Weekly Parsha Review Laced with Humor and Sarcasm from The Oisvorfer Ruv

Koirach 2024: Prominent Women Not Mentioned by Name

Raboyseyee and Ladies,

The heylige Ois and eishes chayil had the pleasure of attending two spectacular weddings this week, let’s shout them out.

And we begin with mazel tov wishes to Ben Liechtung upon his wedding -last night- to Ariella Levin, she the beautiful daughter of Tzippy and Yoram Levin. May they merit to enjoy many decades of blissful happiness. A big mazel tov to our dear friends Aliza and Shloime Liechtung, the extended Schachter and Liechtung families, to the entire Levin family, and a special mazel tov to grandmothers and matriarchs, Shirley Schachter and Charlotte Liechtung. May they continue to see nachas from their many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.   May Ariella and Ben bring you all lots of nachas.

One night earlier, we had the pleasure of attending the wedding of Mimi Liefer, she the beautiful daughter of our friends Astrid and Mordechai Leifer and what a wedding it was. Mazel tov wishes to Mimi and her new husband Ben Hamer. A big mazel tov as well to grandmothers Sara Leifer and Lieve Guttmann. I have known and enjoyed a special relationship with the Leifer family going back approximately 45 years. May Mimi and Ben be a source of much joy and happiness and may they be blessed to enjoy many decades of blissful marriage.


Prominent Women Not Mentioned by Name:

 

Two women play a prominent role in this week’s parsha of Koirach as you will hear this coming Shabbis, if you make it to shul. Or will you? Not!

The heylige Toirah doesn’t mention the women by name. Nor their roles. Ober, they do come to life in the medrish and in the heylige Gemora, both replete with stories about their importance to the storylines. If you have to deliver a sheva brochois speech this week, the story of Mrs. Oin ben Peles (the wife of one of Koirach’s original co-conspirators) is mamish gevaldig. So too is the story of Mrs. Koirach if you happen to be speaking at your friend’s divorce party. Let’s set the stage:

Koirach, a nice Jewish fellow, with lots of money, frum, and from good stock, assembled his cohorts Doson (Datan), Avirom (they of movie fame: Exodus), Oin ben Peles, along with 250 other men from Sheyvet  Reuven, and led a rebellion against Moishe’s leadership.  Seemingly -so the medrish tell us- Koirach was insanely jealous of Moishe. One Medrish (Yalkut) suggests that Koirach accused Moishe of stealing his wife: Yikes.  Were that to be emes -avada, it was not- we could chap why Koirach was so upset.  Though Koirach was to be doomed and will die mid parsha, he did get to have a parsha named after himself: nu, efsher he bought it with his extraordinary wealth, ver veyst? Kimat all is for sale in our beautiful religion and of course that would include parsha names, rabbis, din Torahs and more.

One medrish will teach us that Oin’s eishes chayil (wife) talked him down, saving his life and for the second consecutive parsha, women play a central role, though their involvement is only mentioned in the medrish. Honorable mention of course to Rochov the zoina (exact quote from the Novee, not mine) whose talents were known far and wide for saving the lives of two famous Toirah personalities. For some reason, none of these great women got Toirah mention; no shout outs for them. Is it because the storyline in the medrish isn’t quite emes? Ver veyst? Were you there? Go argue!  Nu, who knew better than the medrish? The bottom lines of these midrashic tales is azoy: 1- a good zoina (harlot) has more than one trick up her sleeve. 2- A good wife can save her husband from many pitfalls, and of course farkert. 3- A bad wife is dangerous to one’s health and wealth. Want more on these two women? Find it in the archives Oisvorfer.com. Veyter.

Once challenged by Koirach, to firmly establish his leadership and prove once and for all that he, Moishe, is the RBSO’s appointed leader, he tells the rebels to take pans, and to prepare incense on them. This exercise was designed to see whose offering the RBSO would accept. Next: Moishe summons Koirach and tries valiantly to dissuade him from leading this revolt. He also summons Doson and Avirom. They refuse to attend the meeting. Moishe asks for the RBSO’s intervention. And in mamish dramatic fashion, the RBSO responds and, causes the first ever recorded earthquake or sinkhole; the bad guys are swallowed, as are their families and all that belonged to them. Was it mamish an earthquake? Not according to the Ramban who argues that when an earthquake hits and splits the ground open, that’s how it stays. The ground does not then close up. Ober in our parsha -so says the heylige Toirah (Bamidbar 16:30-33), the earth split open, Koirach and co were swallowed, and then, in miraculous fashion mamish, the earth closed itself up. Their fate was sealed! Is that how Koirach went down and out? We shall explore that very topic this week.

Because it’s July 4th today and the weekend ahead, and because a good number of you have will not be attending shul, nor, will you have the zitzfliesh (patience) to read the entire parsha post though it’s mamish givaldig, and davka because once an oisvorf, always an oisvorf, we shall stick to one topic, the somewhat mysterious and confusing death of Koirach.  Weren’t we taught that Koirach and his followers were swallowed up when the ground opened up and then closed on them? We were! Ober, not so fast says the heylige Gemora and a few other sources. More on that below.

Welcome to Parsha Koirach where the Yiddin seem epes not ready for prime time: Some are still causing mischief and testing the RBSO who is in no mood for narishkeyt (silliness). It’s one shabbis after we read about the misoininim -the complainers- and by the time you finish reading this rather short 95-posik parsha, the RBSO will have flexed His muscles and wiped out kimat (nearly) another 15,000 Yiddin. Let’s get real: just last week He sentenced a bunch – all males -except those from the tribe of Levi- above the age of 20, to death in the midbar. Guess what? The purge is on!  What went down that was giferlich, that so angered the RBSO in our parsha? Why did He kill an initial 250 followed by another 14,700 in the parsha?

Our parsha describes yet another dark episode in the midbar (wilderness) experience, one of several. This time, we have a new type of rebellion on our hands. Unlike the miraglim (spies) who were attracted to the super-sized fruit of the land, the eygel, or even the story of how the Yiddin lusted for a good piece of meat -who doesn’t, if you chap- this rebellion vividly described in the parsha, targets Moishe and Aharoin directly. This time the Yiddin aren’t upset with the RBSO; there’s no rejection of desert conditions or wishing for a return to slavery in Mitzrayim (Egypt). This one is a mutiny against leadership.

The leader -as mentioned above- is Koirach, Moishe’s very wealthy first cousin; who else but mishpocho (family) to stir the pot and lead a revolt? Family feuds are real!  Ober, how was it that Koirach became wealthy? Was he a nursing home operator?  Selling gloves, masks, and other protection during the first shtikel pandemic? A land developer?  Efsher trading in sheep and other commodities? Did he own the Tzitzis master franchise, the industry born in last week’s parsha? Ver veyst? In any event, the heylige Gemora suggests that he was not just rich, but mamish a mogul; filthy rich. According to one version, he found some of the wealth and riches that Yoisef collected in Mitzrayim (during the hunger when he gouged the mitzrim, those dirty bastards, out of their money in exchange for food) while viceroy and which he had later hidden. With money, especially in the midbar where there wasn’t much to buy, he became a respected individual in his own eyes and in the eyes of others. That is avada and often the case with wealthy people. Does money buy respect? You bet!

His wife, we are taught, is the one who eggs him on. Some wives taka push their men too hard, at times with disastrous results. Over in Washington D.C., we are experiencing one such wife now. Koirach is somewhat charismatic, has money and before long, has amassed a shtikel following. Mrs. Koirach decides it’s time for a leadership role and as many of us know, money zicher helps when campaigning for leadership and or political positions. Here in the five towns, kugel and a good kiddish do the same; maybe more.

Mistama you never heard the expression ‘rach vi koirach” (rich like Koirach) but that’s how European parents described wealthy people. In fact, when I was but a little boy, Koirach was my hero: is it a wonder I became an oisvorf? I thought Koirach was this great fellow in Jewish history. He was after all from a good family, observant, and had money; he was a role model! Avada it was easy to get 250 followers when a person has wealth to spread and the heylige Gemora tells us that Koirach did just that. He bribed his followers with food and wine; hec, these two items get people to shul each and every Shabbis. Though Koirach’s cohorts were taka leaders and good people, when it comes to food, money and spirits, even the good guys succumb quickly, nebech. Where he got food in the midbar when all they ate was munn for 40 years, well, this is not exactly addressed. Then again, we find these tales in the medrish where all is fair game. Says the medrish (Medrish Tanchuma) that two exceptionally wealthy individuals came to this world — one from Israel and one from the Goyim: Koirach from the Yiddin and Homon, the minuvil, from the goyim. Both met a terrible end. The bottom line: Money isn’t everything! Some say, it’s the only thing.

Bikitzur (in short), Koirach the imfaginner (insanely jealous person) incited a mutiny challenging Moishe’s leadership. He wasn’t at all too pleased with the fact that Aharoin (Moishe’s brother) was granted the role of being the big Kehuna; epes he suspected a shtikel nepotism. Next:  He enlisted two protagonists, Moishe’s inveterate foes from way back (Parshas Shmois) by the names of Doson and Avirom (Dathan and Abiram if you watched the movie Exodus) and together they are joined by another 250 nochschleppers (perhaps paid protestors). Remember Doson and Avirom?  Not? They are the two fellows who earlier in Moishe’s career, following the incident where Moishe slew the Egyptian taskmaster, confronted him with the words, “who made you an important personage to be a minister and judge over us” (see Rashi Shmois 2:14, Rashi). To no one’s surprise, all 250 were avada distinguished members of the community; who else gets into trouble but people with power?

One can avada smell the trouble brewing. In fact, it really smelled because Moishe tells all 250 to offer the sacrosanct ketoires (incense) as a test of their worthiness for the priesthood. Was Moishe channeling the untimely deaths that befell Nodov and Avihu, Aharoin’s sons’ whey they played with a strange fire? A few pisukim later, the earth opens its mouth, swallows the mutineers, and a fire consumes the ketoires-offerers. Revolt over! They lost and they are all gone, mamish! And says the medrish azoy: Not just were they and their families swallowed, their possessions went with them: no booty to split.

Mistama, you won’t be shocked to hear that it’s a machloikes (disagreement) as to the identity of these 250 individuals, but at least a number of medroshim maintain that they included the leaders of each of the tribes. Oy vey!  How is it possible that such righteous leaders stumbled and fell so far as to take part in Koirach’s rebellion against Moishe and Aharoin? Taka an excellent kasha, especially so, after they witnessed what happened to the Miraglim last week, also avada leaders of their tribes. Was leadership blinded by Koirach’s money which he seemingly threw around? The bottom line: Leadership wasn’t up to the job, a syndrome we find in Washington and elsewhere.

Of course, it’s also a machloikes (disagreement) as to whether or not they were consumed by fire and then swallowed up, or just swallowed, and also, if Koirach and his family got one form of punishment, the other, or both. Whatever the case, a good day they didn’t have. In this case, being swallowed was taka not such a good thing -not a happy ending, if you chap. Also, as an aside, somewhere in this story, Koirach’s children switch sides, did tshuva, and were spared as we will later learn.

The bottom line of the entire revolt and rebellion? Koirach and his protagonists were all taken out by the RBSO. Ober, just how Koirach died -and when- is far from settled and the sheyla (question) is this: Given that Koirach is the main character -hec, he has an entire parsha named after himself, why is it that the heylige Toirah left us in a state of confusion as to his death? What’s pshat?

As it turns out, because we have a few conflicting pisukim in the heylige Toirah itself -say it’s not so please- we have several options to explore concerning his untimely death. What’s pshat?  Pshat is that the pisukim never explicitly say what happened to Koirach. In fact, there is a great deal of textual ambiguity, oy vey. On the one hand, the pisukim imply that Koirach was among “those wicked men” (ibid. 16:26) who were swallowed up with Doson and Avirom. If Koirach’s followers, household, and wealth were swallowed, it is certainly reasonable to assume that Koirach himself was swallowed. On the other hand, the pisukim state that Koirach was trying to prove that he deserved to be the koihen gadol, and Moishe’s whole test of offering the ketoires was seemingly designed around Koirach’s challenge. On that basis, it would be reasonable to assume that Koirach was among the 250 men who offered the ketoires and he was burned in the fire, like they were.

And if that weren’t enough, three other accounts of the Koirach Rebellion found in the heylige Novee add layers to this ambiguity. Moreover, later on in Sefer Bamidbar 26:9-11, (Parshas Pinchas), the heylige Torah states this:

Doson and Avirom [were the ones] who were summoned by the assembly, who contended against Moishe and Aharon among the assembly of Koirach, when they contended against Hashem. Then the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and Koirach with the death of the assembly, when the fire consumed the 250 men – and they became a sign. But the sons of Koirach did not die.


It seems clear from here that Koirach did get swallowed up along with Doson and Avirom, and was not burned in the fire with the 250 men. Yet, in Sefer Devorim (11:6), when Moishe lists the miraculous events that occurred in Yetzias Mitzrayim (the Exodus from Egypt) and in the Midbar (Wilderness), he says: [Remember] what He did to Doson and Avirom, the sons of Eliav ben Reuven, when the earth opened its mouth wide and swallowed them, and their households, and their tents, and all the fortunes at their feet, in the midst of all Israel. No mention of Koirach whatsoever. Similarly, when Dovid HaMelech -in Sefer Tehillim 106:15-17- is going over the miraculous events of Yetzias Mitzrayim and the Midbar in Sefer Tehillim, he writes this:

They were jealous of Moishe in the camp, and of Aharon, Hashem’s holy one. The earth opened and swallowed Doson, and covered over the company of Avirom. And a fire burned amid their company, a flame set the wicked ablaze.

Again, there is no mention of Koirach being swallowed up in the earth – or being burned in the fire, for that matter. Only Doson and Avirom are identified as being swallowed up, and the posik doesn’t specify which “wicked” people were burned.

Shoin and what to do about these conflicting accounts of Koirach’s demise? Enter the heylige Gemora which reviewed all the pisukim and weighed in with a few novel ideas in an attempt at reconciliation. First, let’s read the heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 10a) where we find this quote:

א”ר יוחנן: “קרח לא מן הבלועים ולא מן השרופין, לא מן הבלועין דכתיב: ‘ואת כל האדם אשר לקרח’ – ולא קרח. ולא מן השרופים, דכתיב: ‘באכול האש את חמשים ומאתים איש’ – ולא קרח.”

… Rebbe Yoichonon said: Koirach was not among those who were swallowed [by the earth] NOR was he among those who were burned. He wasn’t among those who were swallowed, as it is written: “All of the people who belonged to Koirach” – [which implies them] but not Koirach. He wasn’t among those who were burned, as it was written: “when the fire consumed the 250 men” – [which implies that the fire consumed them] but not Koirach.

And if that’s the case, how taka did he die? Let’s check out the heylige Gemora which quoting a b’raisa tells us azoy:

במתניתא תנא: ‘קרח מן השרופין ומן הבלועין, מן הבלועים דכתיב ‘ותבלע אותם ואת קרח’, מן השרופיןדכתיב: ותצא אש מלפני ה’ [ואש יצאה מאת ה’] ותאכל את חמשים ומאתים איש’ – וקרח בהדייהו.

It was taught in a Braisa: Koirach was among those who were burned AND he was among those who were swallowed. He was among those who were swallowed, as it is written: “and the earth swallowed them and Koirach.” He was among those who were burned, as it is written: “a fire went forth from before Hashem and consumed the 250 men” – and Koirach was with them [since he, too, was vying for the kehunah].

Neither R’ Yoichonon nor the author of the B’raisa maintain that Koirach was only swallowed up or only burned. Either he was swallowed AND burned, or he was neither. Oib azoy (if that’s the case), according to Rebbe Yoichonon, how did Koirach die? Says Rashi azoy: He was not among those who were swallowed nor was he among those who were burned – rather, he died in the plague. According to Rashi, Rebbe  Yoichonon holds that Koirach died in the plague described in the next chapter, in which 14,000 Yiddin  died as a punishment for complaining against Moishe and Aharoin and accusing them of killing the 250 leaders who offered the incense.

And according to the B’raisa, how is it possible that Koirach was burned to death AND swallowed alive? Again, Rashi explains:

He was among those who were burned and he was among those who were swallowed – his soul was burned (i.e. the fire killed him) but his body was still intact, and afterwards [his body] rolled to the place of those who were swallowed, and it was swallowed, as it is written in Parshas Pinchas: “and it swallowed them, and Koirach with them” … and Koirach was with them. [the B’raisa cites a proof] from that which was written: “and it consumed the 250 men who offered the incense” – and Koirach was among those who offered the incense, as it is written: “250 fire-pans – and you, and Aharon, each man with his fire-pan.”

Shoin, and now you know! How did Koirach die? Let’s review the options.

  1. He was swallowed into the ground and so taka says the Ibn Ezra (16:35).
  2. He died by the same fire that consumed the 250 men who offered illegitimate incense?
  3. He was both burned up and then swallowed, mamish a combination befitting one who challenged Moishe’s leadership?
  4. He did not get swallowed but rather died along with an additional group that the RBSO chose for extermination, another group of 14,700 that died during the plague.

What really went down? How did Korach really die? Ver veyst? And the bottom line? Let us avada keep in mind that the purpose of medrish is to add color and teach ideas – not necessarily history. That’s why we’re interested in what we learn from this -and other- midroshim rather than what actually happened.

A gittin Shabbis and Choidesh!

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv


Yitz Grossman

 

 

Print this Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.