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Korach: The Very Best

Our Torah portion ends with the mitzvot of the gifts to the Kohanim. We are commanded to give from the most choice and beautiful produce. In the mitzvah of separating Trumah Gedolah, the Torah says, “ All the best of the oil and all the best of the wine and the corn”. For the mitzvah of the Levites to separate Trumat Ma’aser for the Kohanim, the Torah says, “From all your gifts you shall separate that which you separate before God, of all the choicest… It is a mitzvah to give from the best and it is forbidden to give from the inferior. (According to the Ramban, these are two of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah).

The Rambam, at the end of the laws of what is forbidden on the altar, writes: “He who wants to bring merit to himself, should restrain his evil inclination and broaden his hand and bring his offering from the most beautiful and finest of the product that he is bringing. For it says in the Torah, ‘and Able also brought from the best of his flocks and from their choicest and God turned to Abel and his offering.’ This applies to everything that we do or give in the Name of the Good God. It must be from the very best. If one built a house of prayer, it must be nicer than the house in which he lives. If he is feeding a hungry person, he must give him from the best and sweetest items on his table. If he is covering the bare, he must cover it from the nicest of his coverings. If he set something aside to be holy, he must said aside the nicest of his property. As it says, “All the choicest for God”.’ There is nothing to add after these clear words.

The Torah portion of Korach begins with the words, “And Korach the son of Yitzhar took”. Toward the end of this portion, it says, “All the best of the yitzhar/oil”. Actually Korach is the “best of the yitzhar”. But that is exactly his problem. He keeps the pleasure for himself. This is the pleasure at the foundation of the tribe of Levi, as Leah says, “This time my husband will connect/yelaveh, (cognate to Levi) to me (intimate relations with pleasure). Korach does not understand that he must restrain his evil inclination and give the pleasure to God (This is what Cain did not do in the same manner as Abel, who gave the best of his sheep to God).

In the powers of the soul, pleasure is very lofty. It simmers and permeates all the powers (like fat oil) and is even loftier than will. But it is possible to become addicted to pleasure. We must give the very best to God. We must give pleasure itself to God. How? By understanding that even loftier than pleasure is the power of faith.

Image by Bruno from Pixabay

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