Bar-Ilan University's Parashat Hashavua Study Center
Parashat Korah 5763/ June 28, 2003
Lectures on the weekly Torah reading by the faculty
of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel.
A project of the Faculty of Jewish Studies,
Paul and Helene Shulman Basic Jewish Studies Center,
and the Office of the Campus Rabbi. Published on the Internet
under the sponsorship of Bar-Ilan University's
International Center for Jewish Identity.
Prepared for Internet
Publication by the Computer Center Staff at Bar-Ilan University.
Inquiries and comments to:
Dr. Isaac Gottlieb, Department of Bible,
Parashat Korah 5763/ June 28, 2003
Dr. Boaz Speigel
The Naftal-Yaffe Department of Talmud
This week's reading opens with Korah and those who
followed him rising up against Moses and Aaron. Why did Moses and Aaron take the
highest offices for themselves, namely the kingship and the high priesthood?
(Num. 16:3). Upon hearing these accusations, Moses fell upon his face and
"Come morning, the Lord will make known who is His and
who is holy, and will grant him access to Himself; He will grant access to the
one He has chosen. Do this: You, Korah and all your band, take fire pans, and
tomorrow put fire in them and lay incense on them before the Lord. Then the man
whom the Lord chooses, he shall be the holy one" (Num. 16:5-7).
Moses was willing to put Aaron's appointment to the test
(16:17) and to prove to Korah and his band, and essentially to all Israel, that
this appointment was from G-d.
The Sages raised the question why Moses postponed the test of
the fire pans to the morning instead of proposing to do it on the spot. They
themselves offered several explanations (Tanhuma, Korah, 5), the most
well-known of which is as follows: "He [Moses] said: in case somehow they
come to repent." In other words, Moses deliberately postponed the test to
the morning to give Korah and his followers time to reconsider their ways
overnight and possibly realize their error and recant.
The Sages' remark (Berakhot 19a) relevant to our
case is as follows: "It is taught by Rabbi Ishmael: If you see a scholar
of the Law who committed a transgression in the night, do not speculate about
him the next day, for perhaps he repented. Perhaps? Rather, he surely
repented." Now Korah was a "great sage," and the two hundred
and fifty men who were with him were "heads of Sanhedrin," and
therefore Moses thought that overnight they would repent and even confess their
Another answer in Tanhuma is that Moses thought they
had spoken arrogantly out of excessive eating and drinking, and by morning they
would become sober and retract their words. Moses did not tell Korah and his
gang these reasons for postponing the test. Rather, he said to them that at
present there was general drunkenness and therefore it was not fitting to offer
incense under such circumstances.
One can add to the Sages' comments in the
midrash, that by postponing the test to the next morning he upheld the
type of leadership recommended for dayyanim, judges (Avot 1.1):
"Be restrained in judgment." Even though Moses had no doubt that he
was in the right and that all his words and instructions came from the Almighty,
Moses showed extreme restraint even in the way he settled this dispute, to the
greater credit of his humility and toleration, out of respect for Korah and his
followers, and in order to serve a personal example to all in his admirable
Other commentators drew on the homily in Yoma 75a
(about the manna):
It is written (Numbers 11:9): "When the dew fell on the
camp at night, [the manna would fall upon it.]" And it is written (Ex.
16:4): "the people shall go out and gather," as well as (Num.
11:8): "The people would go about and gather it." How so? [Did the
manna fall upon them, did they have to go and fetch it, did they have to search
for it (shatu)?] For the righteous, it fell at the door of their abode;
for the mediocre, they went out and gathered it; for the wicked, they would go
about and gather it."
Thus, depending on where the manna settled each morning one
could learn about a person's spiritual standing. Accordingly, Moses
instructed to wait until the next morning, since the place where the manna fell
in the morning would make clear who was righteous and who was wicked. Some
people even added that this homily may be read into the verse in our story cited
at the beginning of this article, "to the one He has chosen, He will grant
access to Himself-yaqriv elav [thus in JPS, but one could literally
read: He will bring (it) close to him]." In other words, for the person
chosen by G-d and thought by Him to be righteous, He will bring the manna close
to him, to the very door of his abode.
Another idea to explain why Moses delayed till the morning we
base on a point stressed by the author of Ketav Sofer: in Korah's
controversy, as in other sins of the Israelites in the wilderness, the women did
not participate. Hence one could say that Moses deliberately postponed
clarification of the issue to the next morning out of the hope that in the
course of the night the women would persuade their husbands to recant. In
actual practice this did not happen, except to one of them - On son of
Pelet, of whom the Sages said (Sanh. 109b), "His wife saved
We conclude with an interpretation on the verse, "Come
morning, the Lord will make known who is His," from Hassidism and the
Musar Movement, relating it to Israel in general. The Admor of Slonim
When a person goes to bed at night as a Jew and recalls the
Lord, blessed be His name, obviously he rises in the morning as a Jew should
rise, and likewise he behaves throughout the day as a true Jew. This is hinted
in the words, "Come morning, the Lord will make known who is His,"
that from a person's condition in the morning one can know how attuned his
heart was to the Holy One, blessed be He, when he went to bed the night
Several great commentators have approached this verse as
relating not only to daily life but also to the End of Days. When full
Redemption, which has been compared to morning, comes, when G-d shall appear to
all the inhabitants of the universe and His kingship be revealed, then everyone
will be able to distinguish "the difference between the wicked and the
righteous" (Malachi 3:11), and the entire would will come to realize that
"the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself/ Israel, as His treasured
possession" (Ps. 135:4).