By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Yesod Ha’Emunah is Maamad Har Sinai
The Rambam says in the eighth perek of Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah that the wonders that Moshe Rabbeinu performed are not the basis of emunah, because someone whose emunah is based on miracles could maintain a question-mark of doubt. Rather, only Maamad Har Sinai wherein we, as a nation, ourselves heard and saw the Ribbono shel Olamspeaking to Moshe, is the basis of emunah, as the pasuk says, ba’avur yishmah ha’am b’dabri imach v’gam b’cha yaaminu l’olam. All the wonders that Moshe did were for some particular need…when Korach va’adaso denied him, the ground opened up to swallow them.
Even the pasuk itself is a kashya on this Rambam. It says, “b’zos teidun ki Hashem shelachani, by this shall you know that Hashem indeed sent me”! Furthermore, after the Rambam concludes his exposition of Torah min ha’Shamayim in theyesod ha’shmini (in his pirush ha’Mishnayos on perek cheilek), he brings this pasuk! B’zos teidun ki Hashem shelachani la’asos es kol ha’maasim ha’eileh ki lo mi’libi. This is the pasuk, says the Rambam, that proves that every single letter in the entire Torah is min ha’Shamayim, and that the ayin of “achos Lotan Timnah” has just as much Torah-kedusha as thedalet in echad of Shema Yisrael.
It seems inescapable to answer – and I later heard that this is said in the name of Rav Beryl Soloveitchik – that Korach and his cohorts generated a pikpuk, a question-mark of kefirah in Klal Yisrael, and the miracle of the ground swallowing them up removed that question-mark; but the foundation of emunah nevertheless exclusively remains Maamad Har Sinai.
How was it Possible for Korach Va’adaso to Become Kofrim
The Rambam in Igeres Teiman says that “v’gam b’cha yaaminu l’olam” is a guarantee that anyone whose ancestors stood by Har Sinai will not become an apostate. If someone does become a kofer, asserts the Rambam, it must be that his ancestors were not by Har Sinai. It’s clear that what the Rambam means is that such a person is from the Eirev Rav. TheRamban says that by Maamad Har Sinai, the Eirev Rav had their own station, so, effectively they were not part of the event; thus, the phenomenon of kefirah within Klal Yisrael stems from them. This is not to say that such a person is necessarily a biological descendant of the Eirev Rav. Rather, it is that the neshamos of the Eirev Rav got mixed into the pool of the neshamos of Klal Yisrael, and such a person has a neshama from the Eirev Rav.
Nevertheless, the kashya here is blatant. Even had this happened with the great, great, great grandchildren of Korach we would have had a kashya, and Korach va’adaso were themselves there at Maamad Har Sinai! For us, this particular point wouldn’t necessarily be such a kashya – even though our neshamos were by Har Sinai, it isn’t necessarily at the forefront of our conscious memory. Maybe yes, maybe no. But Korach va’adaso most definitely had Maamad Har Sinai within the purview of their immediate recollection! In any event, they were certainly there, so how could the Rambam say that anyone whose ancestors were there is guaranteed that he won’t fall into kefirah? This kashya was asked to the Steipler Gaon by Rav Moshe Mordechai Shulsinger.
The Steipler answered him as follows: What the Rambam is saying is that someone whose ancestors stood by Har Sinaiwill not one fine morning wake up and out of nowhere become an atheist. However, if a person becomes mired in sin, that could cause him to lose his clarity of understanding, along the lines of what Chazal say regarding treif food that it clogs the spiritual arteries (and the Mesilas Yesharim avers that it certainly applies to all sin, just that food which is ingested has the most acute effect -Ed.-). This doesn’t mean that a sinner will definitely become a kofer, but that it could possibly lead to heresy. Likewise, if a person doesn’t have a handle on his negative middos, it is possible that they could lead him astray to the point of kefirah. The same applies if a person exposes himself to writings that can have a negative influence or exposes himself to a bad environment. Regarding all such circumstances the guarantee was not given, and that is what happened with Korach, because he was drawn into the terrible middah of jealousy over the appointment of his cousin.
The guarantee was only said about someone who was never exposed to any of these negative things and that he will not out of nowhere become an atheist. Of course, there is no-one like that, so you can never say about someone who is weak in emunah, “Oh, he must be from the Eirev Rav”. Definitely not. The main take-home lesson here is that emunah is something that needs to be preserved, safeguarded, and worked on.
What Led the Nesiim to Join Korach
Rashi brings that the Nesiim that joined Korach were “Elitzur ben Shdeiur and his contemporaries”. That means that these are the very same people who brought the korbanos of the Chanukas Ha’Mizbeiach of the Mishkan! The very same ones from parshas Naso! What got into them?! The merit that they had then was so great that Aharon Ha’Kohein felt terrible that his sheivet wasn’t part of it!
The Netziv explains that, essentially, they were driven by a great desire to come close to Hashem, just that they were mistaken in their approach. They thought that the only way to get fully close to Hashem is through the avodah in theMikdash, and that caused them to get in over their heads. They were misguided mevakshim (spirituality-seekers). Perhaps Korach was also a misguided mevakeish, to an extent.
The Root of the Aveirah of Korach Va’adaso
The Mishna in Pirkei Avos says that the machlokes of Korach and his group was a machlokes that was not l’sheim Shamayim. This, at first glance, sounds incredible – as if that was the only problem that they had? They denied the basic foundation of Torah min ha’Shamayim! Although the following is a mussar vort, it really is the only viable explanation: theMishna is not identifying the pinnacle of what they did wrong, but the root of what brought them to such terrible deeds. It was the fact that they were functioning not l’sheim Shamayim.
Korach and all his cohorts did not all of a sudden claim that Torah is not from Shamayim. It was a process. It began with Korach getting upset over the appointment of his cousin Elitzafan ben Uziel and/or the claim of “kulam kedoshim”. Because their motivation was not l’sheim Shamayim – even though they may have been seeking higher levels of closeness to Hashem! – it snowballed into a downward spiral until eventually it came to the point that they actually denied the foundation of Torah min ha’Shamayim. It is possible that they convinced themselves that they really were in fact actingl’sheim Shamayim. Had they dug deeper into themselves, though, they would have discovered that that is not the case.
Why Didn’t Moshe Daven for Korach Va’adaso
Rabbeinu Bachayei asks: why didn’t Moshe Rabbeinu daven for Korach va’adaso? Moshe was the ever-faithful shepherd, standing in the breach with his teffilos whenever Klal Yisrael got into trouble, so why was this instance different? Rabbeinu Bachayei answers – and this is something that you just have to take as a piece of knowledge – that this is not a question that can be answered in the realm of pshat, but only with a mesorah: Korach va’adaso were a gilgul of the dor haflagah and anshei Sedom which is hinted to in the words “anshei sheim”. By the dor haflagah they said “naaseh lanusheim”, and by Sedom they are called “anshei Sedom”. It is further alluded to in the words “vayakumu lifnei Moshe”. The word lifnei – which literally means “before” – is to indicate that this is not their first appearance in the world; they’ve been around before and already had two chances. This third, final chance was their last, and they still resisted tikun. At this point, Moshe felt that all was lost and nothing could be done for them further, and that is why he did not daven for them. That is what Rabbeinu Bachayei says. Whether we understand this or not, it is a piece of knowledge that one should be aware of.
“If a person is wearing purple-stained glasses, then everything he sees is going to look purple.”
It was in the midst of winter zman 2014. A gigantic demonstration was taking place because of the tension surrounding the draft issue vis a vis yeshiva bachurim. A few of us Toras Moshe bachurim were following Rav Twersky on the way there, asking him various questions. After we passed Bar Ilan Street, the area became so dense with people that it was difficult to move any closer towards the center of the gathering which was located at the central bus station. However, every once in a while a chashuva looking person would walk by with an entourage, and the crowd would push their way through so that particular rav could get closer to the front. One of the talmidim turned to Rav Twersky and said, “You know, if Rebbi wants, we could “box out” a little for Rebbi.” “There is a Rashi in Eruvin,” Rav Twersky responded, “that explains the reason we don’t litter is that it’s not nice. There are certain things that one does not do simply because it is not nice.”
(Reb Binyamin Mandel)
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