of Shabbat Parshat Korach - 5760
and Aharon among His Priests and
among Those Who Call Upon Him"
Yisrael" remains ahead of the Diaspora by one Parshah.
This week Jews in Israel read Parshat Chukat and its Haftarah,
while Jews in the Diaspora, Ashkenazic and Sefardic, read
Parshat Korach and its Haftarah.
The explanation of the cause of this phenomenon is available under "Yom
Tov Sheni shel Galuyot" in the OU Website Glossary.
Haftarah of Korach is taken, according to both the Ashkenazic and Sefardic
communities, from the eleventh chapter of the First Book of Shmuel, Verse
14 through and including Chapter 12, Verse 22.
of the Haftarah
In a battle between the People of Israel and the Pelishtim (the
Philistines), the Pelishtim are victorious and they seize the Ark of the
The Pelishtim bring the Ark to the Temple of Dagon (their god); it
is broken by the Presence of the Ark of the L-rd
The Pelishtim return the Aron to Beit Shemesh.
People of Beit Shemesh rejoice, but in handling the Aron,
tremendous plague befalls residents of Beit Shemesh - (perhaps the
severity of this plague played a part in the feeling of the People that it
was simply too dangerous to be the People of HaShem; that a human king,
whatever uncertainties there might be involved in that type of leadership,
would be safer for merely human subjects)
Shmuel becomes aged; sons are not like him; People request King
"to judge us, like all the other nations"
Shmuel protests; Prays to HaShem; HaShem tells him to listen to
People; "It is not you they are rejecting, it is rather Me whom the
People are rejecting!"
HaShem designates Shaul as King; Shmuel anoints him; Shmuel
gathers Tribes of Israel; Shaul "hides among the vessels;"
Certain Jews reject the unknown King, though he stands "from his
shoulders and up," above the rest of the people
Nachash (the "Snake") the Amonite threatens the People of
Yavesh Gilad that he will only make peace with them if they all put out
their right eyes!
Shaul hears this, is seized by the Spirit of HaShem, gathers the
people and defeats Nachash; People now are ready to accept his Kingship
of the Haftarah
Shmuel gathers the People of Israel in Gilgal, for the second (but
now fully recognized) installation of Shaul as King; the People and Shaul
rejoice and offer sacrifices. (Shmuel 1, 11:14-15)
Shmuel directs the attention of the People to the new King, whom he
has placed before them, recognizing that he is aged, and that they have
rejected his sons. (Shmuel 1, 12:1-2)
Shmuel demands an accounting
from the People of Israel as to any stolen items in his possession, or
any case of fraud on his part, or any bribe taken by him (Shmuel 1, 12:3)
The People assert that Shmuel has done none of these crimes! (Shmuel
Shmuel calls HaShem and Shaul to be witnesses to the statement of
the People. (Shmuel 1, 12:5)
Shmuel gives a capsule review of the History of the Jewish People,
emphasizing the righteousness of HaShem, beginning with Yaakov's going
down to Mitzrayim, through the bringing of the People to the Land of
Israel by Moshe and Aharon (surprisingly ignoring the role of Yehoshua). (Shmuel
He reminds the People of their forgetting HaShem and worshipping
idols, and of how HaShem brought punishments as reminders in the form of
Sisera, General of Chatzor, and the Philistines and the Moabites.
How they cried out to HaShem, confessing and begging for
forgiveness, and for Salvation from their enemies! (Shmuel 1, 12:10)
That HaShem had sent them Judges, including the following four:
Yerubaal (though he had been an idol worshipper himself when
HaShem called upon him to come to the aid of His People),
Shimshon (the mighty warrior, though he had married Philistine
women - called "BeDan," because he came from the Tribe of
Yiphtach (although he was known only for his great physical
exploits, before he was called to the rescue of the Jewish People), and
Shmuel himself, last of the Judges. (Shmuel 1, 12:11)
Briinging them up till the present time, when Nachash had presented
his outrageous challenge, and the People had demanded a King to lead them,
although HaShem was their True King! (Shmuel 1, 12:12)
Shmuel warns the People and their new King that only if they follow
HaShem, will things go well with them. (Shmuel 1,12:13-14)
If they don't follow HaShem, they will be punished, as were their
ancestors. (Shmuel 1, 12: 15)
Shmuel demonstrates the truth of his words by calling upon HaShem
to perform a miracle to show that He will indeed punish the Jewish People
if they do not follow Him. Even though it is time to harvest the wheat,
when rain is very undesirable and also very rare in the climate of Israel,
Shmuel calls for a thunderstorm with drenching rain, to show that they
sinned by asking for a King. (Shmuel 1, 12:16-17)
HaShem responds with a one-day thunderstorm (so as to demonstrate
Shmuel's point, but not to harm the Jewish People excessively). (Shmuel 1,
The People beg Shmuel to pray to Hashem, so that they not die
because of their sin of asking for a King. (Shmuel 1, 12:19)
Shmuel tells the People not to fear, but to scrupulously follow his
instruction not to worship "Tohu," "nothingness"
instead of HaShem. (Shmuel 1, 12:20-21)
For HaShem will not totally abandon them, if for no other reason
than that He has intervened in human history and chosen the Jewish People,
and bound His great Name to them. (Shmuel 1, 12:22)
Connections and Discussion
Haftarah of Parshat Korach, as the Parshah itself, revolves around a
demand for a change in leadership, by a significant minority in the
Parshah, and by the whole nation, in the Haftarah.
This demand was considered inappropriate and punished lightly in
the Haftarah, and condemned and punished harshly in the Parshah.
of the puzzling aspects of the Haftarah is the fact that what the
People seem to be demanding is in fact a Mitzvah in the
As we find in the RAMBAM, at the beginning of "Hilchot
"Laws of Kings," "The Jewish People were commanded
to do three "Mitzvot" at the time that they entered the Land (of
appoint a King, as it says, "You shall surely appoint over
yourselves a King," and to cut off the seed of Amalek, as it says,
memory of Amalek," and to build the "Chosen House,"
as it says, "To His habitation shall you seek and go there."
("Hilchot Melachim" "Perek"/Chapter1:"Halachah"/Law
RAMBAM himself asks the question, "
Inasmuch as the
appointment of a King is a Mitzvah, why did HaShem not want it,
when the People asked it of Shmuel?
And he answers, "Because they asked it in a
(Hilchot Melachim 1:2).
Rabbi David ben Zimri
explains this by citing the Tannaitic statement of Rabbi
Eliezer to the effect that the Sages of the generation asked properly, as
"Give us a King to
judge us, but the ignorant ones of the generation spoiled the request,
as it says, "
so that we
will be like all the nations!"
is not the mission of the Jewish People to be like all the nations;
rather, their mission is to be a "Kingdom of Priests and a holy
nation" (Shemot 19:6), and a "light unto the nations."
Moshe in the Parshah and Shmuel in the Haftarah, both of whom judged the
People, and faced great opportunities and temptations for corruption,
stress their personal financial integrity.
In the Parshah, Moshe says, "
I have not taken even a single
donkey of theirs, nor have I wronged even one of them." (Bamidbar
Likewise, Shmuel states, "Here I am; witness against me before
the L-rd and before His anointed:
Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I
Or whom have I oppressed? Or of whose hand have I taken a bribe to
blind my eyes with? And I will restore it to you." (Shmuel 1, 12:3)
see in Divrei HaYamim 1, 6:18-23, that Shmuel was a descendant of Korach.
That a descendant of the one who tried to overturn the leadership
of Moshe, the Man of G-d, should be the one who testified, perhaps most
powerfully of all the great leaders of the Jewish People, of the Kingship
of HaShem alone!
both the Parshah and the Haftarah, the leader of the Jewish People calls
upon HaShem to perform a miracle to verify the fact that his leadership
was called for by G-d Himself.
In the Parshah, Moshe calls for an unnatural death for Korach and
his Congregation, resulting in the ensuing earthquake, swallowing the
the Haftarah, Shmuel calls for a demonstration by HaShem that the People
have sinned by asking for a King in the form of a thunderstorm during the
"dry season" in Israel, and HaShem obliges.
the Parshah and the Haftarah teach us that, whoever our leaders are, the
real leader is HaShem, the Master of the Universe.
And to be conscious of this when we are "mitpallel," and
say in the Shemoneh Esray "
And rule over us, You, HaShem
Alone, with Kindness and Mercy
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU