Parsha Korach 5769-A: Was Dying by Heavenly Fire Worth the Incense?


Commentary by Moshe Burt

The legendary Jeff Seidel sent around this Parsha HaShevua Korach to Facebook subscribers:

Parshat Korach relates the story of Korach, Datan, Aviram and 250 members of the shevet (tribe) or Reuven challenging Moshe’s choice for Kohen Gadol (high priest). The end result was that the 250 members were burned by a heavenly fire, and the other 3 were miraculously swallowed by the earth. From a motive perspective, Korach makes the most sense, because he felt slighted for not having been chosen himself. But why would 250 people follow him to their certain death, with apparently little to gain?

The answer can be found in Rashi, the great medieval commentator, who writes that just as Korach’s family camped on the southern side of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), so did the tribe of Reuven. Rashi quotes the words of Chapters of the Fathers, “woe to an evil person, and woe to his neighbor.” The 250 people met their death, simply because they were influenced by their neighbors! This points to the awesome influence that friends, neighbors and associates have on us. So who do we surround ourselves with? Do we have positive friends and neighbors? Are WE positive friends and neighbors to others?

Rabbi Scott Ressler, Jeff Seidel Student Center


There seem to be wider ramifications to this Torah vort than only to us locally, individually and who our friends and neighbors are and how we are influenced by them and they by us; How we hold of them and they of us. These ramifications would seem, simultaneously, to affect us on a national level — not just in Israel but throughout the Jewish world.

These wider ramifications would seem to include how we hold and respond to Bibi and his “2 states (sic)” capitulation, as well as Oslo, Wye, Roadmaps, Gush Katif, Tzipi Livni and the Annapolis conference (“why doesn’t anyone shake my hand and talk to me…?”), and the wackadoo Israeli polls which show that while only 6% see Obama as pro-Israel, yet over 50% approve of Bibi’s “demilitarized pal (sic) state.”

Over and over and over again we just don’t chap. What do the myriads of religious and nationalists in Israel have to gain, as well as US Orthodox Rabbis of the Rabbinic Council of America who reportedly joined with Reform Rabbis, who express support for Netanyahu’s “2 states (sic)” pronouncement and his perfidy against the voters who mandated Likud to form a government? What do they have to gain by supporting one who has never enunciated a principle which once-upon-a-time he professed to hold sacred, that he hasn’t later gone back on? Is it as if we all hold incense fire-pans with Bibi waiting to be burned? And for what? Kassam and Katyusha blitzes (Chas v’challila) of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion Airport and planes making their approach to the airport?

May we be zocha in this coming year that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard and kidnapped captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashen and that we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.