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Parshas Korach - The Difference Between Taking & Giving         1 Tammuz 5781

06/11/2021 11:31:25 AM


Forty-four years ago, on the Shabbos of this week’s parsha,  my family and friends gathered at the Washington Hotel in Belle Harbor, N.Y. to celebrate my Bar Mitzvah. The location of this special weekend was a duplicate of my brother’s a”h Bar Mitzvah weekend which took place at the same location four and a half years earlier. The primary reason each bar mitzvah was moved to a hotel was because my grandfather was not able to walk to the local Shul where we davened regularly. Not to give the wrong impression, the hotel was a bit run down at the time of my brother’s Bar Mitzva, and to say the least, it had not been updated by the time my Bar Mitzva arrived. All in all, back in the day it was a beautiful event and a milestone in my life and in the history of our family. But as in any major event, especially in the Jewish world, no simcha occurs without stress, worry, and unplanned mishaps, and mine was no exception.

On Thursday, two days before this special weekend, my parents asked my brother to deliver a few things to the hotel for Shabbos. The drive took approximately twenty-five minutes, and it was a beautiful, sunny, June day. My family happened to have gotten a “brand new” used car which, for my family was regarded as a new automobile.  My brother, bargaining with my parents to make this round trip, asked my parents if a few of his friends could come along and go golfing on a course located in the same neighborhood as the hotel. I went along for the ride and, of course, to the golf course as well. It was an exasperating experience for me, a thirteen-year-old trying to play golf for the very first time without any prior instruction or guidance. I could not hit the ball very far; in fact, although I did get some chunks of dirt to go flying, I was unable to hit the ball at all. Finally, completely frustrated, I  picked up the ball and threw it as far as I could. I did not get a hole in one, but it did release my frustration. After this experience we drove to the hotel to drop off things for Shabbos. Now, if you do the math, my brother had only recently obtained his driver’s license. He was a good driver, but somehow when he drive into a triangular-shaped corner, he went right through a stop sign and totaled the vehicle, rendering it undrivable.  

Putting this all into perspective, a day earlier my mother a”h and I went to pick up the small pocket siddurim that were given out as a gift with the occasion of my Bar MItzvah stamped on the front as a token memento for everyone in attendance.  The siddurim did not come out the way I had envisioned, and I was completely dejected by the product. My mother a”h turned around to me and said to me in Yiddish, “This should be the worst thing to happen to you in your life.” How deeply prophetic were her words. Looking back, there is no doubt in my mind there was stress, anxiety, tension, hassle, worry and pressure, but it was never felt by me whatsoever. Typically, a thirteen-year-old does not pick up on these issues, but in my case, even more so because my parents did not lean into them. It is at such points and important events in life which lend to controversy and disagreement. What is the secret for maintaining calm during all the hullabaloo to successfully navigate the storm? Perhaps such insight comes from the portion I was to read that Shabbos.

In Parshas Korach we read about two major events:  the rebellion of Korach and his followers, and the giving and receiving of the Matanos Kehuna, the twenty-four gifts Kohanim were entitled to receive. The Torah states in Bamidbar 16:1 "ויקח קרח בן יצהר בן קהת בן לוי, ודתן ואבירם בני אליאב ואון בן פלת בני ראובן"  “And Korach, son of Yitzhar (a grandson of Kehas and a great-grandson of Levi), took to a rebellion along with Dasan and Aviram (sons of Eliav) and On son of Peles, descendants of Reuvain”. Contrast that verse with the following verse towards the end of the Parsha. In Bamidbar 18:8 the Torah states "וידבר ה' אל אהרן ואני הנה נתתי לך את משמרת תרומתי, לכל קדשי בני ישראל לך נתתים למשחה ולבניך לחק עולם"  “God announced to Aharon: I have given you responsibility for My elevated gifts. I am thus giving you all the sacred gifts of the Israelites as part of your anointment. These shall be an eternal portion for your descendants.” Rashi clearly explains the connection between Korach trying to take away the Kehuna/priesthood from Aharon and the giving of special gifts to Aharon. Rashi quoting the Sifrei writes, “This may be likened to a king who gave a field to his beloved friend but did not write or sign a deed of sale, nor bring it to the recording offices. There came a man who contested the ownership of the field. The King said to him (his friend) whosoever desires, let him come and contest your rights, Behold, I will write and sign for you a deed of sale and will bring it to the recording offices. Similarly, here: since Korach came and protested against Aharon and wanted to take the Kehuna, scripture comes and grants him twenty-four gifts of priesthood as an everlasting covenant of salt. For that reason, this section is adjoined here.”

The lesson learned is that whoever challenges the Tzadik and stirs a controversy against him will not reach their desired goal. To the contrary, in the end the Tzadik will be blessed and bestowed upon honor and gifts from heaven. Avoid the controversy and Machlokes because it does not do anything for the person; at the end that person suffers a tragic end as did Korach and his followers.

Machlokes and controversy is not  described unless in extreme cases such as Korach.  This applies just as strongly to each of us as we live through in our day-to-day experiences. Machlokes quite often arises out of jealousy, envy, and the like, ultimately leading to the demise or ruination of the instigator, even though this individual may sincerely believe in his/her cause and might have reasons for pursuing it.  All too frequently, if driven to pursue the cause anyway, it will most likely fail.  The way to resolve such situations is by giving. I look back at the events which occurred over four decades ago and clearly  see and reap the benefits of my parents continuously giving, clearly avoiding being upset at potential blowups and miscues from so many situations. We should all take in the good sense the lesson from Korach teaches us:  in so many different situations throughout our lives, focus on giving rather than taking.. Doing so will ultimately deliver a Bracha of success, nachas, and shalom for all on both sides of the issue.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Mon, August 15 2022 18 Av 5782