Selected Sermon/Article
2009-06-26 Beyond Twelve Gates (BTG) by Rabbi Zeev Smason
Parshas Korach
Beyond Twelve Gates Parshas Korach June 26, 2009

Welcome to Beyond Twelve Gates. This past week marked the third anniversary of the day that Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists. Noam Shalit called on Israeli fathers to close their eyes for three minutes as a reminder of his son Gilad's ordeal. Before continuing to read, please take a moment to pray for the safe and speedy return of Gilad Shalit.

This Week's Torah Portion -- Korach (Numbers 16:1 - 18:32)

In this week's parsha we read of the rebellion that Korach led against Moses, Aaron and G-d. Korach, a first cousin of Moses (but definitely not a 'kissing cousin') was fueled by jealousy. He rejected Moses' authority and claimed that the appointment of Aaron as Kohen Gadol (Head Cohen) was motivated by nepotism. Korach cleverly persuaded 250 judges and others from disaffected groups to become his followers in the rebellion. What was the result?

A constant theme in the Torah is: Sooner or later G-d always gets the last word. In Korach's case, it was sooner. G-d made the earth open up to swallow Korach, the ringleaders of the rebellion, and their families. Fire consumed the rest of the 250 rebels. The story of Korach's rebellion concludes with an act of reconciliation. The staffs of the leaders of the 12 tribes were placed near the Ark of the Covenant. To prove that the tribe of Levi (Aaron) was divinely chosen, Aaron's staff sprouted leaves, almond blossoms and even almonds. I suppose you could say that this miracle made Aaron ....Chief of Staff!

Did you Know?

The word 'korach' in modern Hebrew means 'bald'. What is the connection between 'bald' and the villain of this week's Torah portion, Korach?

There's a charming midrash about a middle aged man who had two wives, one older and one younger. The older wife was annoyed by her husband's black hairs. So, when he slept, she plucked them from his head (this may be the source for the well-known saying, 'A hair on the head is worth two in the brush'). The younger wife was bothered by her husband's white hairs. So, when he slept, she also plucked them from his head. This resulted in the man being left completely bald -- no black hairs, and no white hairs.

So too, Korach was left 'completely bald' due to his jealousy; he didn't gain the position of Kohen Gadol, and upon death he lost the opportunity to serve G-d as a Levi.

Rabbinic Ruminations

Anyone notice that it's hot outside? It was so hot in St. Louis this past week that the news reported (wink wink) farmers feeding their chickens ice chips so that they wouldn't lay hard-boiled eggs! Welcome to 'tekufas Tammuz' , the summer solstice, and the beginning of the hottest weather of the year. Days like these make me long for the more temperate weather of the spring and autumn equinoxes, and days equal in length.

Our major holidays and most favorable times of year (Passover, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkos) occur in the spring and fall. Judaism is extremely sensitive to balance. In almost all areas of character development, the middle path is encouraged and extremes are to be avoided. In the Land of Israel we find a marvelous balance of landscape; grassy plains, wooded hills, mountains, deserts, sea shore, river and lake. Corn, wheat and potatoes grow in Israel -- but so do bananas, dates, papayas and other tropical fruit.

Extremes in climate, geography and lifestyle can be exciting and invigorating. However The Torah speaks highly of the Shvil Ha' Zahav -- the golden mean and the moderate path.

Quote of the Week

The history of North America will be written in three phases; the passing of the Indian, the passing of the buffalo and the passing of the buck -- Will Rogers

Joke of the Week

Rabbi Landau was, as usual, standing near the synagogue exit shaking hands as his congregation left. But as Max was leaving, Rabbi Landau grabbed his hand, pulled him aside and said, "Max, I think you need to join the Army of God!" "But I'm already in God’s Army, Rabbi" said Max. "So how come I don't see in shul except on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?" said Rabbi Landau. Max whispered, "I'm in the secret service."

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