Friday, June 26, 2009

Datan and Aviram were at fault, much more than Korach

I saw this fascinating Ralbag on parshat Pinchas, and thought it would be would be nice to share. Korach was just along for the ride, and Datan and Aviram were the primary cause. This is at odds with the typical reading. I don't agree with it for various reasons, but it still is fascinating. He also appears to assume here that Korach was swallowed up. But his sons did not die because he was not as bad as Datan and Aviram.

Ralbag points to pasuk or two in parshat Pinchas:
ט וּבְנֵי אֱלִיאָב, נְמוּאֵל וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם: הוּא-דָתָן וַאֲבִירָם קרואי (קְרִיאֵי) הָעֵדָה, אֲשֶׁר הִצּוּ עַל-מֹשֶׁה וְעַל-אַהֲרֹן בַּעֲדַת-קֹרַח, בְּהַצֹּתָם, עַל-ה'.9 And the sons of Eliab: Nemuel, and Dathan, and Abiram. These are that Dathan and Abiram, the elect of the congregation, who strove against Moses and against Aaron in the company of Korah, when they strove against the LORD;
י וַתִּפְתַּח הָאָרֶץ אֶת-פִּיהָ, וַתִּבְלַע אֹתָם וְאֶת-קֹרַח--בְּמוֹת הָעֵדָה: בַּאֲכֹל הָאֵשׁ, אֵת חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתַיִם אִישׁ, וַיִּהְיוּ, לְנֵס.10 and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died; what time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men, and they became a sign.
יא וּבְנֵי-קֹרַח, לֹא-מֵתוּ. {ס}11 Notwithstanding the sons of Korah died not. {S}

"they are Datan and Aviram, the elect of the congregation, who strove against Moshe and Aharon...": to teach with this that they were in this contention and argument as the beginning and root, more than Korach. And because of this, it states "and it swallowed them and Korach" {with veEt showing that he is secondary, and almost an afterthought}. To testify that they were the first cause, and they caused the destruction of the 250 men. And yet, Korach was put first {in the first pasuk of parshat Korach} because of his higher status {maybe that he was not as big a rasha?} And because of this, you find that Datan and Aviram died, together with all that was to them, but this was not the case for Korach, for his sons did not die, as it relates in this parsha {of Pinchas}. And the proof is that there were from them many singers in the days of David. And one can imagine that they were in a place of the punishment {? can't read the word} where Korach was when the earth opened up its mouth. And the place entrenched itself and strengthened itself. which was under their feet in such fashion that the earth did not swallow them up. And for this reason it was necessary to say "and the sons of Korach did not die," for they were in a place where they were fit to die. And for this reason, our Rabbis of blessed memory said that "a place entrenched itself for them in Gehinnom," for the places which open in this manner, such as when the earth opened itself at the time it is opnedGehinnom, of Gei {the valley} of Ben Hinnom. "And they became a sign" {=the 250 men}: the intent is to say that they were a sign and a remembrance to the children of Israel to warn them that one who is not from the seed of Aharon should not come close to perform the service of the Temple.
An interesting approach. Personally, I take the whole section differently. It is a genealogical section, and since it begins with Reuven, naturally Datan and Aviram come up first. Indeed, this is a counting for inheritance, so Levi would not come up at all. But when they came to Datan and Aviram, it was fitting to mention their death, not only because it was famous, but because it could affect the distribution. Similar outliers are the Bnos Tzelophchad who are mentioned here, and Er and Onan who died in the land of Canaan. In summarizing the incident, it mentions Korach, but yes, for the reasons given above (and not because of relative righteousness), he is listed as an afterthought. But it is famous as the incident of Korach and the congregation of Korach, just like the famous matter of Bilaam ben Beor. And so he is mentioned. And since he is mentioned, and since we know that Datan and Aviram and all their taf venashim died with them, the Torah takes pains to indicate that this was not the case with Korach. That does not mean that Korach's tent got swallowed up. As I argue in a separate post, there is no real indication in the pesukim that this happened to anyone other than Datan and Aviram. ("Mishkan Korach Datan vaAviram" I read as the Korachite tents of Datan and Aviram.) Or else it was swallowed, but these sons left, or were older and had moved to their own tents already. The point though it the lineage, and to correct a potential mis-perception. Not that they were present and miraculously saved.

So I would disagree with much of what Ralbag said here.


Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

My impression was that Dasan and Aviram had a latent desire to revolt against Moshe Rabeinu but it was Korach that took them along for the ride, sort of: While I'm distracting Aharon by contending to become the Kohen Godol, you guys rebel against Moshe. Either of us alone couldn't do it but since I want to take a stab at it, come along.
This might also explain the midrash on why On ben Peles dropped out.

E-Man said...

In truth, if we look at the midrash tanchuma in shemos 10 it says over there that the dueling Jews that caused Moshe to go into exile were dasan and aviram. It also says that they were the ones to yell out that the jewish people should return to egypt when the spies came back with the report that giants live in the land and the Jews can't conquer it. The midrash also says that they were the ones to say let us go back to egypt by the yam suf. Also, they were the ones that left the maan over night in perek 16 pasuk 20, meaning they didn't listen to moshe. Also, they were the ones that went out on shabbos to gather the maan and didn't find it, meaning they didn't listen to moshe. Then the midrash says they were part of the rebellion with korach.

This midrash seems to be saying that the real wicked ones are dasan and aviram. They were wicked form the start. However, this is the first time we mention korach being wicked.

Also, as I pointed out on my blog, korach was really pushed by his wife, whereas Oen ben peles was held back by his wife, however that midrash says nothing about dasan and aviram. It can then be inferred that they were the real wicked ones and Oen and Korach were just misguided.

Based on this I would say that really dasan and aviram were the masterminds behind this plot against moshe, not korach. So maybe the Ralbag was thining this way and therefore learned the pasukim in pinchas accordingly.

Anonymous said...

The gold calf incident seems to be related to this in the following manner. Yoseph, the son of the bekor u'verakah, had the Ox as a a symbol of his status. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, though he was chosen over them after the fault of Reuven. As the b'nei Israel left Egypt under Moshe, who was of Levi, they murmured and complained along the way. When Moshe went off and did not immediately return to them, they made a gold calf at the insistance, I believe, of the tribes of Ephaim v'Menashe, because they did not want the rest of b'nei Israel to forget what their fathers had done to their father, Yoseph. Thought that transgression of the gold calf resulted in the deaths of 3000 Leviim, it was not forgotten by Korach. In this parasha, the envy of Datan v'Aviram,along with Korach, towards the Moshe, Aharon, and the faithful Cohanim with them, is finally dealt with.


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