MidrESHET Hayil

Friday, June 24, 2011

Parashat Korah

This week’s Parasha, Parashat Korah features a showdown between Korah and Aharon HaKohen. Korah accuses Moshe Rabbenu of seeming nepotism and unfair distribution of leadership. He explains how Aharon and the Kohanim have taken over in the form of a dynasty, not leaving room for others to serve HaShem on that rank. After Moshe Rabbenu suggests a duel between Korah (and his men) and Aharon in offering ketoret (incense), the ground opens up consuming Korah, his wife, his children (who in the courts of heaven and earth are not deserving of punishment) and all their possessions. Benei Yisrael are warned not to even go near anything associated with Korah or to touch their possessions. Following this ground-breaking event (literally), a plague sweeps over Benei Yisrael taking 14,700 neshamot (souls) with it. One may ask themselves, why such a harsh punishment? What did Korah do that he and his entire family should be not only isolated but literally obliterated from this earth? Was he not simply asking to serve Hakadosh Barukh Hu in the highest form possible?! Korah had a valid point!
                To understand the graveness of Korah’s sin, we can begin by juxtaposing his personality to that of Aharon. Aharon was known to be ohev shalom ve’rodef shalom, loving and seeking peace between friends and between husband and wife. His warmth was felt by everybody who approached him and by all those he approached. This was the exact characteristic which qualified him to become not only a Kohen, not only a Kohen Gadol, but the first Kohen Gadol, the one who would set precedence for the rest of the Kohanim for generations to come. From Aharon we learn to establish peace among ourselves.
Korah resembles the opposing extreme. Korah came to cause mahloket, division, among Benei Yisrael. When he approached Moshe, he was not actually interested in gaining status in order to serve HaShem; he wanted to gain control and prove who really should be sovereign. Korah tried to undermine Bnei Yisrael’s prime authority; he didn’t want to JOIN it, he wanted to BEAT it! This is the difference between Aharon and Korah; while one worked to bring Klal Yisrael, the other attempted to only tear it apart. This is why HaShem had Aharon and Korah face each other in dispute; to show who is truly deserving of authority- one who brings shalom, peace, to the people around him or her.  Aharon, who embodies peace and love, is seen later on in the Parasha to have his staff blossom into almonds overnight from all the other staffs of the leaders of the Shevatim (tribes). Additonally, in this very Parasha, HaKadosh Barukh Hu gives the first and best of the animals and crop to the Kohanim. The offerings brought to HaShem go to straight the Kohanim; HaShem, gives it to them from His own. HaShem tells them that the land they will dwell in is not their inheritance, instead HaShem HIMSELF is their inheritance and he will provide for them.
This same ground that brings Aharon and the Kohanim their sustenance also swallows Korah and his followers. We can now begin to understand why Korah’s punishment was so severe. Korah did not do things in the name of HaShem, he didn’t do thing leshem shamayim. He didn’t do things to glorify HaShem’s name, nor did he exactly promote peace between members of Am Yisrael. He wanted to climb the hierarchy because of a personal vendetta and for his own prestige, not for the sake of serving Hashem. He brought forth destruction and division thus deserving to be treated as such. A person who acts like Korah doesn’t only deserve to die but his legacy is also to be obliterated; all traces of his family and inheritance were eliminated from this world never to be seen again.
We learn that no matter what level we are on, whether we are a Kohen, Levi , or Yisrael,  we can serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu, to our fullest potential as long as its leshem shamayim, for the sake of glorifying the name of HaShem and promoting peace where we tread foot. May we always have the Koah to be like Aharon HaKohen and in his Zekhut to always have shalom, peace in our relationships with others and of course, with HaShem.
Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorakh!
Ariella Samimi

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Parashat Shelakh Lekha

Please learn in the Zekhut of a Refuah Shelemah for Sarah Bat Morvarid, Shahin Shemuel Chei Ben Hadassah and for Rachamim Ben Farcha. Thank you! Tizku lemissvot!
Parahat Shelakh Lekha opens with the rather notorious account of the twelve spies appointed to scout Eres Cna’an and their divided reports of the land upon return to Moshe Rabbenu. Ten of the twelve spies testify to the land’s vice while Ca’aleb and Yehoshua offer a more pleasant depiction of the land. A main point of disagreement was the role of the indigenous nations in the future of Am Yisrael’s existence, the notion of war, or in Hebrew, מלחמה . The ten spies cried to Moshe Rabbenu that the land is inhabited by giants living in fortified cities; Ca’aleb declares that Benei Yisrael are capable of overcoming them. If Ca’aleb and Yehoshua sighted the same exact land as the ten other spies, then how could they possibly bring forth an alternate report of the land? What good did the minority of the spies possibly see in the land the consumes its own people?  The answer lies in the very next topic mentioned in the Torah HaKedosha; the topic of Hallah חלה. How so? How can these two disjoint possibly be connected, let alone to reconcile the former’s paradox? If we look closer at the nature of dividing חלה, we may begin to understand the cause behind discrepancy in the spies’ reports. Before חלה becomes חלה, it first exists as לחם . Only after a piece is torn off the לחם and sanctified is the dough elevated to the higher, more spiritual status of חלה.
When Benei Yisrael enter Eres Can’an, they will be faced with war, מלחמה. If we examine the root of the word מלחמה, we find the word לחם . This draws the beginning of the connection between לחם and the spies reports about war with the nations, מלחמה. But how do we connect this to חלה, the following missva in the Torah? Let’s juxtapose the words לחם and חלה. You may notice that both words consist of the same elements except for the last letters, the ה and the ם. Let’s look closer. These two letters bear the same exact shape; a square. They look nearly identical except that the ה has two gaps that seem to be ‘torn off’ the ם. This is the difference between simple ‘bread’ לחם and of sanctified hallah, חלה. Only when a piece is ‘torn off’, seemingly lacking a piece, does the entire entity of dough exist on a higher level; only then is it complete.
In the words of לחם and חלה we can see two different mindsets. One is ‘closed’ minded (the ם) while the ה in חלה resembles ‘open’ mindedness. This was the exact difference between Ca’aleb and Yehoshua and the other ten spies. Although the facts they were all presented were identical, their mindsets differed as reflected in their alternate reports. It is true, both parties witness giants residing in fortified cities, but their outlooks on this phenomenon were radically opposing.
When the spies entered the land, the group of ten spies realized it would be difficult to serve HaKadosh Barukh Hu among goyim, that’s why didn’t want to enter and offered a negative report in order to prevent Am Yisrael from doing so. They thought they wouldn’t be able to handle it; it was easier in desert where there were no external influences and they were able to peacefully serve HaShem with not challenges. However, Ca’aleb and Yehoshua looked at the situation differently. They didn’t view he fact that the goyim resided in the land as an obstacle, they viewed it as an opportunity to grow stronger and stick closer to HaShem.  Sometimes we have to rip off a part of ourselves and sanctify it like we do with the חלה in order to reach a holier status.  Its easy to serve HaShem in a desert or vacuum where He provides everything, this is the real test. When we live among other nations in the land, will we still depend on Him? Will we still recognize Him? Are we going to assimilate due to our ‘closed’ mindedness and remain as simple לחם ? Or by separating ourselves like we separate the חלה will we elevate ourselves even though we feel like at times parts of us are being ‘torn off’ as sacrifices and offerings? It is all in our mindset in any given place; keep an open mind, be the חלה.

Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom u’mevorakh! Enjoy your חלה!

Ariella Samimi

Friday, June 10, 2011

Parashat Beha'alotkha

Please learn in zekhut of refua shelema for Shahin Shemuel Chai Ben Hadassah, Sarah Bat Morvarid and all the Holim in Am Yisrael. Tizku Lemissvot!

Parashat Beha’alotkha opens with the instruction to Aharon HaKohen to ‘elevate himself’ in order to light the Menorah, arguably one of the most important facets of the Mikdash. The Torah HaKedosha continues to describe the dimensions of the Menorah stating that it should be composed of one solid unit ‘from its base to its flowers’.  If HaKadosh Barukh Hu gave us an instruction as specific as this one, we must surely look into it and glean a lesson that we may apply to our lives. When HaShem Yitbarakh commands us that the Menorah should exist as a unified entity, so too our body and neshama (our soul) must be unified as one.  Our thoughts/intentions, desires and actions must replicate each other; they must be constituted of one solid piece of gold. Only when the base and the flowers are made of the same unit of gold, only when our body and our neshama are in sync with each other can we become ‘elevated’ in order to illuminate the Mikdash we live in. The Ben Ish Hai HaKadosh (Baghdad 1832-1909) explains that the mind (moah) and the heart (lev) are the only two organs that are constantly awake even if the rest of the body is sleeping. Considering that they supersede any form of slumber, these two organs become the constant receptacle for HaShem’s presence and thus must always operate in unison. In fact, the sum of the numerical values of ‘moah’ and ‘lev’ equal 86, the exact numerical value of HaShem’s name ‘Elokim’! Our lev (our intentions) must always operate in accordance with our moah (our thoughts and actions) and both must exist as one entity just as the Menorah did. Only when the base of the Menorah was stable could the flowers blossom, so to speak. Likewise, when our base (our body) is stable, can our neshamot blossom into flowers and bear fruit. When we purify our thoughts (moah), we can purify out intentions and thus our actions, our lev. In order to do so, the Ben Ish Hai offers the following solution. In order to make our neshamot pure, we must first make our bodies pure. This is done by the missva of netillat yadayim (ritual washing of the hands) every day with the proper thoughts and intention; with the proper moah and lev. Be’ezrat HaShem in zekhut of doing netillat yadayim with the proper intention and thoughts, we can develop our lev and moah into a single vessel whereby HaKadosh Barukh Hu can reside in just has He did in the Mikdash and whereby we can kindle the lives around us, from the base to even the smallest flowers.
Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom u’mevorakh!
Ariella Samimi