to Come.' The people asked: 'Master of the Universe, won't you show us a sample of that World in this World?' And so He replied, 'Here is Shabbat. It will bring you a small taste of the pleasure and peace of the World to come' " (Otiot D'Rabbi Akiva).
The spirituality of Shabbos permeates the rest of the week: "All the days of the week draw sustenance from Shabbat; Shabbat is the day on which the wheel of the six weekdays turns. It is a kind of root for the other days and will shed some of its sanctity on every day.... Some of the influence of Shabbat is present in each and every weekday" (Reishit Chochmah).
Would you like to make Shabbos a part of your life? The one book you will want to buy is Lori Palatnik's Friday Night and Beyond -- The Shabbat Experience Step by Step. Be prepared. Think through and understand what you want to do and practice it. Read up on Shabbat. Experience a Shabbat with a family who has already integrated it into their lifestyle. See how beautiful a relaxed Shabbat experience can be. As you see how different families celebrate the Shabbat, you can incorporate into your own Shabbat celebration the foods, customs and even songs (there are special songs which families sing together around the table).
Here's a guide: 1) Eighteen minutes before sunset the mother (or the head of the household), lights two candles with a blessing. The candles provide the soft light of Shabbat Peace. 2) Start with a Friday night meal with a rule: no answering the telephone; no radio or television. 3) The father (or head of the household) makes Kiddush -- sanctifying the day with words of remembrance over a cup of wine. It is an act of testimony and regal declaration that we are Jews recognizing our Creator who took us out of Egypt. 4) Make a blessing "HaMotzie" over two challahs 5) Relax over a multi-course meal -- soup, gefilte fish, chicken and kugel. Discuss what you did that week. Ask those around the table about their week. Find questions about your experiences to raise questions that are important to life. 6) Read aloud -- or take turns reading -- part of the weekly Torah portion. Ask a question on it. Read the Shabbat Shalom Weekly! Have a quiz for the kids (be sure to have taught your kids the stories beforehand or directed them what to read). Call me or your local rabbi for help!
Korach, Numbers 16:1 - 18:32
There are two rebellions this week. First, Korach, a Levite, was passed over for the leadership of his tribe and then 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 announced that God had already designated his brother, Aharon, to serve).
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.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
In response to Korach's rebellion, Moshe sets forth a very strong response. The Torah states:
"And Moshe said, 'With this you shall know that the Almighty sent me to do all these things, I did not make them up" (Numbers 16:28).
Moshe then goes on to tell Korach and his followers that they would die unnatural deaths (verses 16:29-35). This might appear very cruel on Moshe's part. To explain Moshe's reaction, the Alshich (a noted commentary) gives the analogy of a doctor who sees a need to amputate a person's hand or foot in order that a disease should not spread. Although this might seem cruel, it is really an act of kindness because it saves the person's life. Similarly, Moshe saw that Korach's rebellion was spreading and he had 250 followers already. In order to save the rest of the nation, Moshe, with his compassion for everyone else, had to use stringent measures.
True kindness at times will obligate us to use approaches that might appear very strict. However, the key factor is always our motivation for the entire situation. If someone sees a young child playing with matches and grabs them from him, the child will most probably cry and think that this person is very cruel. Only a person who is apathetic or callous would allow the child to continue playing with matches.
Using harsh measures when they are not absolutely needed is cruel; failing to use harsh measures when they are the only approach available in order to help someone is also cruel. The person who is truly kind will weigh each situation carefully to see what is needed.
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 6:14 - Hong Kong 6:51 - Honolulu 6:57
J'Burg 5:06 - London 9:01 - Los Angeles 7:49
Melbourne 4:49 - Mexico City 7:58 - Miami 7:56
New York 8:11 - Singapore 6:53 - Toronto 8:43
Do all the good you can, by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can, in all the places you can,
at all the times you can, to all the people you can,
as long as ever you can.
-- John Wesley