King Shlomo writes in Mishlei (25:6-7), "Do not glorify yourself in
the presence of a king, and do not stand in the place of the great, for it
is better that it should be said to you, `Come up here,' than that you be
demoted before the prince, as your eyes have seen [happen to others]." R'
Yehoshua ibn Shuiv z"l (Spain; 14th century) writes: King Shlomo's
intention is to teach us that a person should not glorify himself or show
off in front of a king in any way, for that king was chosen to reign.
Even if one thinks that he is more fit for that post, any aspiration -
even one that is good in the abstract - is bad if it is expressed at the
wrong time. It goes without saying that someone who would not make a
better leader should not attempt to glorify himself.
R' ibn Shuiv continues: Many people err in this regard, saying: Are
we not all the sons of one man? I am as good as he is! Why should he be
elevated above me? This, writes R' ibn Shuiv, is utter foolishness, for
just as Hashem has chosen the human race above all other creations, so He
has chosen one nation from among the others, one tribe (Yehuda) from that
nation, one family (the family of King David) from that tribe, and one
person from that family.
This was Korach's error, states R' ibn Shuiv. When it came to the
priesthood, Hashem chose the tribe of Levi, the family of Kehat, and the
person of Aharon. Our Sages say, "The Heavenly royal court is like a
human royal court." Just as a human king (or president or prime minister)
has different advisers who are granted different levels of access, so
does Hashem. (Derashot R"Y ibn Shuiv)
"Korach, son of Yitzhar son of Kehat son of Levi, took . . ."
Rashi z"l writes that Korach took his cohorts and attired them in
robes of pure techelet wool (i.e., the color found in tzitzit according to
Torah law). They then came and stood before Moshe and said to him, "Is a
garment that is entirely of techelet subject to the law of tzitzit, or is
it exempt?" Moshe replied to them, "It is subject to that law." Upon
hearing this, Korach and his cohorts began to jeer at him, "Is this
possible? On a robe of any different colored material, one thread of
techelet attached to it exempts it. Should not this robe made entirely of
techelet exempt itself from the law of tzitzit?"
R' David Hanania Pinto shlita (a contemporary French rabbi) observes
that Korach's troubles started when he attempted to delve into the logic
of the mitzvot. Indeed, his name "Korach" the same Hebrew letters as the
word "choker" / "philosopher." Korach could not accept the fact that some
mitzvot are decrees. Thus, the first word of the parashah-"Va'yikach"-has
the same Hebrew letters as the expression "Vay chok" / "Woe to us from a
What was Korach's end? He caused "machloket" / "dissension" which
has the same Hebrew letters as "lakach mavvet" / "He took death." (Pachad
"As for Aharon, what is he that you protest against him?"
R' Yehuda He'chassid z"l (Germany; died 1217) writes: Just as a
person must be humble in the face of those who insult him, so he should
cause his family members, friends and students to not answer his
detractors in a harsh manner. How so? If someone is being cursed or
insulted and his family members, his friends, or his students want to
answer in kind or to hit those who are making the verbal attacks, he
should not permit it. To the contrary, he should prevent it. Thus we
read (Iyov 31:31), "Or, if the people of my household did not say, `If
only we could get his flesh, we would never be sated'." [Iyov is saying
that he is blameless, for he never let his family members exact
retribution against his detractors.] We read likewise (Shmuel II 16:11),
"David then said to Avishai and all his servants, `. . . Let him be; let
him curse, for Hashem has told him to'."
At the same time, those who hear [insults against another], should
feel pained and should answer [gently] if they are able to. Thus we read
(in our verse), "As for Aharon, what is he that you protest against him?"
However, the one who was insulted should not allow anyone to become
angry on his behalf. No one should take any action until consulting with
a person who does not lose his temper. (Sefer Chassidim ** 650-651)
"Do not be like Korach and his congregation." (17:5)
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 110a) states that this is one of the negative
commandments, i.e., a prohibition on being involved in machloket /
R' Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz z"l (1878-1953; the Chazon Ish) writes
that people involved in machloket often are well-meaning, but they
transgress this prohibition because they are ignorant of the halachah that
governs the disputed matter. Often this happens because people focus on
the study of mussar / ethics to the exclusion of studying halachah.
For example, while halachah limits, in certain situations, a person's
right to go into business in competition with an existing establishment,
halachah states that unlimited competition is permitted in the field of
Torah education. Thus, a melamed / teacher or yeshiva that was in a city
first has no right to object to the opening of another cheder or yeshiva.
[Ed. note: Rashi to Bava Batra 21b explains that this ensures that
teachers will continuously improve.]
Imagine that a new melamed comes to town and draws all the children
away from the existing school. (The Chazon Ish writes that this happens
because it is human nature to want whatever is newest.) People who are
ignorant of the halachah that permits unlimited competition in the field
of Torah education, will call the new teacher a "rodef" / "pursuer" since
he seemingly has taken the livelihood of the existing teacher. The
friends of the existing teacher will do everything possible to make the
new teacher's life miserable. But who is the real "pursuer" in this case?
It is the well-meaning people who have elevated what "feels just" over the
The Chazon Ish acknowledges an obvious question: Both a melamed and a
craftsman need to earn a livelihood. Is it just that the latter is
permitted to defend his livelihood against a newcomer while the former is
not? He explains:
The melamed will not starve if that is not G-d's will. While man is
obligated to attempt, within the bounds of halachah, to earn a livelihood,
his sustenance actually is in Hashem's control. It follows that a melamed
who exerts himself to the greatest extent permitted by halachah for those
in his profession is in exactly the same position as a craftsman who
exerts himself to the greatest extent permitted by halachah for those in
his profession. The melamed is not at a disadvantage at all compared to
the craftsman, for both will find no more and no less sustenance than G-d
wishes. (Emunah U'vitachon ch.3)
"Hashem said to Aharon, `In their Land you shall have no
heritage, and a share shall you not have among them; I am your
share and your heritage among Bnei Yisrael." (18:20)
R' Moshe Sofer z"l (the Chatam Sofer; Hungary; died 1840) comments:
It is well known that it is difficult to keep one's thoughts attached to
Hashem at the same time that one is actively involved with people. For
one who wants to cleave to Hashem, hitbodedut / solitude is the
Aharon Hakohen, however, was able to accomplish both simultaneously.
He was always involved with people--always trying to resolve conflicts and
strengthen marriages. Even so, he never left his lofty and holy position.
This is what the verse means when it says, "I [Hashem] am your share and
your heritage [even] among Bnei Yisrael." (Torat Moshe)
This Week in History, Halachah, and Minhag
5 Tammuz: On this date, approximately eleven years before the
destruction of the First Temple, King Yehoyakim was exiled to Bavel
When this date falls on a weekday, it is a fast day for descendants
of R' Yom Tov Lipman Heller z"l (author of the Mishnah commentary, Tosfot
Yom Tov) because, on this date in 5389 (1629), R' Heller learned that he
had been sentenced to imprisonment on the false charge that he had
insulted Christianity (Luach Davar B'ito p.1127). Later, R' Heller
recorded his misfortune in the memoir Megillat Eivah.
7 Tammuz: Today is "Purim Ostraha" because, on this day in 5552
(1792), the Jewish community of Ostraha (Ostrog), Poland was saved from
danger during the Russo-Polish War of that year.
Today is the yahrzeit of R' Simcha Bunim Alter z"l (died 5752/1992),
fifth Gerrer Rebbe and innovator of the study of Daf Yomi in the Talmud
Yerushalmi. (The better known Daf Yomi instituted by R' Meir Shapiro z"l
in 1923 studies Talmud Bavli.)
9 Tammuz: On this date--according to the prophet Yirmiyah, who
experienced the event--Nevuchadnezar breached the walls of Yerushalayim,
one month before he destroyed the First Temple. The Talmud Yerushalmi
states that this event actually occurred on the 17th of the month, but the
Jews of Yerushalayim were confused about the date because of their
suffering. (In any event, we fast on the 17th of Tammuz because on that
date the Romans breached the walls of Yerushalayim prior to destroying the
Second Temple. Some have the custom to fast on the 9th also.)
10 Tammuz: On this date in 5594 (1834), the Jewish community of
Tzefat was miraculously saved from Arab murderers. It is customary for
the Chevra Kadisha in Tzefat to sponsor a public thanksgiving feast on
this day. (Luach Davar B'ito p. 1136)
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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