Drosho for Korach 5761

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Jan 1, 2004
Parshas Korach 5761

ובני קרח לא מתו (parshas Pinchas 28:11). חז"ל tell us: הם היו בעצה תחילה, they were among the first to plot the rebellion. But then, at the time of the מחלוקת, they had second thoughts, הרהורי תשובה. And so when the earth opened up and swallowed קרח and his followers, they also fell into גיהנום, but a platform formed in גהינום itself, on which they stood and said שירה - song to הקב"ה. And apparently they survived this experience, because later their descendants are found among the Leviim who served in the בית המקדש, and - indeed - among the composers of ספר תהלים. For among the 150 chapters of תהלים, ten begin with the words: לבני קרח, a psalm of the children of קרח.

It is interesting to consider whether any mention of these amazing events that befell their ancestors can be found among these מזמורים of בני קרח. Certainly not on the surface. But one of my rebbeim, R' Shneur Kotler זצ"ל, used to point out one passage in these מזמורים in which, if we look closely, we can find an echo of these events.

In קאפטיל מ"ח which we say every Monday in the שיר של יום we read as follows:

דימינו א' חסדך בקרב היכליך. כשמך א' כן תהלתיך על קצוי ארץ.

Which is usually translated as follows: We hoped, O G-d, for your kindness in the midst of your Sanctuary. Like your Name, O G-d, so is your praise; to the ends of the earth.

However, the word דימינו comes from דמיון, imagination; and it does not mean to hope, but to mistake, to imagine - as in: אל תדמי בנפשך להמלט בית המלך מכל היהודים, . And so we might better translate these פסוקים as follows:

We mistakingly imagined, O G-d, that your kindness is in the midst of your Sanctuary. But - in fact - your praise, like your Name, reaches to the ends of the earth.

And R' Shneur explained the meaning of these pesukim, and their connection to the parsha, as follows:

Korach and his followers, as we know, were up in arms because the כהונה had been given to אהרן. It's not fair, they said, that אהרן should monopolize the כהונה - that only he should be the one allowed into the קדש קדשים, the Holy of Holies. After all, כל העדה כולם קדושים, the entire people is holy; how can you deprive us of the opportunity to be close to Hashem, to have that feeling of intimacy, of closeness, to bask in the radiance of הקב"ה's goodness; how can אהרן monopolize that?

But קרח made a fundamental error. Because the fact is that הקב"ה's closeness is not limited to any one geographical location; not even to the קדש קדשים. Because הקב"ה reveals Himself primarily not through a place, but through His word, through Torah. And therefore חז"ל tell us: יקרה היא מפנינים מכה"ג שנכנס לפני ולפנים, that Torah is more precious even that the experience of the כהן גדול as he enters the Holy of Holies. Because through Torah הקב"ה allows us to come closer to Him than through any other means.

And therefore wherever Torah is learned הקב"ה is near. בכל מקום אשר אזכיר את שמי אבוא אליך, wherever my Name is mentioned - and the entire Torah, the Ramban teaches us, is the name of G-d - I will be there.

It was Korach's children who first understood that lesson. And they showed that by singing שירה in גהינום. שירה is always an expression of the sensation of הקב"ה's nearness. And there is no place where הקב"ה seems so far away as in גהינום. Because גהנום, by definition, is a place where הקב"ה's goodness is not felt at all. And yet even in גהנום - Korach's children realized - שירה can be said; because there is no place where Torah cannot reach.

And that is the meaning of the song of the children of קרח:

דימינו א' חסדך בקרב היכליך - we had a דמיון, we imagined - we mistook. We thought that Hashem's חסד, the sense of His goodness and closeness, can be had only בקרב היכליך, in the משכן, in the קדש קדשים. But that is not the case.

כשמך א' כן תהלתך על קצוי ארץ - Your praise is like Your Name, to the ends of the earth. Just as your Name, your Torah, reaches to the ends of the earth. so too your praise, your שירה, can be sung even at the ends of the earth, even in גהנום itself.

Korach's mistake did not perish with him. We also sometimes think that הקב"ה is to be found only בקרב היכליך, only in the sanctuary, only in shul.

Rabbi Emannual Feldman writes about one of his congregants who, upon leaving shul each Shabbos after the service, would say: Goodbye, G-d; I'm going home now. That is to imagine that חסדך בקרב הכליך.

בני קרח teach us the opposite lesson. G-d's closeness and His Torah permeate every aspect of life; the shul, the home, and the workplace. Each one can be informed by Torah, and infused with קדושה. For כשמך א' כן תהלתך, על קצוי ארץ.


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