Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Korach 5770

Question
In this weeks parsha the entire nation is atoned for. What did they do, and what does the method used for?
atonement illustrate?

This weeks parsha is Korach: Bamidbar (Numbers) Chapter 16:1-18:32

AnswerThe people were punished because they accussed Moshe of being responsible for the deaths of the 250 people with him. Ramban points out that there are 2 reasons for this accusation:
1) Previously, whem the people had sinned Moshe had prayed and they had been spared. This time he did not pray.
2) Nadav and Abihu had been killed for offering the incense sacrifice- they stated that Moshe had known offering this particular sacrifice would result in the deaths of everyone but Ahaaron, as for Aharon it would be the morning sacrifice he was meant to bring, and for everyone else it would be a “strange fire” resulting in their deaths!

How does Ramban resolve these accusations against Moshe? In the first instance, he states that previously, particularly at the incident of the golden calf, he had the excuse that the people could have claimed not to have heard, or not to have understood, the commandment to worship G-d alon and undertake to follow the Torah.

However, their complaint now was that the entire nation was just as holy as they had all heard G-d proclaim the first two commandments! With that statement, Moshe could not ask G-d to forgive them, as they admitted that they knew they were guilty of idol worship previously, and that in denying Moshe and stating that he was taking power for himself and his family contrary to the wishes of G-d, they were denying the Torah he had brought down from har Sinai. As such, Moshe could not pray for them as they had removed themselves from his authority and ability to atone for them!

On accusation two, Ramban points out that the incense offering was considered especially dear to G-d. It is an offering whos esole purpose is to draw us closer to G-d, to declare our loving relationship with G-d. It was why Nadav and Abihu had chosen to offer it when they erred! Here, Moshe was hoping that the people involved would repent, would investigate their relationship with G-d, would remember the fate of Nadav and Abihu and repent.

Because of their inappropriate attack on Moshe, the people were punished with the plague breaking out amongst them. The atonement was appropriate to the cause- Aharon used an incense offering to re-establish the relationship between the nation and G-d. The choice of atonement was appropriate to the method of repenting the sin- it was because people pulled away from g-d and Moshe that they were punished- thus they were atoned for by re-establishing that relationship.

This teaches a general lesson when we need to repent for an action: Apologising and repairing the relationship, be it between us and G-d or us and our fellow man, is mor eimportant than the physical symbolism attached. Atonement is not through sacrifices, blood or outward symbolism- it is in the internal process and realisations, the correction of the basic problem, that we are forgiven and atoned for. G-d does not need blood or sacrifices- G-d needs us to improve ourselves!

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June 13, 2010 - Posted by | Torah | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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