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Parshas Korach 5757 - '97

Outline # 41

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Sophisticated Argumentation vs. Sophistry:

Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai vs. Korach

Korach began a revolution; it was turned back, ending as abruptly as it began.

We are familiar with the Mishnah which contrasts the debates of the Schools of Hillel and Shammai with the debates of Korach: "An argument for the sake of Heaven will be maintained in the end; an argument which is not for the sake of Heaven will not be maintained in the end. Which is an argument for the sake of Heaven? The debates of the Schools of Hillel and Shammai. Which is an argument not for the sake of Heaven? The debate of Korach and his accomplices..."

The Ma'or V'shamash notes that the examples in the Mishnah are extreme. the Torah debates of the Schools of Hillel and Shammai last for eternity, but the debates of Korach ended instantly. We often find something in-between -- debates, even very foolish ones, which last for considerable amounts of time. How are these debates to be explained, according to the Mishnah? If there is no truth to these arguments, why do they seem to persist? Further, even if there is no truth to the argument of Korach, why did the debate come to such a sudden end? The Mishnah only stated that this type of argument would not last indefinitely...

It is certainly unusual for an argument to cease as abruptly as Korach's. The reason for the unusual cessation of this particular debate, is that there was absolutely no truth to Korach's arguments whatsoever. Such a circumstance is indeed rare. Usually, there is at least a tiny amount of truth to the discussion. Even if the gist of the argument is false, as long as there is some degree of truth, the argument can continue for a measure of time.

Truth lasts; falsehood collapses. If a false point of view mixes in some truth, it, too, acquires enough solidity to endure for a time. The ultimate deception would be to acquire a certain degree of truth. Why didn't Korach achieve this distinction -- why was he unable to find any degree of truth to mix in with his fallacious claims?

Rashi quoted Medrash Tanchuma, that the Patriarch Yaakov had pleaded not to have any share in the rebellion of Korach. For that reason, Korach's genealogy stops before mentioning Yaakov. The Ma'or V'shamash explained that Yaakov represents Torah -- the characteristic of Truth. Yaakov's prayer had the effect of removing any vestige of Truth from entering into Korach's debate.

It emerges from our discussion that there are three types of debates: 1. If the intention of all sides is pure, the discussion will yield enduring facets of Torah. 2. If the intentions are not pure, the discussion will not endure indefinitely. However, so long as some aspect of truth is represented by both sides, the debate may very well continue at length. Only if 3. there is no aspect of truth whatsoever -- only then does the debate vanish entirely, instantly -- as if swallowed up in the earth!

Chodshei Hashanah Part Twenty Seven

The Months of Tammuz and Av

Tammuz is the month when the mourning period for the Beis Hamikdash commences. The so-called "three weeks" begins from the fast-day of the 17th of Tammuz, and continues until the conclusion of the fast of the Ninth of Av.

From the Bnei Yisaschar, it appears that the entire month of Tammuz is a gloomy period. The Meraglim (the Spies from Parshas Shlach) were on their ill-fated mission the entire month.

Each of the twelve months of the Jewish Calendar represents one of the twelve tribes. The Bnei Yisaschar explained that Tammuz symbolizes Reuven, and Av represents Shimon. Both had disastrous incidents during this time of year: Reuven was involved with the revolt of Korach; Shimon was implicated with Kasbi the daughter of Tzur (end of Parshas Balak and beginning of Parshas Pinchus).

Other Views

However, see the Rebeinu Bachaye, Parshas Eikev. As we know, Moshe twice received the Torah on Mt. Sinai --each time, for forty days and nights. The last forty days begin at the beginning of Elul, and conclude with Yom Kippur. This is considered a favorable time. In the same way, the first forty days (beginning from the festival of Shavuos, and concluding with the 17th of Tammuz) are also seen as a favorable time. To Rebbeinu Bachaye, then, it is clear that the sad part of the summer period begins only from the fast of the 17th, after the forty days of the Torah's reception.

The Chodesh B'chodsho (p. 102) cited a view which held that the tribe of Av is not Shimon but Yisachar, whose members are called "yodei bina" -- "people of understanding." The word Av stands for aleph-beis, which, according to the Talmud, refers to "Bina" -- "understanding."


Even the first point of view, however, should not truly sadden us, but fill us with hope. Reuven is the epitome of the Ba'al Teshuvah, who corrects his ways and finds favor in his father's eyes. (Rav Elie Munk, Olam Hatefilos). The Chodesh B'chodsho (p. 101) describes why the name Av (Hebrew for `father') is appropriate for the name of the month in which the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed: In the future, it will be the father of all months, more good events will occur in it than in any of the other months.

Intercombinations of Letters

The Bnei Yisaschar shows that there are twelve combination of the letters of Hashem's name. Each month represents another combination. The combination for Nissan is actually the proper name of G-d; at that time there will be a redemption. We are not permitted to pronounce G-d's name, of course; instead, we say the word "havayah." Why this particular word? It is an excellent substitute, because it is the combination of the letters for the month of Av. Av is similar to Nissan, because at the month of Av there will also be a redemption. We constantly remember that in the future, the force of justice and power will be turned to mercy, and "Av" will be "Menachem Av" -- the Father will show pity and mercy.

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
PC Kollel
1 Babbin Court
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: 914-425-3565
Fax: 914-425-4296

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '97 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.



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