Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rav Mordechai Gifter on past and present kanoim

R' Mordechai Gifter
(Image can be found at TorahArt.Com)
Rav Mordechai Gifter writes the following in Pirkei Torah, about the diligent nature of past and present congregations of Korach. The Torah, in the first pasuk of Korach, introduces the instigators:
א  וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח, בֶּן-יִצְהָר בֶּן-קְהָת בֶּן-לֵוִי; וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם בְּנֵי אֱלִיאָב, וְאוֹן בֶּן-פֶּלֶת--בְּנֵי רְאוּבֵן.1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men;
Yet while Korach, Dasan and Aviram appear in the subsequent narrative, On ben Peles disappears. A midrash explains why and Rav Gifter extrapolates based on their words.

Thus, he writes:

"See their words, za'l, in the midrash. And so too in Sanhedrin 110a regarding to wife of On ben Pelet who saved him. For they say there:
Rab said: On, the son of Peleth, was saved by his wife. Said she to him, 'What matters it to thee? Whether the one [Moses] remains master or the other [Korah] becomes master, thou art but a disciple.' He replied, 'But what can I do? I have taken part in their counsel, and they have sworn me [to be] with them.' She said, 'I know that they are all a holy community, as it is written, seeing all the congregation are holy, everyone of them.27  [So,]' she proceeded, 'Sit here, and I will save thee.' She gave him wine to drink, intoxicated him and laid him down within [the tent]. Then she sat down at the entrance thereto and loosened her hair {וסתרתה למזיה}. Whoever came [to summon him] saw her and retreated.1
Thus, when they saw a woman without hair covering they turned immediately back. Such were the congregation of Korach, the fellows of On ben Peles. And see Rashi on Sanhedrin 109b, d"h, 'that they all were a holy congregation'.

{Namely, upon the the gemara above, where On ben Peles' wife said:
She said, 'I know that they are all a holy community, as it is written, seeing all the congregation are holy, everyone of them.
Rashi writes:
דכולה כנישתא קדישין - כולם צנועים וקדושים ולא יכנסו אלי אם אני פרועה.
"All of them are modest and holy, and will not enter to me if I am loosened {of hair}."

And this is experienced in every generation, that of those who are diligent and precise in mitzvos, the fire of controversy moves them against their own will and against the will of their Creator. For those who rise up / instigate against the talmid chacham of the generation are not of the inferior nor of the paltry of the nation. And all the details which are stated regarding the controversy of Korach and his congregation serve as a model for [such controversies for] all generations [such that we should examine this and take heed]."

Update: Much thanks to those who expressed confusion at the way it was worded before. I think it reads better now.

It makes sense to me that the spirit that moves one to such stringencies, for example, in tznius, is associated with stirring one up to engage in controversies. I don't know that I approve so much of the initial zehirus and dikduk bemitzvos (!), as it stands in many instances as a manifestation of an underlying character flaw. (Which is not what Rav Gifter is saying, precisely...)

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