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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Korach

Parshat Korach

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Korach
5th of Tammuz, 5780 | June 27, 2020

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Yossi Bensoussan
You are Human!

Across the world right now, many of the problems facing our Jewish communities have organizations in place to help solve them. And, without question, this is beautiful. But, at the same time, we cannot allow the role of such organizations to cause us to lose out on something else.

The Mishnah (Avos 5:13) states that there are four different types of people:

One who says, “What is mine is mine and what is yours is yours” is of average character. Some say, this is the character of Sodom. One who says, “What is mine is yours and what is yours is mine” is unlearned. One who says, “What is mine is yours and what is yours is yours” is pious. One who says, “What is yours is mine and what is mine is mine” is wicked.

The view which states that the individual who says, “What is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours” is actually a reflection of someone with midat Sodom, aligned with the ways of the corrupt city of Sodom, is most interesting. As we know, the city of Sodom was completely destroyed. It was a city of such wickedness that it was deemed fit to be obliterated. It must have then been filled with people of extremely low and poor character. Yet, what is so bad for a person to think, “What is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours”? “I am not bothering anyone,” you’ll say. “I am not helping, but I am not involved in other people’s business either. You leave me alone, and I will leave you alone.” What is so wrong with that?

Many of us have gotten to a place where we feel that as long as we are not harming anyone, we are doing our job. But to personally get involved and take on something ourselves is not our business.

But that is a mistake.

Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits is wont to say that when people remark, “I am only human!” they are missing the point. Do we have any idea what a human being is? How can you say, ‘I am only human!’ The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah) states that when Adam HaRishon was created, the angels sang to G-d, as they thought that there was another Supreme Being who had been created aside from Hashem, G-d forbid. That is how great we as human beings are.

We cannot let passivity take away our passion. When someone calls us describing a difficult and distressing predicament, we mustn’t simply and quickly outsource the problem to others.
How did this happen to begin with?

We stopped believing in ourselves. We stopped taking responsibility because we began thinking that only the Jews of yesteryear were the real, holy Jews. But today, we are not so special! The effect this has had is that we’ve began to downgrade all that we can do.

In my efforts to help teenagers, anytime someone says to me, “I don’t wear Tefillin!” I say to him, “It sounds that you made a decision not to wear Tefillin. But I want to ask you if that was actually a deliberate and conscious decision?” I have found that such decisions of leading less of a religious life are less the byproduct of a logical, thoughtful decision, and more so stemming from a lack of feeling important and believing that it makes any difference. “G-d doesn’t care, so why should I put on Tefillin?” kids often say. Forcing the child at this point only fosters more dissension between the child and yourself and their relationship to Hashem.

Our focus and efforts are not to force our children into Torah observance, but rather impress upon them their own worth to themselves and to Hashem, which will over time lead them to finding a deep sense of connection to G-d and to themselves.
This past Simchat Torah, I had the honor of spending Yom Tov with my brother, Rabbi Ari Bensoussan. We went to a Moroccan shul for davening, which was beautiful, and included exciting dancing and singing.

As the dancing continued, two boys walked in and took a seat in the back. They looked uncomfortable and out of place, yet they had clearly walked in themselves, and not at the coercing of anyone else.

When the time came for everyone to begin receiving aliyot from the Torah, I turned to them and motioned that they too should come up. One of them sheepishly looked down and refused, whereas the other one adamantly said no. But I still encouraged them to do so. One of them finally complied, though the other kept on waving his finger and refusing. As a friendly Moroccan with a dose of humor, I said to him, “You know what your grandfather is thinking back in Morocco?” But he remained with his decision not to stand up and receive an aliyah. “Give me one reason why you won’t?” I prodded him. “Give me one real reason.”

I was ready for the response, “I don’t believe in G-d,” “I’m not here for that,” “I just came for the food.” I was prepared for all such rebuttals. But I wasn’t ready for what he actually said.
He looked me in the eye and said, “I can’t; I’m not allowed.” At this point, I began to nervously wonder, “Wait a minute… for all I know, this boy is not even Jewish, and he just is here...” I then embarrassedly began to back off myself.

“I drove here,” he said.

I stopped pacing backwards. “What?” I asked him to repeat. “I drove here on Yom Tov,” he said. If you were there, you would have seen how heartbroken he looked.

Now it was my turn. “You drove here?” I said. He nodded his head. “You drove to a Beit Knesset on the Chag?” “Yes,” he muttered.

I paused for a moment and then said with building enthusiasm, “Do you not know where the beach is? Do you know how many other places you could have gone today? And you chose to drive here! If I would have known, you would have gotten an aliyah before me and the rest of the rabbis! You wanted to be here so badly; you even drove here…!”

He looked me back in the eyes, and then jumped up and walked straight to the bimah, grabbing a tallit.

I’ve heard some big rabbis recite a blessing when receiving an aliyah. But that blessing this boy made… I will remember it forever. It still echoes in my mind.

This boy felt like nothing, until he was reminded.

We often don’t recognize the power that is inside of us, and what we can do if we would take charge and responsibility. We don’t know what we are able to do for the people next to us until we try. Hashem did not randomly make you neighbors with someone whose child is struggling for no reason. Don’t be afraid to ask someone, even if you run no organization, “Is there anything I can do?” Because, you shouldn’t be surprised, there might very well be everything you can do.

You don’t need to save the world; just connect with the world. You have a lot you can offer. You don’t need to give advice or guide anyone; you can simply listen and support them. So many of the great things which have happened to the Jewish people have started with just one person. It goes further than most people think. Try it.

Rabbi Ari Bensoussan
Leaving with Riches

Nosson Dovid, as he eventually became known, did not always lead the life he does today. It took a journey of many years of ups and downs. But, in hindsight, it became clear that through it all, he was not alone.

Nosson Dovid’s parents did not raise him religious nor send him to a Jewish school. Until 12th grade, he attended public school. There he struggled to obtain good grades and see any real success in his school. His parents thus decided to transfer him to an inner city public school, where students reportedly received more attention and typically excelled relative to their previous experiences.

When Nosson Dovid first showed up at school, though, he did not see the usual outside yard, buildings with classrooms, lunchroom and so on. School was in a mall, quite literally. As for his first introduction to the other students, suffice it to say that it was less than comforting. But Nosson Dovid just kept on moving along and going with the flow. As a Jew, he was taunted and called names, but it didn’t deter him from putting his best forward. “Tuna fish!” they would say, “what are you doing here? You don’t belong here!” Nosson Dovid merely ignored them.

One day, as Nosson Dovid stood by the train station, Leroy, one of the other students, came running over. “You’re not going to believe it!” Nosson Dovid raised his head in interest. “What happened?” “I was sitting next to someone whose wallet was sticking right out of his pocket. His wallet was saying to me, ‘You better take me because this guy doesn’t need me.’ That man didn’t even care that his wallet was sticking out, and so when the train pulled up, I took his wallet right out of his pocket. He went straight onto that train and headed off.” Nosson Dovid was shocked. “You mean you just took his wallet?” “No, no, he gave me his wallet! It was sticking right out of his pocket telling me to take it!” And with that, Leroy took out the nicely arranged stack of bills and threw the wallet onto the train tracks. “Why are you doing that?” asked Nosson Dovid. “I don’t need any policemen coming after me for somebody else’s wallet with ID and credit cards.”

Nosson Dovid was appalled. Heading down into the train tracks, he picked up the wallet. “Tuna fish!” yelled out Leroy, “what are you going to do with that? It doesn’t have any money in it anymore!” “I’m going to give it back to its owner,” Nosson Dovid answered. “How are you going to do that? You have some satellite?” “No, I’m just going to look at his name on the driver’s license and call him to say I found his wallet.” Sure enough, Nosson Dovid called the rightful owner and reported the lost wallet.

Two days later in school, the principal announced over the loudspeaker, “Nosson Dovid, please come down to the office!” Despite Nosson Dovid being unsure why he was being called, he respectfully went.

“Nosson David, I heard the craziest story about you today!” the principal said. “You returned someone’s wallet when it was sticking out of his pocket saying ‘Steal me!’” “I guess I did,” quietly replied Nosson Dovid. “I don’t know if you know this, but we are a government funded school. The government likes to give us money, and I’ll look good, you’ll look good and the school will look good if you write them a letter telling them what you did. Write a letter to the superintendent of the district and let them know about this. You’re graduating this year, and you never know if you’ll get some money to help you towards higher education.” Nosson Dovid listened carefully, agreeing to do so for the benefit of what appeared to be everyone.

Years went by, with Nosson Dovid becoming more religious with the help of rabbis he came across and NCSY. It eventually was getting closer to graduation, and by then, Nosson Dovid had called just about anyone and everyone he could think of to help him get into a yeshiva in Israel. He threw together a few dollars from here and there, but his chances of purchasing a ticket and paying for tuition seemed bleak. This was besides the tension between him and his parents, who fought him tooth and nail about going to Israel altogether.

And then came graduation day. The procession was held inside the food court of the mall, where aside from Nosson Dovid’s school, other schools joined in to graduate as well. The room was packed, with parents and other faculty members filling the room from wall to wall. Nosson Dovid was dressed in gold, consistent with his school’s colors, and looked both excited and relieved to move on with life.

But before the proceedings continued, the principal got up to speak. “Before we continue, I would just like to acknowledge the presence of our government representative.” The crowd became all ears, eager to listen to the announcements. “In recognition of her excellence in advanced placement coursework, the government awards Jenny Washington with $3,000 towards higher education.” Jenny’s family was shocked, with yelling and screaming echoing throughout the room, thanks to her parents and siblings.

“Another student, Dwain Brown, has been recognized by the government for his excellence in this year’s sports leagues. The government awards Dwain $3,000 towards higher education.” Dwain’s family likewise broke out in sheer surprise and excitement. And then the principal continued.

“And now, the highest recognition from the government, awarding $40,000 for higher education to a boy who personifies what we stand for here in this school and whose deeds are a role model for us all. Please give a round of applause to none other than our very own Nosson David!” The crowd was stunned. “Tuna fish did it again!” wailed out the crowd. Nosson Dovid proudly walked over to the principal and smiled next to his $40,000 check.

Proud to be the school which hosted such a reputable boy, the principal asked Nosson Dovid if she could keep the large, oversized check in her office. “I’m so proud of you!” she said. “I want to hang it in my office for everyone to see!” “That’s perfectly fine,” said Nosson Dovid, “as long as I receive a real miniature check.”

Nosson Dovid was able to go to Ohr Somayach that year, where he continued to remain learning for a number of years.
But the story doesn’t end there.

The year after his graduation, Nosson Dovid received a phone call. “Nosson David, it’s your principal from high school.” Nosson Dovid was pleased to hear from her. “How’s your higher education going?” “It’s going great!” he replied. “I’ve got some unfortunate news to share,” the principal continued. “The government is shutting us down! Some of our immature high school boys broke into a store in the mall here one day, and the government isn’t going to support us anymore. I’m just calling you because I am clearing out my office and I was wondering if you would like me to send your big check to your parents’ house…”

Who can know, but just maybe that school opened to provide Nosson Dovid with the opportunity to go to Israel, and closed down after it achieved its purpose. But there is more. Here was someone who did something so simple and small as returning a wallet to its rightful owner, and look what resulted. The Kiddush Hashem left an indelible impression on everyone involved and earned Nosson Dovid a ticket to Israel. He may have started out wondering how he would ever attain his dreams, but when he devoted himself to living in accordance with Torah values, Hashem handsomely repaid him. The same is true of us all. When we dedicate ourselves to Hashem and his Torah, we can never underestimate the tremendous results we will gain both materially and spiritually.

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