Friday, June 07, 2013

The Mitzvah not to be like Korach

I noticed the following line in Rabbi Yaakov Haber's dvar Torah, The Argument:
There is a Mitzvah derived from this weeks Parsha. “It is forbidden to sustain an argument, as it is written, ‘...and you shall not be like Korach’.”
I am going to use this as a jumping off point. To drill down into this a bit, from this dvar Torah adapted from Rabbi Yissochar Frand:
The Gemara [Sanhedrin 110a] derives from the fact that Moshe sought out Dasan and Aviram to try to bring the dispute to an end that one should not persist in an argument. Rashi says that we learn this from the fact that Moshe was willing to forgo his honor and protocol and personally seek out those who started the rebellion against him - to try to make peace. Some enumerators of the commandments actually count "And there shall no longer be like Korach and his followers" [Bamidbar 17:5] as one of the 365 forbidden actions (Lavim) in the Torah – namely that one should not persist in a machlokes.
The key word, or phrase here is "derived" from this week's parsha, in the sense that it is not pasut peshat in the pasuk. The pasuk in question is:
ד  וַיִּקַּח אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן, אֵת מַחְתּוֹת הַנְּחֹשֶׁת, אֲשֶׁר הִקְרִיבוּ, הַשְּׂרֻפִים; וַיְרַקְּעוּם, צִפּוּי לַמִּזְבֵּחַ.4 And Eleazar the priest took the brazen fire-pans, which they that were burnt had offered; and they beat them out for a covering of the altar,
ה  זִכָּרוֹן לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יִקְרַב אִישׁ זָר אֲשֶׁר לֹא מִזֶּרַע אַהֲרֹן הוּא, לְהַקְטִיר קְטֹרֶת, לִפְנֵי ה; וְלֹא-יִהְיֶה כְקֹרַח וְכַעֲדָתוֹ, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר ה בְּיַד-מֹשֶׁה לוֹ.  {פ}5 to be a memorial unto the children of Israel, to the end that no common man, that is not of the seed of Aaron, draw near to burn incense before the LORD; that he fare not as Korah, and as his company; as the LORD spoke unto him by the hand of Moses. {P}
Thus, on a peshat level, the point is that one should not be like Korach in the sense of being a zar, a non-kohen, and yet burning incense. And even there, it is not a commandment, per se, but an explanation of the purpose of the altar-covering -- to remind people so that they do not make the same mistake. Although naturally, being a zar and offering ketores is considered a bad thing, and is prohibited from other sources.

I think because it is not pashut peshat in the pasuk, the Rambam does not enumerate it as one of the 613. Here is a link to Sefer Hachinuch on Korach.

On the level of midrash halacha, this idea is derived. And it is a good lesson for people to derive, memorialize, and internalize -- that it was not just the technical violation and overstepping of a halachic line, but that machlokes itself was the sin of Korach. At the same time, it is good for us to distinguish between peshat and derash.


Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

If I'm not mistaken, the סמ"ג and perhaps other Rishonim do count this as a Mitzvah.

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joshwaxman said...

thanks. that makes sense. as rav frand said, "Some enumerators of the commandments actually count..."

do you know where it is listed?

Moshe Rosenberg said...

See the footnotes to Torah Sheleima that it may be an asmachta.

joshwaxman said...



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