Friday, July 6, 2007

KORACH - RETURNING THE LOST BROTHER

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Num:16:33 "Vayerdu hem vechal asher lahem chayyim sheolah vatekas aleihem haaretz vayovdu mitoch haKahal..." "And they and all their possessions went down alive to Sheol and the earth covered them over and they were lost from the midst of the congregation." Korach was lost to the community of Israel. A centrally important mitzvah in the Torah is Hashavat Aveidah, returning a lost object, as elucidated in Nezikin of the Mishna.

Teshuvah, repentance/returning, is open to everyone, even to Korach. One day even he shall be returned to his people! As KoRaCH and KeRaCH, the word for "ice," share the same Hebrew root, perhaps this connection is to inform us that he was the first, perhaps unwillingly, to undergo a form of cryogenics, the freezing of the diseased body prior to death so as to be be revived in the future once the cure is ultimately found. His noble ideals of equality and democracy were passionately expressed, but they were really fronts for his enlarged ego and craven desire for power. He brought machloket (divisiveness) into the camp of Israel, and this was antithetical to the ideal spirit of unity and oneness.

As he went down alive (chayyim) into the pit, theoretically he remained frozen but yet alive, and so his neshama could still do teshuvah. One day the lofty calls for the goals of democracy and equality will be disengaged from ego, and that aspect of a bifurcated humanity will have achieved a healing. So many social engineering projects of the 20th century, while expressing lofty ideals of brotherhood, equality and democracy, were really movements that degraded humanity, serving as fronts for the totalitarian ambitions of their leaders. But humanity inexorably moves forward, and ultimately we must be ready to return the lost, but healed, souls of the misguided to the human collective.

The main problem, of course, with cryogenics, is that when the patient is healed, he will be abjectly and totally alone, completely unmoored from the familiar! Hashem anticipated this problem, and so Korach and his followers descended into the pit "with all their possessions!" When thawed, they shall be comforted by the familiarity of their surroundings.

Now all this cryogenic talk related to Korach is indeed fanciful, but the dire lesson we must learn is the importance of realizing the mandate to return all who are lost to us, even those souls seemingly most removed from the community of Israel. We expend our energies on delving ever deeper into discovering more rigorous application of halacha, all the while assimilation and intermarriage rates have climbed to the highest levels ever in the history of the Jewish people with the consequent attendant alienation and disaffiliation.. One fifth of American Jewry has embraced Christianity, two fifths have embraced other persuasions, and the remaining two fifths fight over the shrinking pie for righteous dominance. Living in Oregon and upstate New York I witnessed the 90% intermarriage rate that is consuming our people outside the comfortable urban reach of pollsters who maintain the 52%fiction. Every day I visited the Jewish elderly in hospitals whose non-Jewish grandchildren lovingly would come to visit.

And I haven't even mentioned the roughly 20 million or so Israelite exiles living as the Pathan tribesmen in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. They call themselves B'nai Israel, they wear fringed garments, have bris milah on the eighth day and light candles on Friday night. Their tribes are called Rabbani (Reuven), Efreedi (Ephraim), Levani (Levi), Gadun (Gad), etc. Swallowed up by the Islamic juggernaut of yore, they are yet preserved whole, the staff of Ephraim waiting to reunite with the staff of Judah.

We have the capability to yet marshall our forces and resources to return our lost brethren to their rightful place as living heirs of our glorious legacy. But do we have the will?

Shabbat Shalom

copyright 1999-2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin HaKohen Melman

This Torah is dedicated to the memory of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, z"l, Yisrael Yehoshua ben HaRav Yaakov HaKohen Melman.

The above was transcribed from the devar Torah given at The Carlebach Minyan of Teaneck.

NEVER GIVE UP!

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When I was young I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.- Abraham Joshua Heschel
The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the most important thing is to not be afraid.
-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
"The greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor." - Aish Kodesh
"As you want G*d to give you a chance, give everyone else a chance to also begin again." - Shlomo Carlebach

About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!