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Korach 5773

By: Rav Yonatan Horovitz

What is a "machloket leshem shamayim", an argument for the sake of heaven? The mishna in the fifth chapter of Avot contrasts two forms of dispute. That of Hillel and and Shammai is considered to be a "machloket leshem shamayim", which the mishna says will prevail. On the other hand, the dispute of Korach and his congregation is considered to be not "leshem shamayim" and will therefore not prevail. There are many questions asked about this mishna. Why would we want a dispute to prevail? Would it not be better if we resolved all of our differences? The answer is that it depends on the content of the dispute. The disagreements between Hillel and Shammai were about halacha and other aspects of Torah. We consider these disputes to contribute to our discussion and connection to Torah and therefore see these as a positive contribution to our intellectual and spiritual growth. Last week, my esteemed colleague, Rav Avigdor Meyerowitz, posed a question at the end of his shiur. After having read his concern, I questioned him about it in the Bet Midrash and what ensued was a lengthy and somewhat heated discussion about the subject. In the hope that this is an example of "machloket leshem shamayim", I have decided to use this forum to delineate my response to Rav Avigdor's question which follows below: In addition I would like to share with you a question that has been bothering me this last week. I'm not sure whether it is a "valid" question, and I'm sure many of you will find it slightly odd, but hear me out and let me know what you think! In our Gemara shiur in the Midrasha this year we learned Masechet Makot. The second chapter deals with the laws of the Cities of Refuge (arei miklat), which is where an accidental murderer would live in order to be safe from the "blood avenger" (go'el hadam). On daf 10a the Gemara states the following law: "A student (talmid) that goes into galut (ie: to a city of refuge for killing accidentally), his Rabbi must go into galut with him." The reason for this halacha stems from the verse: "As when a man goes with his fellow into the forest to chop wood, and his hand swings the ax to cut down the tree, and the iron flies off the handle, and it reaches his fellow, and he dies he shall flee to one of these cities, and live." The Gemara learns from those words, "and live" that we have to provide a "real life" for the person who has to be in the City of Refuge, and therefore the Rabbi has to accompany his student there. In the words of the Rambam: "When a Torah scholar is exiled to a city of refuge, his teacher is exiled together with him. This is derived from Devarim 19:5, which states: ‘He shall flee to one of these cities, and he shall live.’ Implied, is that everything necessary for his life must be provided for him. Therefore, a scholar must be provided with his teacher, for the life of one who possesses knowledge without Torah study is considered to be death."[13] The Gemara then takes this law to its next stage and says that, similarly, if a Rabbi kills accidentally and goes into galut, his whole yeshiva must accompany him to the city of refuge for the same reason. Once again, Rambam: "Similarly, if a teacher is exiled, his academy is exiled with him."[14] In light of the above it occurred to me that it would seem that the spies had no choice but to do what they could to ensure that Bnei Yisrael would not enter Eretz Yisrael. Since it was decreed on Moshe to remain in Galut (!)[15];[16] they were fulfilling the abovementioned halacha of "Harav she'gala, maglin yeshivato imo" - Moshe Rabbeinu, being the Rabbi, and Bnei Yisrael being his yeshiva. In fact it seems even peculiar that Yehoshua, who was Moshe Rabbeinu's closest student, didn't comply with the spies as well! Looking forward to your insights. [13] Rambam Laws of Rotseah uShmirat Nefesh 7;1. [14] Ibid. [15] A fact which they certainly knew, see Rashi, Bamidbar 11;28. [16] That Galut was decreed on Moshe Rabbeinu is a fact. Why specifically Galut, the Zohar and the Ari'zal in fact connect it the killing of the Egyptian! See Torah Sheleima, Rav Kasher, Shmot 2, footnote 105. I would like to respond to this suggestion on several levels. 1. The entire thesis is founded on the notion, that it was known, and possibly decreed prior to the sending of the spies, that Moshe would not enter Eretz Yisrael but remain in the wilderness. This is based on an understanding of the episode of Eldad and Medad in Bamidbar 11. Rashi comments, based on the words of Chazal (Sanhedrin 17), that they were prophesizing that Moshe will die and Yehoshua will lead the nation into Eretz Yisrael. First of all, there are two other opinions in the Gemara as to the content of this prophecy. Secondly, even if we accept that this was what Eldad and Meidad were saying, it is unclear that the remainder of the nation was aware of this. Furthermore, these words of Chazal require explanation. The Torah states quite clearly on three separate occasions that Moshe was not to enter the land due to the events at Mei Meriva. In the context of the retelling of the episode of the spies in the first chapter of Devarim, Moshe himself states that he was destined not to enter Eretz Yisrael because of his part in Chet Hameraglim. (These two apparently contradictory sources require reconciliation but that is beyond the scope of our present discussion.) The fact that Eldad and Meidad may have prophetically become aware of this prior to the decree does not mean that it was already decided that Moshe will not enter Eretz Yisrael. Their prophecy did in fact come to fruition, but the time frame was not clear when it was originally stated. If we suggest that we read these words of Chazal as the plain meaning of the text (peshat), then we are ignoring the explicit verses in the Torah. In such cases, it is imperative to reexamine the words of Chazal. We prefer to explain that the Gemara, by putting these words into the mouth of Eldad and Meidad, is conveying a certain frustration with Moshe's leadership which was rampant at the time. This can be seen from the context of their prophecy within the chapter which describes two instances of complaints by the people. This attitude brought about the willingness to accept the spies report in Parshat Sh'lach Lecha and the outright rebellion against Moshe's leadership in this week's parsha. (For more discussion on this subject see Tzir Vetzon, PP 113-137, Rav Moshe Lichtenstein, Yeshivat Har Etzion publications 2002.) 2. Rav Avigdor draws a parallel between the "galut" which is decreed upon one who commits manslaughter, and the decision that Moshe will not enter Eretz Yisrael. Although the term used in the Gemara for the punishment of being sent to an Ir Miklat, a city of refuge, is galut, this would appear to be very different from the term exile, which is also called galut. It is also unclear that the concept of exile even existed prior to Am Yisrael entering the land. It is true that the enslavement in Egypt is sometimes termedgalut, but that again is different from an Ir Miklat which is used as a punishment for a particular form of manslaughter. 3. There are a couple of sources cited above which suggest that Moshe was punished with galut as a result of his having killed the Egyptian back in the beginning of Sh'mot. Whilst I am not nearly as knowledgeable as the esteemed Rabbanim who made this suggestion, I am puzzled by a number of things. First of all, this is not the accepted punishment for killing a gentile. Secondly, Moshe was not sent anywhere different from where he had been until then. Yes, he had to flee to Midyan but that was because he was running away from Paro. It seems somewhat far fetched to connect the decree not to allow Moshe to enter the land with his slaying of the Egyptian so many years earlier for there appears to be no correlation between crime and punishment. Furthermore, Moshe could be seen to have been acting in the context of war in which case he was not punishable for the Egyptian's death. (See Tzir Vetzon, PP 19-41, Rav Moshe Lichtenstein, Yeshivat Har Etzion publications, 2002.) In addition, Moshe killed the Egyptian prior to the giving of the Torah which raises difficulties in any attempt to apply halacha to that situation. (A possible retort to this claim is based on the idea that Kayin was sent to galut for killing Hevel. See Rav SR Hirsch on Bamidbar 35) 4. This brings us to a further point. We witness here an attempt to use principles of Torah Shebeal Peh to explain episodes in Torah Shebichtav. While this is neither uncommon nor misplaced it can lead to many pitfalls which we would do best to avoid. In our case we have already noted our concern about the attempt to equate different notions of galut. It is clear from various sources, (Sefer Hachinuch, Mitzva 408) that the cities of refuge did not take effect until after the nation had settled the land of Israel, with the possible exception of the three established on the east bank of the Jordan River which were instituted during year forty of Am Yisrael's travails in the desert. The parallel drawn between a Rav and his students as found in Massechet Makkot on the one hand, and Moshe and Am Yisrael on the other, is also unclear. Moshe was most definitely a teacher but he was also a leader charged with many different tasks. Yehoshua was appointed as leader at a different juncture in the nation's history. It was not up to the spies to decide that the nation had to learn from Moshe rather than Yehoshua. Surely, that was God's decision. 5. Our final point relates to the entire nature of the question. It seems very clear from the Torah that the meraglim sinned and caused others to sin too. They are accused of having negatively influenced the entire nation (Bamidbar 32:8-13) and died in a plague which stemmed directly from God (Bamidbar 14:37). Yehoshua and Kalev, who acted differently, are bestowed with compliments over and over again for not siding with the other spies but rather following Hashem. Yes, the meraglim were upstanding members of the community but they failed in their mission and had a negative affect on the course of our history. To suggest otherwise, is, in my opinion, ignoring that which is explicitly stated in the Torah. Shabbat Shalom.


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