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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3

Jerusalem

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NUMBERS — 16:1 betook

Nittai of Arbela said: Keep far distant from a bad neighbor; do not associate with a wicked man;… Pirkei Avot, Perek I, mishnah 7. Joshua ben P'rahyah cautioned us to think twice before judging someone to be bad. Now Nittai of Arbela examines a more realistic aspect of the situation. In life we will encounter people who are bad, unquestionably bad, bad beyond a shadow of a doubt. When you discover that your neighbor is wicked, keep far away from him. The effect of evil association is often fatal. What the Mishnah is rejecting is the naïve idealism which refuses to believe that there are really bad people, and the naïve optimism that even if some are momentarily wicked, we can soon improve them. When the proximity of evil affects you directly in your personal, emotional life, then discretion is the better policy: put a distance between yourself and your evil neighbor. The sacrifice may be great. The Talmud knows we need "either fellowship or death" (T.B. Ta'anith 23a). Man is a social being who cannot get along without friends, without society and good fellowship. Yet the price could be too high to pay, even for fellowship, for it may require an unprincipled life, and existence without Torah. Better no friends at all than to associate with the wicked. Indeed, we are clearly warned: "Do not associate with the wicked even to learn Torah" (Avoth d'Rabbi Nathan, A9). Judaism was always very sensitive to the powerful influence of environment. As the Midrash explains, when Korah organized his rebellious campaign against Moses, Dothan and Abiram joined him [this and following verses] because they were his neighbors: the Tribe of Reuben camped near the Levite branch of Korah's grandfather Kohath. And the Midrash sums it up tersely: "Woe betides the wicked, and woe his neighbor; [but] good attends the tzaddik, the righteous, and good attends his neighbor" (Midrash Tanhuma, Korah 4, ed. Buber 8). In other passages the Midrash declares that Lot was saved from Sodom because he was related to Abraham--"fortunate are the righteous, and fortunate are those who are attached to them" (Midrash Tanhuma, Vayyera 9); conversely, 250 perished with Korah only because they joined him (Numbers 16:2, 17, 35): "Woe betides the wicked, and woe those who attach to them" (Midrash Tanhuma cited in Yalkut Shim'oni II, §§ 291, 550). Man is a highly imitative creature. He absorbs from his environment the values and behavior patterns of those about him, and in his ways he tends to conform to them. ... Purity travels with greater ease then sanctity. It is much more difficult to transmit k'dushah [holiness-AJL]than tum'ah [impurity-AJL]. If you associate with the wicked, the chances of their defiling you are greater than the possibility of your reforming them.
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NUMBERS — 16:1 took

… in the first rebellion against Torah authority, Korach and two hundred and fifty men from the tribe of Reuven protested against Moses' right to leadership [this verse]. The question has been asked by the commentaries how it is that Korach, who was from the tribe of Levi, teamed up with all these men from the tribe of Reuven. Many answers are offered (such as that Reuven, the eldest of Jacob's sons, felt cheated out of leadership, as did Korach), but Rashi (commentary on this verse) explains that the configuration of the camp regarding the various tribes and the tribe of Levi around the Tabernacle was such that the family of Korach (Kehat) were next-door neighbors of the tribe of Reuven. It was because of this proximity and their relationship that Korach influenced these people to join him ... peer pressure, the influence of those in the same physical proximity, impacted negatively.
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NUMBERS — 16:1 took

When it comes to argument, the Mishnah (Avot 5:17) makes it clear which type is sanctioned and is "Jewish" and which type of argument undermines the peace. The argument or rebellion of Korach who challenged the authority of Moses in the desert [this chapter], is not an "argument for the sake of Heaven," as Korach tried to undermine the entire authority of Judaism. However, when the argument is "for the sake of Heaven" with no personal gain intended, such as the arguments of Hillel and Shammai, who argued in mishnaic times on many points of Jewish law, it is permitted and even encouraged. This type of argument does not undermine peace. In fact, although they disagreed vehemently, the houses of Hillel and Shammai intentionally intermarried to show that they were at peace with each other (Yevamot 14b) (See the chapter "Friendship" for an amplification of this concept). Thus, our goal is the goal mentioned by Zechariah (Zechariah 8:16) that friends should speak in truth to each other, be fair in judgment, and, at the same time, attain peace.
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NUMBERS — 16:3 against

We should be wary of the motivations of instigators of disputes. Korach tried to arouse others to rebel against Moshe. He protested that Moshe was taking too much glory and power for himself and his brother Aharon. "The whole congregation is holy and G-d is among them," said Korach. He tried to give the impression that he was interested in equality and the welfare of the entire nation. But Rashi cites the Midrash Tanchuma in which it is explained that Korach rebelled against Moshe because he was jealous of the princeship of Elitzofon, the son of Uzziel. Moshe had appointed Elitzofon over the family of K'hos by the command of the Almighty. Korach, however, said, "My father was one of four sons. Amram was the firstborn and his two sons (Moshe and Aharon) received high office. One was a king and the other a High Priest. On whose shoulders should the next honor devolve? Surely it is I, the son of Yitzhor, who is second to Amram. Yet Moshe appointed Elitzofon as prince of the family of K'hos, even though he stemmed from a younger brother. Therefore I will rebel against him and nullify his words." From here we see a fundamental principle that applies to many disputes. Quite often the person who instigates a dispute is motivated by the desire for personal gain. In order to attract followers, however, he claims that he is interested in the good of others. A person should be aware of this tendency so that he will not be misled by people who desire to create a dispute. (Chayai Olam, vol. 2, pp. 35-6).
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NUMBERS — 16:10 seek

What caused Korach to perish, and along with him his whole entourage? It was only the desire for honor. It is stated explicitly [this verse]: "And [now] you wish to have the priesthood as well!" The Sages of blessed memory (Bemidbar Rabbah 18:2) related that all of this was the result of [Korach's] seeing Elitzafan ben Uziel [chosen] as Nasi [leader of their tribe], for Korach desired to be Nasi in his place.
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NUMBERS — 16:13 honey

The monumental untruth of their claim – Egypt, where the Israelites were slaves and cried out to G-d to be saved, was not "a land flowing with milk and honey" – – is what finally made Moses angry. What is going on here? The sages defined it in one of their most famous statements: Any dispute for the sake of Heaven will have enduring value, but every dispute not for the sake of Heaven will not have enduring value. What is an example of a dispute for the sake of Heaven? The dispute between Hillel and Shammai. What is an example of one not for the sake of Heaven? The dispute of Korah and all his company (Mishna Avot 5:21). The rabbis did not conclude from the Korah rebellion that argument is wrong, that leaders are entitled to unquestioning obedience, that the supreme value in Judaism should be – – as it is in some faiths – – submission. To the contrary: argument is the lifeblood of Judaism, so long as it is rightly motivated and essentially constructive in its aims. Judaism is a unique phenomenon: a civilisation all of whose canonical texts are anthologies of argument. In Tanakh, the heroes of faith – Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Job – argue with G-d. Midrash is founded on the premise that there are "seventy faces" – – seventy legitimate interpretations--of Torah. The Mishna is largely constructed on the model of "Rabbi X says this, Rabbi Y says that." The Talmud, far from resolving these arguments, usually deepens them considerably. Argument in Judaism is a holy activity, the ongoing internal dialogue of the Jewish people as it reflects on the terms of its destiny and the demands of its faith. What then made the argument of Korah and his co-conspirators different from that of the schools of Hillel and Shammai? Rabbenu Yona offered a simple explanation: an argument for the sake of Heaven is one that is about truth. An argument not for the sake of Heaven is about power. The difference is immense. If I argue for the sake of truth, then if I win, I win. But if I lose, I also win, because being defeated by the truth is the only defeat that is also a victory. I am enlarged. I learned something I did not know before. In a contest for power, if I lose, I lose. But if I win, I also lose, because in diminishing my opponents I have diminished myself. Moses could not have had a more decisive vindication than a miracle for which he asked and was granted: that the ground open up and swallow his opponents. Yet not only did this not end the argument, it diminished the respect in which Moses was held: "The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 'You have killed the L-rd's people,' they said." (Numbers 17:41). That Moses needed to resort to force was itself a sign that he had been dragged down to the level of the rebels. That is what happens when power, not truth, is at stake.
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NUMBERS — 16:13 lord it

The punishment of those who instill their fear in the land of the living is the result of five factors: two of these are associated with [the sinner] himself, and three with the populace. The two that are associated with the sinner are: The first--for man is [destined to] worms and maggots, and is referred to in this manner even while still living. Not only does he not bend and humble himself but he exerts domination over others [this verse], not for the sake of Heaven. Also prideful thoughts, without [actual] domination, lead to a person's ruin, as the pasuk says (Mishlei 16:5), "Every prideful heart is the abomination of Hashem."
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NUMBERS — 16:15 aggrieved

The belief that anger is always illegitimate continues to be embraced by many religious people … there are times when anger is an appropriate response to others' cruel or otherwise wrongful behavior, and any lesser response is wrong. Among the instances of morally appropriate anger expressed by G-d and human beings in the Bible are the following: ● Against those who misuse their talents for evil: G-d is outraged at the prophet Balaam for taking money from the king of Moab to curse the Israelites (Numbers 22:22). Balaam was a man of immense spiritual and intellectual capabilities. The fact that he used these gifts in this way infuriated G-d. ● Against those who are ungrateful. Laban prospered from Jacob's twenty-year stewardship over his flocks, yet never thanked him. Instead he tried to lower Jacob's wages. In response, "Jacob became incensed and took up his grievance with Laban." (see Genesis 31:36 – 42). ● Against those who commit slander. Moses was outraged by the rebels Korach, Datan, and Abiram, and their false claim that he used his position to aggrandize himself [this verse]. ● Against those who mistreat the poor: the prophet Isaiah, speaking in G-d's Name, denounced those who oppressed society's most vulnerable members: "That which was robbed from the poor is in your houses. How dare you crush My people and grind the faces of the poor?" says the Lord, G-d of Hosts" (Isaiah 3:14–15; see also Amos 5:21–22).● Against those who worship false gods: G-d is furious at King Solomon, who, in his later years, built idolatrous shrines in Israel. "The Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart turned away from the Lord, the G-d of Israel, who had appeared to him twice"(I Kings 11:9).● Against those who make false, and cruel, claims in G-d's Name: G-d is angry with Job's friends for telling him that his sufferings were sent by G-d (Job 42:7). That G-d, and people such as Jacob, Moses, and Isaiah on the express anger indicates that this emotion, when expressed properly and justly, is a moral one.
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NUMBERS — 16:15 taken

(Continued from Exodus 33:8 gaze SACKS 145-6) Moses issued a detailed reckoning to avoid coming under suspicion that he had personally appropriated some of the donated money. Note the emphasis that the accounting was undertaken not by Moses but "by the Levites under the direction of Itamar," in other words, by independent auditors [Exodus 38:21]. There is no hint of these accusations in the text itself, but the midrash may be based on the remark Moses made during the Korah rebellion [this verse]. Accusations of corruption and personal enrichment have often been leveled against leaders, with or without justification. We might think that since G-d sees all we do, this is enough to safeguard against wrongdoing. Yet Judaism does not say this. The Talmud records a scene at the deathbed of R. Yohanan b. Zakkai, as the master lay surrounded by his disciples: "They said to him, "Our master, bless us." He said to them, "May it be G-d's will that the fear of heaven will be as much upon you as the fear of flesh and blood." His disciples asked, "Is that all?" He replied, "Would that you obtained no less than such fear! You can see for yourselves the truth of what I say: when a man is about to commit a transgression, he says, I hope no man will see me." (Berakhot 28b) When humans commit a sin they worry that other people might see them. They forget that G-d certainly sees them. Temptation befuddles the brain, and no one should believe he is immune to it.
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