Sunday, June 22, 2008

Korach, Bamidbar 16:15. Al taifen el minchosom. Moshe Rabbeinu's Request that the Rebels Not Benefit from the Community Korbanos.

This post involves Kodshim. If you like kodshim, you will love this discussion. If not, go here or here or here for divrei Torah more to your taste.

Rashi brings a Medrash that Moshe was mispallel that the share the rebels had in the korbon Tomid should remain unburned on the mizbayach. Reb Moshe, in Kol Rom III p. 234 asks, the korbon was purchased with Machatzis Hashekel money, which was transferred absolutely to the Tzibur, to the general community account; so every part of the korbon belonged to everyone, so how is it shayach to isolate the share of Korach? So he says that klapei shmaya galya which part of the korbon was misyacheis to Korach, that it was known to Heaven which part was purchased with Korach’s chatzi shekel.

Coincidentally, I was at a wedding the night after I saw this vort, and I bumped into one of our late great Bnei Torah, Harav Levi Yitzchak (Leon) Tarshish Zatzal. As was his invariable habit, we had to talk in learning, and he asked me what the pshat in a Gemorah in Shvuos 12b is: the Mishna said that the So’ir Hamishtalayach is mechaper for certain aveiros, and the Gemora asks, it can’t be mechaper for a maizid shelo asa teshuva, because "zevach resho’im to’aiva," the korbon brought by a unrepentant sinner is an abomination, it is not a kosher korbon. He asked, Zevach Resha'im To'eiva is a psul in a korbon, so how could the participation of a Rasha possibly passel a korbon tzibbur? It is a korbon of Klal Yisroel! So he wanted to say that this is what Rashi means in Shvu’os, where he says that since "zevach resho’im to’aiva" "ve’heichi mechaper alei korbon Yom Hakipurim." From Rashi it is mashma that of course the korbon is kosher, but the din of "zevach resho’im to’eiva" also can prevent a person from getting a kapara. (i.e, Zevach Resho'im To'eiva is not only a potential psul of the korbon, but in those cases where it does not passsel the korbon, it can also interfere with the kaporo for the individual donor who is a rosho.)

But with this vort from Reb Moshe, we can see an exact tzushtel to the Medrash about Korach— that even though it is a korbon tzibbur, it is possible to parse out the chelek of one person.

But then we have a problem with the Mishnah in Shkolim Perek 1 Mishnah 3, (3: in the Vilna Bavli,) that says that the Kohanim used to excuse their refusal to donate a machatzis hashekel toward communal korbonos by saying that if they had a share in the korbon, all the menachos would have to be completely burned, as is the halacha by the korbon mincha of a Kohen. The opinion of the Tannaim of the Mishneh is that this excuse for not giving the Machatzis Hashekel was wrong. The Gemora says that it seems to be a machlokes whether a yochid’s identity and dinim still apply when he contributes to a korbon tzibbur.

Another problem with this Medrash is that the ritzui of a korbon is with the zrikas hadam. The burning of the korbon is secondary-- shyorei mitzvah. So what did Moshe accomplish by asking that the portion that was associated with Korach and his people should remain unburned? Who cares if the korbon is burned or not? The important and essential part of the korbon, basically the only part that matters, is the zerikas hadam!

I mentioned these questions to Rabbi Dovid Zupnick Zatzal (Tammuz 5760/Summer 2000), on Friday night. Shabbos afternoon, when we were in middle of eating, he and his daughter-in-law came in, (considering the state of his health, that was surprising) and he told me that once again, if you have to say a teretz on Rashi, you are not reading it correctly, because Rashi ("the stylist par excellance and the Rebbi of Klal Yisroel) always anticipates kashes. He told me that the expression of the Medrash, that Moshe said "yodei’a ani" that they have a cheilek, is very strange— since when does Moshe have to preface his statements with the expression "yodai’a ani"? This expression specifically intends to let us know that al pi din poshut what follows is not apparent, and it is only Moshe Rabbeinu, who was familiar with sisrai Torah and daas Hashem, that can make the statement. With this, any kashe on the statement that follows is not only not shver, but even is necessary to understand the prefatory words "yodai’a ani." if you don’t have a kashe, you don’t understand poshut pshat in Rashi.

The Minchas Chinuch on the Mitzvah of Machatzis Hashekel (105) is mesupak if we accept the machatzis hashekel from a mumar gamur. He brings a Gemora in Chulin that we do not accept nedorim and nedovos from him, so he says that it’s not mistavreh that we would be kofeh him to give, but if he gave of his own will, he is not posheit whether we accept it.

I saw (Feb ‘03/AdarI ‘63) that the Lubavitcher Rebbe points out the he’oro in the Rashi here:
"One tangential point which we glean from this Midrash will have halachic ramifications. In the laws of the half-Shekel it is usually assumed that when money is transferred to the treasurer of the Beis HaMikdash it utterly loses its identity as individual money and becomes part of the communal wealth. In principle it is usually assumed that the individual cannot afterwards designate a particular part of the offering as being his. From here we see that although all the funds combine and one animal is purchased, yet each individual still has a special connection to a particular part of the animal, no matter how infinitesimal it is. And, in fact, Moshe's request was heeded by G-d."

In March ‘05/Adar II ‘65, a passing meshulach asked me for directions to a local Shul, and I invited him and his friend into the house for a cup of coffee. His name is Yakov Salant (shortish, hairy beard and peiyos, but claims he’s a litvak) and he mentioned that his grandfather was the Be’er Yosef, a pirush on Chumash. (That is R Yosef Salant, who lived in Yerusholayim and died around 1965) Somehow he got onto the topic of the difference between a tzibbur and shutfim, and I told him about the Rashi on Korach that is mashma that even in a tzibbur each individual has a cheilek, just as in a shutfus. He answered with an excellent point– that you can’t bring a rayoh from Korach, because he was a nifrod, he sought pirud in Klal Yisroel, l’taavoh yevakeish nifrod, lokach es atzmo, so it could be that even though he gave machtzis hashekel as part of the tzibbur, his desire for pirud resulted in his chelek of the korbon not being subsumed into the din tzibbur. But in general, a yochid has no part of the korbon tzibbur. Maybe we can even say the same thing by the rashi by So’ir Hamishtalei’ach, that the anti-social nature of r’shoim or their deleterious influence on others results in their not being a part of the tzibbur.

A commentor pointed out that if part of the korban is pasul, maybe it's called choseir, or not tomim. This reminded me of the Gemaras in Sotah that says that although the husband pays for the Minchas Sotah, the woman is called the "Ba'alim" of the korban, since the korban's purpose is to be bodeik her (Sotah 19a after the Mishnah and 23a after the Mishnah; you need to see both of them). (Just like makdish mosif chomesh umiskapeir oseh temurah.) So if the "ba'alim" in this sense is a rasha, and his korbanos are passul, part of the korban tzibur would be pasul as well: not a discrete piece, not a real ownership share, but since he is a member of the tzibur, and the korban comes for the members of the tzibur, so he is a 'ba'alim' of part of the korban in this sense. So it could be that Moshe was mispalel that the korban should not be misyacheis to Korach at all, that he shouldn't have a din "ba'alim" on the korban tzibur, so he wouldn't have a kaparah. How can Moshe's tefilla affect the dinim of korbanos? The answer is that if the "share" of Korach wasn't burned, we could say, breira-like, that it was his "share" that wasn't brought ke'hilchasa at all: 'his' dahm wasn't nizrak and 'his' bosor wasn't burned.

The only problem I have with this me'halach is that to accept it would be to require that Reb Moshe and the Lubavitcher Rebbe missed a very important rule of kodshim, that "ba'alim" does not mean ownership.


  1. Perhaps you could say that if Korach's portion was excluded from the korban, it might make te whole korban posul by virtue of being chaser. Moshe was being mispalel that the remainder of the korban should be accepted and not considered mechusar

  2. You still have the problem that there is no individual ownership in a korbon tzibur.

    But I like the idea that since part of the korban is designated for a person for whom korbanos are not kasher, (not that he owns it, but that he is the "ba'alim" as far as kapara is concerned, just like minchas Sotah is paid for by the husband but she is called the ba'alim), so it is as if that part of the korban is missing, and it is not temimah.

  3. In fact, I'm going to insert that point into the post.