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Parshas Korach - Es Zol Zeyn Di Ergeste Zach As Khapanz Tsu Ir: It Should Be the Worst Thing That Happens to You        1 Tammuz 5779

07/11/19 22:21:01


It was forty-two years ago of this Thursday - the week of Parshas Korach - when this story took place. Because my grandfather, a”h, couldn’t walk all the way to the Shul we attended, I had a week-end bar mitzva at a hotel in Belle Harbor, N.Y. This was a repeat of my brother’s bar mitzvah; five years earlier he had his bar mitzva there as well.

On Thursday morning my mother, a”h, and I went to pick up the yarmulkes and small pocket siddurim that would be placed in the gift basket for the guests. The yarmulkes came out fine, but the cover of the siddur did not look or feel the way I had anticipated it would look. I was disappointed, dejected, upset and a bit angry. My mother a”h was great under pressure, and as the pressure of the entire weekend was quickly closing in on my mother, she said to me in Yiddish, “עס זאָל זיין די ערגסטע זאַך אַז כאַפּאַנז צו איר” : “It should be the worst thing that happens to you”. Lo and behold, a few hours later my brother, a”h, took me along with a few of his friends golfing at a park near the hotel where the bar mitzva was going to take place. We delivered some of the things later that afternoon in what happened to be our new car, or at least new for our family (a new used car). After a very frustrating afternoon on the golf course followed by delivering the bar mitzva items to the hotel, my brother drove through a weird stop sign and totaled the car! Thank God no one was injured, but after I processed what had happened that day, I thought about those prophetic words my mother, a”h, told me. At the end of the day, all of us must understand that despite things in life not going the way we might want them to go can always be worse.

I wouldn’t categorize the following as a true epiphany, but the following incident brought me back to the wise words my mother, a”h, told me. A few weeks ago the Shul did not order rolls for Shalosh Seudos (the third meal of Shabbos) because we had accumulated a fair amount of freshly frozen rolls in the freezer. Rather than buy more, we chose to use what we had. Unfortunately, through a miscommunication, the rolls were not taken out of the freezer in time to defrost for the meal, and I started to build up a frenzy of anxiety. Then it hit me. So what! Is this the end of the world? Could we not manage? And so, I realized - what if they were frozen! Leave them out for a few minutes and they’ll be edible. But, more than that, I once again remembered the old lesson: this should be the worst thing that happens in Shul, that the rolls were not defrosted in time for Shalosh Seudos!

The question is what do we want to take away from any situation that isn’t as perfect as we thought or had hoped it would be? My intention relaying these two examples are that they stand as illustrations which I have observed in my life. I have no doubt that all of us engage in similar situations every single day of our lives. In fact, the Torah is replete with characters who see both sides in life. Some choose to focus on the fullness while others focus on what is lacking. This week we read of such an individual who only saw what he should have instead of what he does have.

In this week’s Parshas Korach the Torah states in Bamidbar 16:1"ויקח קורח בן יצהר בן קהת בן לוי ודתן ואבירם בני אליאב ואון בן פלת בני ראובן" : “Korach son of Yitzhar (a grandson of Kehas and great grandson of Levi) began a rebellion along with Dasan and Aviram, the sons of Eliav, and On, son of Peleth, descendants of Reuvain”. Now, even though we translated the word ויקח as began, it typically connotes taking or even buying. The Apter Rov, Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apt, in his sefer Ohaiv Yisrael, relates a Midrash that Korach “took or bought a bad deal for himself. If someone has the merit, he takes himself and his friend with him to Gan Eden, Paradise, and if he does not merit then he will take his portion and his friend’s portion to Gehinom”. The Apter Rov explains that every kind follows its kind: bad follows bad, good follows good. When a tzadik or a good person rebukes the wicked and he deflects the rebuke, whatever good that person has will now follow the righteous one, and the whatever bad within the good person will be taken by the Rasha - the evil one. This, in turn, means the good of one will follow the good of the other all the way to the bank of Gan Eiden, while the bad of one follows the bad of the other all the way to the landfill and below. Korach ‘took’ the bad of Moshe and Aharon (the bad is a discussion point for another time) with him to the abyss when the earth opened up and swallowed him along with all his followers of bad. Whatever redeeming qualities Korach had were swallowed with him (Korach did have good things but that is also a discussion point and comparison to Moshe for another time).

At the root of Korach’s rebellion was the jealousy he bore towards his first cousin, Moshe. Korach felt that he should have been appointed the Kohein Gadol and accused Moshe of nepotism. Korach was a brilliant talmid chacham, and prior to this terrible event was respected by all. The Midrash Rabbah 18:1 informs us that he was one of the top officials to Pharoah. Gemaras in Pesachim 119a, Sanhedrin 110a and Targum Yonason Ben Uziel here in 16:19 describe Korach as extremely wealthy. The Zohar says in relation to Korach, ‘taking’ whoever chases and takes what is not his, it will run away from him, and more so, that which he has will be completely lost. Korach lost all that he had, and he did not gain from that which he sought out.

From our human perspective nothing and no one in the world is perfect. From above everything is correct, good and perfect. We are blessed with so much of the good, yet we get upset when things are not as perfect as we thought they should be. This concept is different than the definition of who is rich, someone who is happy with his lot. This is a nuance of when that last piece or the final touches are slightly off or completely gone, we should focus on the main part that we still have. If the cherry on top falls off or the icing gets wiped away, we still have the cake. That is the part of having your cake and eating it too. These little things should not bother us. We need to learn to just stop and remind ourselves that this should be the worst thing that happens to you and to me!!!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sun, May 24 2020 1 Sivan 5780