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Influence and Inspiration

Torah Thoughts on Parshas Korach by Rabbi Yehuda Abramowitz

"וַיִקַח קֹרַח בֶּן יִצְהָר בֶּן קְהָת בֶּן לֵוִי וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם בְּנֵי אֱלִיאָב וְאוֹן בֶּן פֶּלֶת בְּנֵי רְאוּבֵן"  בְּמִדְבַּר ט''ז:א'

"And Korach, son of Yitzhar, son of Kehas, son of Levi, separated himself, with Dasan and Aviram, sons  of Eliav, and On, son of Pelles, sons of Reuven.” BeMidbar 16:1

The list of ancestors associated with Korach traces his family back three generations, but no more. Rashi explains that when Yaakov Avinu pronounced his blessings to the tribe of Levi (Bereshis 49:6), he asked for mercy for himself that his name not be associated with the dispute of Korach. “May my soul not enter into their conspiracy.”

The appearance of the name of Yaakov at the end of a list of ancestors leading up to Korach is not a trivial thing. If this was a casual mention, Yaakov would not have to daven and beg for mercy that his name be spared from this list. Rather, had Yaakov been mentioned in the context of this conspiracy, this would have indicated to some degree that he was a source of this flawed and tragic confrontation of Korach. The verse in Nitzavim states (Devarim 29:17): “Perhaps there is among you a root flourishing with gall and wormwood.” There is a recognition that a slight flaw among a later generation can be traced to a modicum of imperfection among earlier ancestors.

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 109) notes that each name in our verse can refer to a character defect which contributed to this unfortunate incident. Korach – he caused a bald spot (קָרַחַת) among his family. Yitzhar – he riled up the nation, as does the burning and scorching sun in the afternoon (צָהֳרַיִם). Kehas – he caused those who begat him to grind their teeth (הַקְהֵה) in frustration. The son of Levi – this act directed its followers (לְוָיָה) to Gehinnom. Yaakov, however, whose name does not appear in this list, begged for mercy and was spared from this association.

Now, if the ancestral connection is significant in terms of fault, it is certainly even more meaningful in terms of merit. Any act of benefit on the part of a person, even as small as it may seem to be, can result in major and powerful gains for his generations to come. Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva 3:2) notes that one’s merits due to mitzvos should be greater than his faults due to sin. This is not counted purely due to the number of mitzvos, but rather due to how great any merit may be. In fact, one merit may be greater in value than many faults caused by sin. An example of this is when one earns merits for the communal benefit. If many people learn from his proper role model, or if his descendants adopt his mannerisms, he is rewarded commensurately.

I heard a story about a man who was not observant. He began to come to a local shul once a month and donate a nice sum to the shul. He continued every month, until he died. Subsequently, his wife and children continued this custom, until, due to the connection they established with the shul, the family became observant. 

How did this scenario begin? The man had visited Eretz Yisrael, and he came to the Kosel HaMa’aravi. There, he saw a Yerushalmi Jew davening intensely. He was so touched that when he returned to his home town, he sought out a synagogue which was similar to the Kosel. He found a particular place, and he directed his funding to it. When the Yerushalmi Yid came to Shomayim, he was presented great reward for enabling the funding of this shul, and for bringing this particular family back to full observance. All this, without his being aware of who these people were or that he had made any influence upon them.

We must all be careful to act in a manner where we spread a positive influence upon all those around ourselves, near and far.


Rabbi Yehuda Abramowitz attended HTC’s Beis Midrash LaTorah (1967-1971). He was a talmid of the Novominsker Rebbe, זצ"ל, and Rabbi Aron Soloveichik, זצ"ל, then learned at Yeshivas Mir (1971-1993). He was a talmid of HaGaon Reb Nochum Pertzovitz זצ"ל. Rabbi Abramowitz has been a Maggid Shiur at Yeshivas Toras Moshe since 1991.                                                            

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