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Any dispute which is for the sake of
Heaven will last, and that which is not for the sake of Heaven will not last.
What is [an example of] a dispute for the sake of Heaven? The dispute between
Hillel and Shammai.
What is [an example of] one that is not for the sake of Heaven? This is the
dispute of Korach and his group.
-Pirkei Avot 5:17
Hillel and Shammai had
differences, even extreme differences in doctrinal vantage points.These differences, however, neither kept them
from being used by HaShem, nor did they keep either Hillel or Shammai from
becoming household standards / references for us today.
Most of us remember the
difference cited about the gentile man who wanted to learn “all” the Torah
while standing on one leg.Shammai, using
a builder’s cubit, emphasized the strictness of the Torah – the “Religious”
standard, and sent him packing. Hillel,
in contrast, talked about the golden rule – “That which is hateful to you, do
not to your neighbor.That is the whole
Torah, . . .”The section concludes that
“Shammai's impatience sought to drive us from the world, but Hillel's
gentleness brought us under the wings of the Shechinah.” (Shabbath 31a).
Korach was not acting with HaShamayim
in mind, rather, he took it into his own hands to go above and beyond his calling.HaShem had called the Levi’im into the inner
circle, to replace the first-born of all Yisrael. His appointed (by HaShem) position/task, as a
member of the K’hat family, was to transport the (covered) items of the Beit
HaMikdash – a highly honorable calling.
Unlike Hillel and Shammai, Korach did
not discuss, but rather came out, with 250 of the community leaders, accusing Moshe
and Aharon as follows:
take too much on yourselves.
all,) The entire community is holy, every
one of them (is holy),
(Adonai) is among them.
why do you lift yourselves up above (Adonai’s)
Moshe’s reaction was to fall on his
face – his awe of HaShem, and the blatant disregard of Korach’s for His ways made
immediate response impossible.When he
recovered, He addressed Korach with his followers/co-conspirators, not with
accusations, but merely to lay out the game plan for the following day – put incense
in the censors and offer it to HaShem, and let HaShem show, as a public
testimony, the servants/leaders of His choosing.After all, Adonai would choose the holy
one(s) – that statement alone refutes the arguments that the entire community
is holy, every one of them.
After outlining the following day’s
agenda, he addressed his fellow Levi’im, and reminded them that HaShem had
separated them unto Himself, and brought them close, but that was not enough
for them.They gathered outwardly
against Moshe and Aharon, but in reality, it was against HaShem.As far as the sons of Re’uven (Datan and
Aviram), they separated themselves from the Levi’im, but still rejected Moshe’s
authority over them, citing broken promises (of the promised land) as reason
The following day, the battle of the
censors took place (though I don’t see how they could so quickly forget the
fate of Nadav and Avihu for such a similar action).Long story short, HaShem once again confirmed
Moshe and Aharon as His choice, ground opens and swallows all the rebels, Moshe
intercedes for Yisrael/Aharon offers incense, plague stopped. As if that were not enough, HaShem added
another sign to the confirmation of Aharon – his rod not only budded, but
blossomed and bore ripe almonds within a single day!
Those who fail to study history are
prone to repeat it!Fast-forward through
the wilderness.Go past the period of
the Shoftim to the time of Sh’mu’el.Benei Yisrael decided they were missing out – “We want a King, like the
Goy’im!”HaShem accepts that they have
rejected His leadership, and allows them to have the king of their choosing,
but just as He gave the supernatural event in Korach’s day, so He sent an
untimely thunderstorm in the day of the king.It was a reminder that HaShem set-up kings and brings them down.
The haftarah for this Shabbat Rosh Codesh
comes from Yesha’yahu. This prophetic book
has been called a mini picture of the whole of Scripture.The passage reminds us that HaShamayim is
HaShem’s throne and earth is His footstool.We exist and find favor through humility.It concludes: “Every month on Rosh Codesh and
every week on Shabbat, everyone will come to worship in My presence,” says
Adonai.“As they leave, they will look
on the corpses of the people who rebelled against Me. . .”