Volume 3 Issue 40
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
Love is blind. So is hate and any principle that begins to shade the
intellect with emotion. This week, in what appears to be the worst
ideological division of the Jewish people after the Exodus, a litmus test of
human nature proved that the great divide bordered more on ego than on
Korach, a cousin of Moshe and a brilliant man in his own right, began a
rebellion that challenged the leadership and divine appointment of both
Moshe and Ahron. In addition to his own family, Korach's iconoclastic
actions inspired 250 Jewish leaders to denounce publicly the leadership of
Moshe and Ahron. Foremost among the self-appointed detractors were two men
with a history of vindictive activities toward Moshe - Dassan and Aviram.
Back in Egypt, when Moshe killed an Egyptian taskmaster who was beating an
innocent Jew, these men threatened to inform the Egyptian authorities.
But Moshe wanted to deal with them. As leader of two million people, he
could have laughed at the complaints of a minute fraction of the population,
but he didn't. He reached out to Dassan and Aviram and asked them to come
and discuss their qualms with him. His request was met with a barrage of
"Even if you gouge out our eyes - we shall not meet!" they responded
I was always amazed at this most arrogant response. Why did these men, who
obviously were stubborn, arrogant, and supercilious, respond in a
self-deprecating manner? Why did they suggest the horrific infliction of
eye-gouging upon themselves? Would it not be enough to respond, even to the
worst of enemies, "we will not come?" What connection does the loss of
vision have with their refusal?
Reb Gimpel, a travelling salesman, developed an illness in a small village
far from his home and was prescribed with a cure that entailed eating of
non-kosher food. A foreigner in that town, he decided to ask the local
rabbi if he was permitted to eat the medicine.
The gentile doctor did not know where the rabbi lived and suggested that Reb
Gimpel ask the local butcher. Reb Gimpel went into the butcher shop.
"Excuse me," he asked the burly meat vendor, "do you know where I can find
"The rabbi!" sneered the butcher, "why would a respectable-looking man like
yourself need our rabbi?"
The man was puzzled but continued to explain. "I'd like to ask him something.
"Ask him something!" mocked the butcher. "Our rabbi doesn't know the
difference between a horse and a cow! You're wasting your time! Ask the
chazzan where he lives, I have no reason to tell you."
The shocked man went to the chazzan's home. "Excuse me," he asked. Do you
know where the rabbi lives?"
"The rabbi?" asked the cantor in horror. "Why in the world would you want
to meet that ignoramus? Surely you don't want to ask him a question! I
wouldn't want to be party to your misfortune. Better ask the mohel."
Frustrated the poor man went to the home of the mohel where once again he
was accosted with a barrage of insults and put-downs. Finally, however, the
mohel acquiesced and directed the man to the rabbi's home. The man entered
the threshold and before he even shook the rabbi's hand he exclaimed,
"Listen, I don't know you, and you don't me. I came here to ask one
question, but I will ask you something totally different. Why are you the
rabbi here? The butcher thinks you're a thief, the chazzan thinks you're an
ignoramus, and the mohel loathes you. Why in the world do you remain the
rabbi of this town?"
The rabbi looked up from his bifocals and smiled. "Ah! The insults, the
abuse and the criticism. But you know what: for a little honor it's all
As the proverbial rabble-rousers of all time, Dassan and Aviram were
preaching profound insight into the laws of arrogance. When one is set on a
self-fulfilling mission of squabbling, as corrupt and perverted as his
judgement is, so is his vision. He is blind to the critics, blind to the
world, and worst of all, blind to his own self. Once a man is blind, you
can gouge his eyes and he will not notice.
Only those with a pure sense of mission, cherish the vision that lets them
see a situation from every angle. Even if it is not their own. While
Moshe, the leader of the entire nation asks to meet his worst enemies and
discuss their gripes, thy refuse and would rather be blind to any criticism.
Mordechai Kamenetzky - Yeshiva of South Shore
Text Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Associate Dean of the
Yeshiva of South Shore.
Drasha is the e-mail edition of FaxHomily, a weekly torah facsimile on the weekly portion
which is sponsored by The Henry and Myrtle Hirsch Foundation