Our view of the Galile

Thursday, June 14, 2018

If I Were a Rich Man- Parshat Korach 2018 / 5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
July 16th 2018 -Volume 8 Issue 34 3rd Tamuz 5778

Parshat Korach

If I Were a Rich Man

My daughter is an “einekel”- a descendant of the Shlah Hakadosh, that great 17th century sage Rebbi Yeshaya HaLevi Horowitz. All my children are in fact, as my wife’s great-grandmother is a Porush and they trace their roots back to this great Rabbi originally of Prague who served there as a Rav and in Frankfort before moving to Israel He made Aliya when he was 64 years old. He didn’t get a free plane ticket, no sal klita- absorption package from the non-welcoming Turks that were ruling the land. He traveled by boat, camel, donkey and wagon and was almost attacked by pirates.  He was robbed and even kidnapped and ransomed after coming here. He left his children, his students and well–paying congregation behind. He wrote his monumental work along the way the Shney Luchot HaBrit –which became the acronym  of the name Shla that he was called. He wrote the book as a will for his children that ultimately became a seminal work of Jewish thought, law, ethics Torah commentary and even mysticism. He is one of only a handful of people that had the title “HaKadosh-the holy one” added on to their name. And yet with all that being said I never mentioned that little piece of illustrious lineage on my daughter’s “shidduch resume”  that essential life’s accomplishment CV that is sent to matchmakers when your daughter “becomes of age” in the 21st century Orthodox Jewish world.

Now back in the day when I was dating they didn’t have shidduch resumes. There wasn’t a shidduch crisis either… I had to work hard to get a date, not like these young shnooks getting off the plane from Israel that have lines of girls and lists waiting for them because they can learn really good. Maybe the two are connected. The shidduch resume thing and crisis, I mean. Not the learning and getting your name on a list and somehow that making you a desirable husband material thing. But what do I know?  Anyways, when it was my daughter’s turn I didn’t mention that she was descendant of the Shlah Truth is my wife never mentioned when I was dating her either. It wasn’t until afterwards that I understood why.

Now although I haven’t seen this written anywhere (and I have searched), one of the other “family” members one time mentioned to me that the Shlah stated in his will that he when he dies he will go up to heaven and pray that none of his descendants will ever suffer from that terrible challenge and test in life of…being wealthy. Now for some reason there are those that think that having a few extra bucks or more would be a good thing. Many of them might have wanted to date my daughter. So I left that little nugget out of her resume. But not the saintly Shlah, he saw it as the worst possible trial anyone could ever have. In fact in the famous prayer he composed for parents to recite for their children, that those who visit his grave in Tiverya, as well as thousands recite around the world on the day before the new month of Sivan,  he states that
“Hashem should grant each individual amongst my descendants enough for what they are lacking in an honorable fashion.”

Now I think that when most of pray we ask Hashem for a good livelihood, for money to “put away” to live “comfortably” if not even a bit better. That wasn’t his prayer. His prayer was his children should have enough to cover them for the things they are lacking. He didn’t pray that we shouldn’t be lacking. Lacking is good. Poverty is good as well. Just “making it’ is the best and most we should pray for our children. He must be praying pretty hard up there for his descendants because it’s working... I can tell you from experience. Check my bank account.

I think about his legacy this week as we read Parshat Korach and I heard a great class from Rabbi Daniel Glatstien (Kudos to my brother Gedalia’s WhatsApp group with the weekly amazing shiurim he sends out) on this week’s Torah portion on the topic. See, this week we read the portion of Korach. Korach, the quintessential baal machlokes- rabble rouser, rebelled against Moshe and Aharon with the goal of receiving the right to the kehuna-the priesthood. What was it that drew him to this fight, the Shach al Hatorah asks? He explains that we are told that Korach failed perhaps what is the greatest test of all. The nisayon of osher- wealth. See the Talmud tells us that that Korach was one of the wealthiest people ever.

Pesachim (119.) Rabbi Chama says that there were three treasures that were hidden by Yosef (from the wealth that he gathered from Egypt) Korach revealed a third, Antoninus of Rome revealed a third and the last third is put away for the righteous.

Now Yosef seemingly got this money when all of the world came to buy food from Egypt. Although it says he collected “all of the money” of Egypt, the Shach notes that it only says he brought “the money” to the house of Pharaoh. He took a fair share for the Jewish people that he knew would ultimately be enslaved by Egypt and would be entitled to it. One could say it was the first “pyramid scheme”. Ouch! (His joke not mine). When we left Egypt Hashem told the Jews to take the money of Egypt, which they dutifully obliged. However the real cache was hidden. Korach uncovered it. He kept his fine share. How much did he keep? How rich was he…? If you are asking that question, then you can be assured of your Jewish heritage J. We like to count OPM (if you know that means other people’s money then you are really an MOT- member of the tribe). The Talmud continues and tells us

(ibid) Reb Levi says he had the load of 300 white donkeys that carried – are you ready for this…?- the keys to the storage houses- and if that wasn’t enough for you..- and the keys and locks were made out leather!

How’s that for rich? 300 donkeys just to carry the leather keys? Can you imagine how much money he had?  

Now the truth is that Korach was really not entitled to that money. See the tribe of Levi never slaved in Egypt. They got the yeshiva-guy exemption that even the Egyptians thought was a good thing. No contemporary political insinuations intended of course… So Korach got his money illicitly and there is really nothing worse than someone who not only has money but didn’t earn it the good old fashioned way. So the Shach tells us that when he saw that Aharon the brother of Moshe was being elevated by the people, as is the Jewish law that the Kohen Gadol is meant to be given gifts in order that he be prestigious in the eyes of the people as their representative to Hashem, he was jealous. He was already rich. Why give this job to the poor brother of Moshe and make him rich? He trusted his money and didn’t trust Hashem and Moshe.

The Midrash in Megilla tells us as well that there were two wealthy people and their wealth was their downfall. One Jewish one and one non-Jewish one. The yid was Korach the non- Jewish one was none other than Haman. He also had it all. Everything except of course one Jew named Mordechai that wasn’t too impressed or awed by the wealth and power of Haman. Haman ended up 50 Amos above ground hanging by a rope he made himself.  Korach went the other direction. Swallowed up by the earth that he thought he possessed all of. The common denominator between the two of them the Shach suggests is that their wealth deluded them.  They thought money buys everything. Money is power. Money is strength. Money is happiness. Money brings prestige and privilege when in fact all it brings is false pride. It is the rope that can hang you and it is the earth that can swallow you up.

The Sefat Emet notes that the reason why we were exiled from Israel the Torah warns us at the end of the tochacha- rebuke of Moshe is

Devarim (28:47) because you have not served Hashem with happiness and goodness of heart when you had an abundance of everything.

The exile comes he writes is because we failed the challenge of austerity. We were meant to be happy with the money. The money and wealth should have driven us to appreciate Hashem, to use it for good. That is the challenge of it.  It’s not easy though and we failed.  We forgot Hashem. We try to make more and more. We feel we need more and more. As our income grows so does our pursuit for even more. Our expenses grow. Our “quality of life” costs more. We can’t be happy because we can’t keep up. We can’t thank Hashem fully and appreciate His goodness because we are busy asking Him for more. We don’t have the happiness and goodness of heart that we are meant to and that is why we are exiled.

It is a much harder challenge then poverty. Look at our history. When Jews were down-trodden, when we didn’t have a dry potato peel to put on our table, when flayshigs for dinner was something that was special for Shabbos and even then it was chicken. Meat was a Yom Tov delicacy. In what the Sefat Emet would call the “good old days”. We followed the Torah. We prayed like we meant it. We used our extra time not making an extra buck, but studying the holy books. The eras of prosperity generally led to assimilation, an abandonment of the commandments and traditions of our ancestors. We exchanged the habits of highly spiritual people for the habits of the highly effective people. And at the end of the day we lost millions in the process. Millions of precious souls exchanged for the millions of dollars whose siren call we couldn’t ignore. And what did it get us?

My Rebbi once noted to me that the Mishna in Avot tells us
(2:7) Marbeh nechasim-marbeh daagah- he who increases his possessions increases worry.
It doesn’t say that one increases possessions and worry. Rather all one gets with more money, more possessions is da’aga. Worry, ulcers, frustrations, fears about keeping it all, anxiety about your status, how you’re viewed, your relationships, and responsibilities.

 I really don’t envy them. Kollel guys don’t have those ulcers. They’re generally happy. Tour Guides too, even the ones that are married to descendants of the Shla. So maybe it’s a good thing he’s praying up there. Maybe even we should start praying that as well. I don’t think we should pray for poverty but perhaps that Hashem should protect us from the challenge of wealth. That we have what we need. And for those of you readers that have that challenge, that don’t have the Shla plugging for them upstairs. May Hashem give you the strength to persevere. To keep doing the good that I’m sure you are doing. And the joy and fulfillment and closeness to Hashem that your particular test doesn’t engender naturally. I’m rooting for you. Klal Yisrael is rooting for you. And by the way did I mention I need a sponsor for my weekly E-mail next week J.

Have a rich Shabbos
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz



“Faran dareh gvirim un fetteh oremeleit.” – There are often lean rich men and fat poor men

answer below at end of Email
Q. A river which was נוקה cleaned and became a tour site:
a. Nahal Alexander
b. Nahal Yagur
c. Nahal Kidron
d. Nahal David


https://youtu.be/wzjwTWxHE_o - Awesome! The Musical Ross family all welcome in Shabbos with a bunch of golden oldies

https://youtu.be/9TMD_DI0fPk  - Micha Gammerman a nice Boi Kallah arranged by Yitz Berry and Eli Klein!

https://youtu.be/4wU8pCAVFdw - The man behind Artscroll- Upon the first Yartzeit of Reb Meir Zlotowitz Z”L and release of book.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3zKyTgfG5wSammy Davis Jr. as Tevye?!


Parshat Korach Ok so this week it’s a bit scary the timeliness of the haftora reading to our daily events. See in Israel this week the big news, at least for tour guides is that it was raining. No rain in June is certainly bizzare. In May it’s out of place fuggedabout June. Our rainy season is November to March. Sukkos to Pesach. But this wasn’t just a rain, it was flooding in Ashkelon and Sderot. It broke records. Weird, right? Then I open the haftorah this week and guess what it talks about the prophet Shmuel and the unseasonal rain he brings upon the Jewish people to show Hashem’s disapproval with their request for a King.
Shmuel I (11:16) also now stand and see this great thing which Hashem will do before your eyes. Is it not the wheat cutting season today? I will call to Hashem and He will give loud noise and rain and you shall know that your wickedness is great in the eyes of Hashem in requesting a King. And Shmuel called out to Hashem and Hashem gave noise and rain on that day and the people were very fearful of Hashem and Shmuel.
Now tell me that’s not timely and scary. Now we are not having elections yet, as far as I know , although in this country ya’nevva know what tomorrow may bring. So I don’t think we’re looking to get a new king here. But the message of Shmuel is really echoing the message of the parsha, which as we know is always the point of the haftorah. Korach riled up the people because he wanted the Jewish people to be led more like a democracy. “We are all holy”. Why should Moshe and Aharon rule over the rest of us. They want to be like everyone else. As well the Jews in the times of Shaul and Shmuel wanted a King to be like every other nation. Enough with this theocracy. Let’s divide “church” and state. Sounds nice. But it isn’t. See their intent in both cases was to further their own personal good. To influence the susceptible elected officials. Pay to Play. Once Moshe or Shmuel are out of the picture, everything can go. We’ll have our guy in the Knesset. That was a problem So Moshe had the ground swallow them up. Shmuel scared them with some unseasonal rain. And all was good. We got the message. Follow the law, the rabbis, the spiritual leaders, don’t work the system. It’s raining in June in Israel, let’s hope the ground doesn’t open up and learn the lesson now!

Shaul (884 BC)-  The Talmud tells us that Shaul was perfect without any sin. Head and shoulders literally above all his peers. He was a fierce warrior and a true hero of the Jewish people. Perhaps even more significantly Shaul does not tell anyone that he is King. He is not looking for power or to rule. This humility is certainly noteworthy however at the same time it seems to be his flaw, as he does not ultimately fill his role. He is king for a mere two years. He leads battles and has a troubled Kingship. But he will always remain the first King of Israel.


Miriam and Tzippora- 1270 BC-  If I were to ask you where the Matriarchs are buried, so being avid readers of this column, or in general people who have read the Torah, or visited Israel I’m sure would all answer in Chevron. In a place called the Cave of our Patriarchs or Matriarchs or Mearat Hamachpela purchased by Avraham Avinu. Yet if one comes to the city of Tiverya and travels to the top of the city (about a few blocks above Rabbi Akiva) one would find another grave and memorial for the graves of the matriarchs as well. These are however other Matriarchs. These are Bilha and Zilpa who were incidentally the mothers of a 1/3 of the tribes of Israel. But the older tradition is that this is the grave site of Miriam, Moshe’s sister, Yocheved, his mother and Tzippora his wife. Along with them are also Elisheva the wife of Aharon and Avigayil the wife of King David. Now this tradition at least about the “women” of Moshe goes back to testimonies from students of the Ramban that describe being here and visiting them about 800 years or so ago. Far before the Ari”ZL who identified many of the graves in Israel.

The strange thing of course though is that the Torah tells us that Miriam at least was buried in the wilderness in Kadesh which would be in Midbar Tzin not far from Sdei Boker where from the grave of Ben Gurion you have a beautiful overlook. How she got here, or if they buried her temporarily and then brought her here, I can’t tell you. I can only remind you that we do not pray to dead people but we connect to the Tzadikim and their inspiration. It is certainly appropriate therefor that Tiverya which is the city of “water” for Israel should be connected with Miriam in whose merit the Jews drank water from the miracle rock/well that traveled with them through the Midbar and is believed to have sunk in the Kinneret. These two women, Yocheved and Miriam, as well rescued Jewish children from being drowned in the nile as they were the midwives Shifra and Puah. As far the connection with the other righteous women I can’t tell you. It’s tradition!


Just before the class took their final math exams, their teacher asked them the following problem to test how well they would do in the real exam: -
"A rich man dies and leaves $240,000,000 in his Will. One-third is to go to his wife; one-fifth is to go to his son; one-sixth to his chauffeur; one eighth to his secretary; and the rest to charity. Now, what does each get?"
After a long silence in the classroom, Saul raised his hand.
"Yes, Saul," said the teacher.
"A good lawyer!" he replied. 

A Catholic, a Protestant, a Muslim and a Jew were in a discussion during a dinner.
Catholic: "I have a large fortune....I am going to buy Citibank!"
Protestant: "I am very wealthy and will buy General Motors!"
Muslim: "I am a fabulously rich prince.... I intend to purchase Microsoft!" 
They then all wait for the Jew to speak....
The Jew stirs his coffee, places the spoon neatly on the table, takes a sip of his coffee, looks at them, and casually says, "I'm not selling”

Moishe started his very own business, which almost immediately began to prosper. He was soon a very rich man. One day, his bank manager called him and said, "Moishe, I have a query on one of your recent checks. Could you confirm it is one of yours? For years, you've been signing all checks with two X's but this one is signed with three X's. Is it yours?" 
Moishe replied, "Yes, it is. Since I've become so wealthy, my wife thought I ought to have a middle name."  

A poor Jew finds a wallet with $700 in it. At his shul, he reads a notice stating that a wealthy Jew has lost his wallet and is offering a $50 reward to anyone who returns it. Quickly he locates the owner and gives him the wallet.
The rich man counts the money and says, "I see you have already taken your reward."
The poor man responds, "What are you talking about?"
The wealthy Jew continues, "This wallet had $750 in it when I lost it."
The two men begin arguing, and eventually they come before the Rabbi.
Both men present their case. The poor man first, then the wealthy man who concludes by saying, "Rabbi, I trust you believe me."
The Rabbi says, "Of course." The rich man smiles, and the poor man is devastated. Then the Rabbi takes the wallet out of the wealthy man's hands and gives it to the poor man who found it.
"What are you doing?" the rich man yells angrily.
The Rabbi responds, "You are, of course, an honest man, and if you say that your missing wallet had $750 in it, I'm sure it did. But if the man who found this wallet is a liar and a thief, he wouldn't have returned it at all. Which means that this wallet must belong to somebody else. If that man steps forward, he'll get the money. Otherwise, it stays with the man who found it."
"What about my money?"
the rich man asks.
"Well, we'll just have to wait until somebody finds a wallet with $750 in it!"

Izzy and Howie were brothers who had lived and worked in the Bronx all their lives. Unfortunately, nothing good could be said about them - they ran a crooked business, they womanized, they lied and they cheated the poor. But they were also very, very wealthy.
When Izzy died, Howie went to Rabbi Bloom and said, "I will donate to the shul one hundred thousand dollars if you will say at the funeral that my brother Izzy was a mensch."
The Rabbi thought long and hard but eventually agreed.
At the funeral, the Rabbi told everyone present of Izzy’s wrong doings. He didn’t hold anything back. He let everyone know that this was not someone they should be emulating. He then closed his book and concluded with the sentence "But, compared to his brother Howie, Izzy was a mensch!"

Answer is A– I got this one right as well! Not that I have taken tourists to Nachal Alexander, this small stream on the coast line at the top of the West Bank and Northern coastline. As it gets its water from Nachal Shechem and much of the West Bank it became very polluted over time. In 1996 they began cleaning it up and in 2003 it won the Australian River Prize for the most cleaned up river. The one thing that is nice to bring people to see there are the soft shelled turtles which are an endangered species that are being preserved there as well. That is if you like turtles. By the way the other answers. Kidron is one of the most polluted nachals. David is probably one of the most hiked and we get lots of our water from there. Both of those are in the Dead Sea area. Yagur is near Har HaCarmel not too far from Alexander, but not polluted from what I know.

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