Sunday, June 29, 2008

Korach, and The Doors of Gehinom

There are three doors to Hell: Selfish discontent, silence in the presence of injustice, and the abandonment of community.

(My wife spoke this week, and I have to say that I am very proud of the careful thought, energy and focus she brought to the task.)

They say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Well, all you ladies here are full of good intentions. So let's talk about the road to Hell.

Chazal (Eiruvin 19a) say that Gehinom has three entrances; one is in the desert, one on the Sea, and one near Yerushalayim. Unlike Gan Eden, as one of the pirushim in the Ein Yaakov says, which only has one door, Gehinom has three. Three doors, no waiting. Now, Chazal were not writing a tour guide, and there are no visitor’s hours in Gehinom, so it’s not likely that they are really talking about where any actual doors to Gehinnom are.

Rav Yakov MiLisa, the Nesivos, has an interesting pirush in his sefer Nachalas Yakov. He says that there three "entrances" refer to the way people fall into the trap of Gehinom. The first, the Gemara says, is the Midbar, the Desert. The Gemara brings from the story of Korach that at his decisive moment of confrontation with Moshe in the Desert, the floor of the desert opened and he fell into Gehinom. This, the Nesivos explains, means that one who opens his mouth and complains, one who foments discord and argument, is treading on the doorstep of Gehinom. The Gemara in Shabbos 52a says there was a couple that would always get into a fight Friday nights, and Rav Meir took it upon himself to sit with them every Friday night, three weeks in a row, and he saw to it that they learned to avoid their usual arguments. The Gemara says that immediately after the third week, a voice was heard, the voice of the Satan, saying, "Woe to me, Rav Meir has evicted me from my dwelling!" Discontent, pettiness, demands and insisting on what you think you deserve without considering the needs of others, these are all ways of inviting the Satan into your house and earn you a ticket to Gehinom.

The second door is the Yahm, the Sea. The Gemara brings that Yonah prayed from the belly of the fish, and asked God to save him “mibetten She’ol,” from the belly of Gehinom. The Nesivos explains that the "Sea of Yonah" refers to a person who, realizing the danger of confrontation and argument, makes a conscious decision to be silent. This person, realizing how dangerous Machlokes is, says, silence is golden; no matter what, I will not get involved! As the Gemara in Pesachim 93a says, "Silence is precious for the wise, and doubly precious for fools." But when injustice is done, one cannot remain silent. Lo sa'amod ahl dahm rei'echa! Each and every member of the community must raise his voice and oppose injustice. You might not see it, but right there, on the sidelines with you, is another one of the doors to Gehinom.

So, what is one to do? You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. The best idea is to just stay away from the Jewish community. Jews, those contentious and stiff-necked people! Who needs the trouble! And that, of course, is the third door of Gehinom, the door that is outside of Yerushalayim. Yerushalayim is the city of brotherhood, Ir shechubra lah yachdav, the city where we come on the Shalosh Regalim to reinforce our sense of one-ness. One who places himself outside of Yerushalayim abandons his identity, he removes himself from the sense of community. It is that community that stands between us and Gehinom.

Ha’olam hazeh gesher tzar me’od! Life is the edge of a knife; stray just a little, and all will be lost. Every life-choice you make can be a blessing or a curse, and you can’t avoid making these immensely serious life-choices. The only eitzah is to take these things to heart, to ask Hashem for Siyata Dishmaya, to seek advice, and to eliminate, as much as possible, the ego pitfalls and subjectivity that poison the thought process.

(Note: the interpretations of the first two doors are from the Nesivos. That of the third door is my wife's.)


  1. Oin Ben Peles HusbandJune 29, 2008 at 11:40 PM

    Is there a Korach in their midst that she was addressing?What was the Context of the Speech what was the Issue it Seems to be some very strong words.

  2. Parshas Chukas
    It says in the Middle of the Parsha of the Parah Adumah זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה אָדָם כִּי-יָמוּת בְּאֹהֶל .The Brisker Rav asks: Why particularly here does it say זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה and not any other Halacha. Why does this Parsha deserve to get this grandiose introduction? In true Brisker Style he answers with a Rambam and says the Posuk is referring to the Halachos of Tumas Mikdash. This is proven because towards the end of the same Perek it says כִּי אֶת-מִקְדַּשׁ יְהוָה טִמֵּא therefore we can established that the whole Parsha is talking about Tumas Mikdash. Thereby זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה is an introduction to a Person who comes to the Beis Hamikdash in Tumah. The Punishment he gets for doing it is Kares. The Rambam's exact language when talking about this Tumah is:
    לפיכך אני אומר שכל טומאה מן המת שאין הנזיר מגלח עליה, אינה דין תורה
    What he is saying with this Statement is there are 13 Middos that you make Derashos with. Here by Tumah the Rambam makes an exception to the rule of Derashos. Regularly Tumah or anything else learnt out from a Gezairah Shava or one of the other 13 has the same Halacha as the plain Torah law. Here says the Rambam it is different. When you come as a Tumah Meis to the Beis Hamikdash with a Derabbnon Tumah you do not get Kares. The natural question is where did the Rambam get this Halacha so the Brisker Rav answers אני אומר says the Rambam I got from the Posuk זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה that is the only time you get the Punishment of Kares for coming into the Beis Hamikdash Tumah is when it is a Tumah is a Doraisah: from the Torah. The Halacha is when מִקְדַּשׁ יְהוָה טִמֵּא the punishment of Kares is only when זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה it is written explicitly in the Torah!

  3. To Oin ben Peles husband:
    No, there's no Korach in their midst. But there doesn't exist a city that long escapes machlokes, and people get involved without knowing the issues or without thinking carefully, and things get out of hand and emotional and hurtful, and problems that should have been resolved quickly and efficiently become festering wounds.