Parshat Korach 5782: Primacy of Chochma Over Da’at

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Korach is being sponsored by Dr. David and Malka Blass of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated in honor of the recent 7th yahrtzeit of Shlomo ben Dovid (Mr. Saul Hirsh z”l). To the Blass family, many thanks for your sponsorship and continued kindness.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring (or as the case may be, co-sponsoring) a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Korach 5782: Primacy of Chochma Over Da’at

by Moshe Burt

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin writes, in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Bamidbar (pages 149-151):

Two dramatic confrontations recorded in the Midrash suggest what may well be the most significant element to Korach’s rebellion.

The Midrash relates that Korach, accompanied by two hundred and fifty communal leaders dressed in robes of pure techeilet (a shade of blue associated with the Mitzvah of Tzitzit) approaches and challenges Moshe: “Does a four-cornered, completely blue garment require tzitzit or is it exempt?” [Regarding Sefer Bamidbar, Parshat Shelach, Perek 15, posuk 38 where Hashem said to Moshe to “Speak to the B’nei Yisrael” regarding “Tzitzit on the corners of their garments… and they shall place upon the tzitzit of each corner a thread of turquoise wool.”]

When Moshe replies that such a garment does indeed require tzitzit, the rebels mockingly retort: “One blue thread fulfills the tzitzit requirement on any four-cornered garment, yet a garment that is totally blue is not, by dint of its basic color, automatically exempt?” (Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar, 18:2, as quoted by Rashi, Bamidbar 16:1 — The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary, pages 191-192)

Korach then challenges Moshe a second time: “Does a house filled with holy texts require a Mezzuza on its doorpost?”

When, …again, Moshe answers in the affirmative, Korach mocks: “The two scriptural sections found in a Mezzuza fulfill a home’s requirement, yet the two hundred and seventy scriptural sections of the entire Torah text do not. These [illogical] precepts could not have been divinely commanded to you, Moshe: clearly you fabricated them yourself.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar, 18:2)

Once raised by the Midrash, …in a powerful exposition by Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik, the Rav maintains that Korach’s rebellion is best perceived as “a ‘common sense’ rebellion against Torah authority” — an attack on Torah law based on man’s limited logic.

The Rav explains that Korach’s error lies in his failure to appreciate the two levels of intelligence involved in the application of Torah law. While the path of Halacha is partly guided by da’at, basic intelligence and practical judgement, it’s primary determinant is chochma, specialized knowledge and scholarship. The primacy of chochma in the determination of law, says the Rav, rises out of another basic truth. While inner religious experience is a critical component of Judaism’s religious practice, the concrete act of a Mitzvah’s performance is primary. The Divinely inspired Mitzvot have intrinsic value, independent of their effect upon those who perform them. The developmentof these Mitzvot, therefore cannot be left to the subjective common sense of “everyman.” Only those possessing chochma — trained in the intricacies of Torah Halachic thought and scholarship — can determine the path of the law.

Not being a great scholar, what we learn in next week’s Parshat Chukat seems to this author to jibe with Rav Soloveichik’s definition of “chochma:” specialized knowledge and scholarship, while we learn that Chukim are to be accepted as expressions of faith, even though we may strive for deeper knowledge of them, we may not understand, or possess a full understanding of them — that the ultimate understanding of them rests with HaKadosh Borchu.

Rabbi Goldin continues (ibid, page 151):

Korach argues the case for religious subjectivism; believing that an individual’s personal feelings should be the overriding determinant of his religious practice. He argues that a Mitzvah itself has no objective value; all that matters is how the act affects the participant. Within Korach’s religious rubric [a direction for the conduct of divine service or the administration of the sacraments, inserted in liturgical books.], …da’at (common sense) and not chochma (scholarship and expertise) defines the course of Torah law; anyone, no matter his background, can decide what the law should be. Furthermore, Mitzvot should be modified according to changing times and be tailored to the spiritual needs of each person. In Korach’s world there is no inherent value or constancy to G’d-given law; all that matters is man’s own sensibilities.

Korach’s dangerous rebellion, continues the Rav, serves as the prototype for challenges to Halachic authority in our day.

What we see today are attempts by secular governance in Israel to both diminish the authority of the Rabbanut in issues such as marriage, kashrut and more, as well to threaten our national security, sovereignty and, indeed, our survival in our Divinely-given Eretz Yisrael through defeatest, surrenderist policies, including giving alien enemies-within veto power over Israel’s governance and sovereignty.

The threat to national security is aptly illustrated in this excerpt from a recent Facebook post — Hat tip to Avi Abelow for his Facebook posting 16 May, 2022:

To me, it has been clear for years that victory for Israel and Jews all over the world is only possible after we all recognize that the fake cause called “palestine” is today’s modern form of antisemitic Jew-hatred. Only when we all internalize this point will we have the understanding and courage to stand up and defend ourselves. That point must be understood in order for Jews/Israelis to internalize that anyone who supports or acts violently towards us in the name of “palestine” is our enemy. Period.

I have been saying this for years and I hope people start waking up. Victory is at hand and we will be victorious, but we all must internalize this basic fact support for “palestine” is Antisemitism. Period.

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, pages 151-152):

From the Rav’s vantage point, our own experience, in our time, sheds light on the dangers of Korach’s rebellion against Moshe Rabbeinu, Moshe our teacher, our progenitor of rabbinic authority across the ages. Without the defining force of that authority, Torah law cannot survive. Unfettered, in his time or in ours, Korach’s path of religious subjectivism leads to the destruction of the legal process begun at Sinai.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he is now in his second year at home in Eretz Yisrael. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — 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.