On Parshat Korach (Based on a Drash by R’ Yitzchok Snyder of Aliyos Yerushalayim)
I’ve been greatly privileged to meet Rabbi Yitzchok Snyder and participate in some of the chevrusa learning at Aliyos Yerushalayim. I encourage all those living in the Baka/Talpiot/Katamon area to join the daily shiur (Gemora learning with R’ Snyder on Mondays and Thursdays). R’ Snyder is always trying to bring people closer to the Jewish way of life. People of all backgrounds, levels of observance, and hashkafa are welcomed at his shiurim.
I felt that this week’s drash was especially relevant to the events taking place in the Jewish community today. In Korach, we witness the biggest threat to Moshe’s position of leadership–and to the future of the Jewish people. Korach leads a popular rebellion against Moshe, the single most significant representative of the Jewish people we’ve even known.
Rashi claims that Korach was a very learned man who prophetically foresaw that the Prophet Samuel would be one of his descendants. Thus, he began questioning Moshe’s position as leader of the Jewish nation. He began seeking answers to the question: “What makes him (Moshe) greater than anyone else?”–this was, after all, the generation that had received the Torah on Mt. Sinai.
The Korach rebellion ends in Korach and his entire group of supporters including Datan and Aviram being “swallowed up” by the ground.
Towards the end of the parsha, Hashem decides to clarify the leadership role of the Levite clan amongst the Jewish People. In Numbers 17:16-17:28, He tells Moshe:
“Speak to the Children of Israel and take from them one staff from each father’s house, from all the leaders according to his fathers’ house, twelve staffs; each man’s name shall you inscribe on each staff…It shall be that the man whom I shall choose–his staff will blossom…On the next day, Moses came to the Tent of Testimony and behold! the staff of Aaron from the house of Levi had blossomed…sprouted a bud and almonds ripened…”
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (ZT”L) draws upon the verse that states that Aaron’s staff “sprouted a bud and almonds ripened.” This was obviously an event “beyond the scope of nature.” Not only is it not within the realm of the natural for things to sprout out of a staff, but the text also states that the bud sprouted before the almonds.
It’s common knowledge that first there’s the bud, then a flower in its place, and finally, the fruit appears. In the case of Aaron’s staff, however, it would seem that the almonds appeared without the initial manifestation of any flower. It also appears that the bud and the almonds were present simultaneously, whereas we all know that the bud is replaced by the flower, which, in turn, is replaced by the fruit (the almonds).
There’s a deep lesson to be gleaned from this turn of events: Hashem doesn’t always conform to the rules of nature. Likewise, when practicing Judaism; when following the commandments set aside in the Torah, and living a “holy” life, we can’t always expect to understand why we’re supposed to act in certain ways and do the things we’re commanded to do. Judaism is unlike any other religion in that while we’re urged to ask questions and try and delve into an inexhaustible array of issues. Having said this, there are still things we can’t hope to understand. The Rambam (Maimonedes) is known to have claimed that if he would need another thousand years to be able to comprehend the answer to the age-old axiom of “free choice vs. G-d’s will.”
Are we so pious and learned as to claim we know what’s best for us as a people? Do the “Women of the Wall,” a ragtag group of mostly foreign provocateurs parading around as “human rights activists,” have any type of moral authority to dictate what religious women should–or should not be allowed to do?
There are some things in Judaism that I’m afraid we’ll never be able to fully grasp. Maybe when Moshiach arrives, but not before. I think we can all agree to this. We need to seek a life of real moral justice where every individual has a special place specifically designated for him/her. We need to strive towards being a “holy people; a nation of priests”; a society without gay pride parades or so-called “women’s rights groups” trying to impose their will on us.
The rules that religious Jews follow have been called “outdated.” So what!? We’ve stuck to these rules and mores as the only means for survival while other nations have come and gone.
I hope that this Shabbat/Rosh Chodesh will be a time of renewed strength and unity and that we will come together in the pursuit of true Jewish values–to be a “Light unto the Nations” instead of trying so hard to imitate them. Shabbat shalom from Jerusalem!