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Chukat (Korach) |  3 Tamuz 5776  |  July 9th, 2016  |  Issue 658

Mazal Tov to Menachem and Nechama Porat, current Shlichim in Washington, on the birth of a girl!
Mazal Tov to Dovi and Michal Geller (Detroit 2000-2002) on the birth of a daughter, Carmi Hallel!
Mazal Tov to Tzipi and Ohad Welner (Los Angeles 1998-1999) on the birth of triplets!
For our overseas readers: Korach Dvar Torah appears below

   Rav Ronen Neuwirth

Former Central Shaliach of Bnei Akiva North America
Currently Rav of Kehillat Ohel Ari in Raanana, Member of Beit Hillel 

Sometimes There Are No Answers 

Parshat Chukat opens up with the laws pertaining to the Red Heifer, generally considered one of the most obtuse segments in the entire Torah. It is considered the quintessential “chok’, or law, not given over to human comprehension, since it contains internal contradictions: the heifer whose ashes purify a person from the most serious form of contamination – death – simultaneously and paradoxically contaminates the kohen who handles the ashes. Actually, the more one seeks to logically comprehend this mitzvah, the more he should expect disappointment. King Solomon, the wisest of all men, said regarding this mitzvah: “I thought I would become wise, yet it remains distant from me.” How, then, can we explain this mitzvah? 

When the Torah speaks of “contamination” (tumah), it does not refer to some metaphysical or spiritual property, but to a defined status. When something remains distant from its destiny, it becomes contaminated (tamei). Purification (tahara) represents the act of returning an object to its original destiny and purpose in the world. A corpse contaminates because its purpose was to live. The exception to this rule is a kosher animal which was properly slaughtered, since it may be eaten after it dies and therefore does not contaminate in that state. 

This principle holds true for all laws of contamination and purity, but especially for contamination by human corpse. Death implies distance from man’s original destiny. Man was originally designed for immortality, which he forfeited when he sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Thus, the Red Heifer somehow puts us back on our original trajectory by repairing the root of the problem, namely, by nullifying knowledge and eliminating our ability to comprehend. The original sin, the sin of Adam and Eve, stemmed from the desire to be like God, “knowing good and evil”. This arrogance destroyed Adam’s wholeness and caused his eviction from Eden and his forfeiture of immortality. Thus, a human corpse is the most primary of all forms of contamination (‘avi avot ha-tumah’); it represents the astounding dissonance between our lives and the ideal life, an eternal life in which the material and the spiritual are inextricably linked. 

The mitzvah of the Red Heifer was designed to limit haughtiness. We often think, because of our abundance of intelligence, information, and education, that we understand everything and that nothing is new to us. This hubris is liable to lead to condescension, imperviousness to criticism, and, by default, to stagnation and lack of will to improve. The internal contradiction and irrationality of the Red Heifer are intended to lead even the most wise of men to the conclusion that there is wisdom beyond even his and that there are things that are beyond his comprehension. 

This also explains why this mitzvah atones for the Sin of the Golden Calf, which stemmed from the state of euphoria that lingered after the revelation at Mount Sinai. The nation felt certain that it had already reached the heavens, that it understood everything, and therefore created a golden calf, the fruit of its imagination. The mitzvah of the Red Heifer reminds us that as great as we become, one mitzvah will always remain an upper limit, never given to our understanding. 

The Red Heifer sends a message to the nation in general, but particularly to its leaders and executives. In order to succeed in a leadership role, on needs a bit of humility. Humility is the true key to leadership and greatness. The only leader ever able to understand the meaning of the Red Heifer was Moshe: “God said to Moshe: ‘I will reveal the meaning of the heifer to you.’” (Bamidbar Rabbah 19:4). Perhaps the reason is specifically because “Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than anyone else in the world…”

   Shira Sohn

Bat Sherut 5776

The Common-Sense Rebellion
If you don't ask, the answer is always no.

Parshat Beha’alotcha recounts the story of members of Bnei Yisrael successfully taking initiative. 

In Bamidbar (Chapter 9), a group of people approaches Moshe and Aharon and says that they’re tameh and therefore unable to bring the Korban Pesach. They famously ask, “lamah nigara?” “Why should we be excluded from bringing the Korban Pesach?” Moshe brings their query to HaShem, who surprisingly grants their request, creating a new holiday called Pesach Sheni to satisfy their demand. What happens in this story is pretty remarkable. Bnei Yisrael have a challenge and a request, and HaShem grants it by creating a new holiday.

If you think about it, almost all of the mitzvot were instituted because HaShem wanted them, but one mitzvah was instituted only after a group of Bnei Yisrael took initiative to ask for it. They could have not done anything; after all, did they really expect HaShem to institute a new holiday to give them a second chance? But instead they took action. They took initiative and advocated for themselves. Pesach Sheni teaches us that ‘If you don't ask, the answer is always no.’

Korach’s rebellion is another famous story about initiative. Seemingly, in Korach’s rebellion, Korach and his followers are just asking Moshe for what they want, just like by Pesach Sheni. The beginnings of the stories seem similar, so why do the responses so sharply contrast? Why is the request for Pesach Sheni granted, but Korach and his followers get killed for their request? 

In the case of Pesach Sheni, the individuals who approach Moshe approach him as a figure of authority. Before they even ask their question, they recognize that 'anachnu tmeim' - we are impure. Only then do they go on to challenge. In the case of Korach, he and his followers refuse to admit that Moshe has any more authority than the rest of the nation, believing that 'Kol haEidah kulam kedoshim'. Additionally, the intentions of the questioners in the story of Pesach Sheni were pure and le-shem shamayim, whereas Korach’s intentions were self-centered and his cause was anti-Halachic and anti-authoritarian.

The Rav elaborates on both of these points in his article The “Common-Sense” Rebellion Against Torah Authority. Korach thought that mitzvot were based on common sense. Why would wearing an entire garment of tcheilet not fulfill the mitzvah if a pair of tzizit with just one techeilet strand does? Since Korach perceived mitzvot as being based on common sense, he therefore declared that all rational people have the right to interpret Jewish law according to their best understanding. There’s no need for gedolim or Torah authorities, since we could all be our own authority by just using common sense.

Korach's approach is problematic, for it fails to understand the relationship between Hokhma, knowledge, and Da'at, intellegence, in Judaism. The Rav writes that:
"Korah's appeal to common sense in Judaism was basically a claim that only da'at, and not hokhmah, is involved in the application of Halakhah… The halakhic legal system, as a hokhmah, has its own methodology, mode of analysis, conceptualized rationale, even as do mathematics and physics… the Oral Law has its own epistemological approach, which can be understood only by a lamdan who has mastered its methodology and its abundant material. Just as mathematics is more than a group of equations, and physics is more than a collection of natural laws, so, too, the Halakhah is more than a compilation of religious laws. It has its own logos and method of thinking and is an autonomous self-integrated system. The Halakhah need not make common sense any more than mathematics and scientific conceptualized systems need to accommodate themselves to common sense."

The Rav notes that Korach’s rebellion was not quelled when he and his followers were swallowed by the ground as punishment for their actions. The common sense argument that was the rallying cry of Korach’s rebellion is still alive today. He explains that some people believe they can use their own common sense to decide the relevance and format of contemporary Judaism. They admit they don’t have formal training in Jewish texts and sources, yet like Korach, they still insist they have a right to decide major religious questions by exercising common sense, eliminating the need for religious authorities. They leave science to scientists and math to mathematicians, but they refuse to leave Halakha to Halakhic experts.

On Parshat Korach it is important to remember what the members of Korach’s rebellion did not – that we don’t know everything. We should always pursue knowledge and learning, have strong opinions, and take initiative, but all while recognizing that sometimes there are authorities we have to yield to since our common sense is not always enough. 
For the Rav's complete article:

TMT Spotlight:
Kollel Visit in Warsaw, Poland
Jews in Warsaw: ~2,000
General Population: 1.7 million
Year founded: 2007
Roshei Kollel: 
Rav Moshe (Rosh Kollel Melbourne 1998-2001) and Hasida (Rosh Midrasha in Melbourne and currently Advisor for the Shlichim and Coordinator of Midreshet Tzion) Pinchuk visited our Shlichim in Warsaw, Rav Moshe and Chava Bloom, last weekend.

Both Rav Moshe and Hasida gave shiurim in the community and got to know Warsaw a little better.

The Kollel Tzioni in Warsaw is run with great dedication, with an emphasis on personal relationships and individual work, especially learning in one-on-one Chavrutot. Our Shlichim, Rosh Kollel Rav Moshe and Chava Bloom and their four children are fully engaged with the community. Rav Moshe is a graduate of Yeshivat Yerucham and the "Straus-Amiel" Shaliach training program. 

The Kollel is housed in the Nozyk Synagogue, the only synagogue in Warsaw that survived the Holocaust and is still active. The synagogue is visited yearly by thousands of Jews touring Poland. Rabbi Schudrich or the Rosh Kollel often speaks to the groups, which are mostly comprised of secular Jews, some of whom are entering a synagogue for the first or second time in their lives.

In addition to leading the Torah MiTzion Kollel, the Rosh Kollel functions as a Rabbi in the Jewish community and assists the chief Rabbi, Rav Shudrich.

Every morning Polish Jews, alumni of various Yeshivot, come to study in the Kollel, and combine their Torah study with work or secular studies. In addition, the Kollel offers learning opportunities for Jews, descendants of Jews (“Zera Yisrael”) and others who are interested in conversion. Besides leading group learning and one-on-one chavrutot, the Rosh Kollel’s wife offers Group learning in the community and in the JCC, women’s Rosh Chodesh events, Hebrew studies, Kallah classes, and conversion preparation.

To date, the Warsaw Kollel has been led by three different Roshei Kollel – Rav Efraim and Efrat Meisels (2007-2009), Rav Jonathan Daniel and Shoshana Simons (2009-2012), and Rav Moshe and Chava Bloom (2013-present), along with their four children.
Around The World
Fun with the Cape Town Bachurim before winter break
Eliah Omer and his Chavruta made a Siyum Messechet in Montevideo
Hebrew book exchange
event organized by our
shlichim in Munich
Farewell to Mexico City bachurim Yonatan Hillel and
Amit Turgeman!

     Arik Speaker                                   In cooperation with:

'Lilmod' Coordinator and Head of  European Desk in Torah MiTzion

The Bagel Bagel Company manufactures some of the most popular Israeli snacks. What is interesting is that despite its name, the company does not actually produce standard bagels but rather pretzels - which are called in Hebrew 'Beigale'. There is a certain lack of clarity among historians whether the two products - bagels and pretzels are related or not. Also there are many theories as to the origin of the pretzel shape - its three circles.

The company was founded by the Bagel family, a Jewish family from Krakow in Poland, which began producing pretzels in the late 19th century. The family name is not the source of the treat but rather the the opposite. Bagel production began several hundred years ago, probably by Jews from Eastern Europe, so this family which manufactured pretzels was named after the product.

The Bagel family immigrated to Israel in 1933 and continued its business with the opening of bakeries in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.

In 2000 the Bagel-Bagel company was partly acquired by Unilever, the world's third-largest company. Today it holds de facto the vast majority of the company shares with the rest of the shares owned by the Bagel family.

The image you saw last week was from the factory in the Barkan Industrial in the Shomron area. This plant was closed after receiving a large grant from the state to open a new factory in Tzfat.

The correct Hebrew word for pretzel is "Shlovit" although nearly no one uses that term.

Yasher Koach to
Dov Aspir

for providing the correct answer

       Where was this photo taken?

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The answer, further information about this location, as well as the   first person to recognize
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published in next                                                                                                 week's edition. 

Torah MiTzion was established in 1995 with the goal of strengthening Jewish communities around the globe and infusing them with love for Torah, the Jewish People and the State of Israel.

Over the past twenty years, Torah MiTzion's shlichim have inspired and enriched their host communities through high impactful formal and informal educational programs.

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Our friend Benjy Singer has a very useful website,, which contains accurate and fresh information of what's going on in the Religious Anglo Community in Israel.