Book 4: Numbers


Chapter 16 - Rashi

Verse 1: Korach took.

This chapter is beautifully expounded by Midrash R' Tanchuma.1

Korach took.

He took himself to a different side,2 to be disassociated from the community and to cast aspersion on the kehunah.3 This is why Onkelos translates {Hebrew Ref} , he separated himself from the rest of the community in order to maintain the dispute. Similarly, "why does your heart take you?"4--- (i.e.,) it takes you to separate you from other people.5 Another interpretation [of] "Korach took": He won over the heads of the Sanhedrin among them, with flattering words,6 as it is said, "take Aharon,"7 "take words with you." 8

The son of Yitzhar, the son of Kehos, the son of Levi.

But Scripture does not mention, "the son of Yaakov,"9 since he [Yaakov] implored [G-d] for compassion on himself that his name be omitted from their dispute, as it is said, "let my honor not be identified with their assembly."10   11 Where is his (Yaakov's) name mentioned with Korach? At the genealogical identification [of the Levites]12 at the platform,13 in Divrei Hayamim, as it is said, "the son of Evyasaf, the son of Korach, the son of Yitzhar, the son of Kehos, the son of Levi, the son of Yisroel."14   15

And Dasan and Aviram.

Because the tribe of Reuven made their camp at the south, neighboring Kehos and his sons, who camped at the south, they joined Korach in his dispute.16 "Woe to the wicked, woe to his neighbor"!17 Why did Korach see fit to dispute Moshe? He envied Elitzafan the son of Uziel for his leadership. Moshe appointed him leader over the sons of Kehos, by the word of G-d. Korach said, 'Father had four brothers, as it is said: "The sons of Kehos, etc."18 Amram was the firstborn. His two sons assumed great distinction--- one (Moshe) is the monarch, the other (Aharon) the Kohein Gadol. Who should appropriately assume the second [position], if not I, the son of Yitzhar, second to Amram? Yet he appointed, as leader, the son of the youngest of all of his (Amram's) brothers. I will oppose him, and nullify everything he said.'19 What did he do? He rose up and gathered two hundred fifty heads of Sanhedrin, mostly from the neighboring tribe of Reuven---20 they were Elitzur the son of Shdeiur, and his companions, and the like, as it is said, "leaders of the congregation, who were called to meetings," and it says above, "those called from the congregation (leaders of their ancestral tribes)."21 He clothed them in garments made completely of techeiles.22 They came and stood before Moshe and said to him: "Does a garment made completely of techeiles require23 tzitzis, or not?' He said to them: "It is required." They began scoffing at him. "How is it possible that a garment made of other material is absolved by a single thread of techeiles, yet one made completely of techeiles cannot absolve itself?"24

The sons of Reuvein.

Dasan and Aviram, and On the son of Peles.25

Verse 3: You have [taken] too much for yourselves.

You have taken much more distinction for yourselves [than is appropriate].

Are all holy.

They all heard the Word, at Sinai,26 from the mouth of the Almighty.27

Why do you raise yourselves.

If you took the monarchy,28 you should not have chosen the kehunah for your brother.29 You were not alone in hearing, at Sinai, "I am G-d your G-d"--- the entire community heard.30

Verse 4: He fell upon his face.

Because of the dispute,31 as this was, already, their fourth32 despicable act.33 They sinned with the golden calf--- "Moshe implored ... "34 With the complainers---"Moshe prayed ..."35 With the spies---"Moshe said to G-d, If Egypt should hear..."36 At Korach's dispute, his hands were weakened. This is compared to a prince who acted despicably against his father. His intimate friend placated him the first, second, and third times, but at the fourth despicable act, the friend's hands were weakened. He said: "How long can I impose upon the king? Perhaps he will no longer receive me."37

Verse 5: [In the] morning, [Ad-noy] will make known.

This is a time when we are intoxicated,38 and it would be improper [for us] to appear in His Presence. His intention was to delay,39 so that they might repent.40

[In the] morning, Ad-noy will make known who is [qualified to be] His.

For the Levite services.41

And who is holy.

For the kehunah.42

He will bring them close to Him.43

Targum [Onkelos] demonstrates this: "He will bring into His presence." "He will bring into His service." According to the Midrashic interpretation of "morning": Moshe said to them, 'G-d marked His universe with boundaries. Can you possibly transform morning into evening? that is how possible it is for you to nullify this, as it is said, "it became evening and it became morning, and He separated"44 Similarly, "Aharon was separated to be consecrated etc."45

Verse 6: Do this: Take, for yourselves, fire pans.

Why did he see fit to tell them this?46 He said to them, "the gentile way is to have a variety of rituals, with many priests, [not all] gathered in one Temple. We have only one G-d, one Ark, one Torah, one Altar, and one Kohein Gadol. Yet you---two hundred and fifty men--- seek the kehunah Gedolah! I, too, will acquiesce. Here you have the most precious service, the incense, more precious than all the sacrifices. But a deadly poison is placed in it, which consumed Nadav and Avihu."47 He, therefore, warned them,

"The man who will be chosen by Ad-noy, he is the holy one."

He was already holy. Do we not know that the chosen one is holy? Rather, Moshe said to them, "I tell you this so that you will not be found guilty. The chosen one will survive, but all of you will be lost."48

Fire pans.

Utensils for stoking coals, with a handle.

Verse 7: You have taken [too] much upon yourselves, sons of Levi.

[I told you many things which are acceptable to the heart (i.e., reasonable). Another interpretation:] What I have said to you is a matter of great significance. Were they not fools, for he warned them, and yet they undertook to bring the offering? They sinned with their souls,49 as it is said, "the firepans of these sinners with their souls."50 But Korach who was astute, why did he see fit to engage in this foolishness?51 His vision deceived him. He saw a great dynasty descending from him--- Shmuel, who was equal to Moshe and Aharon.52 He said, "for his sake, I will be spared." And twenty four watches53 arising from his descendants, all prophesying by Divine inspiration, as it is said, "all of these were the sons of Heiman."54 He said, "is it possible that all this greatness is destined to arise from me, and I shall remain silent"? This is why he participated, for, he had heard from Moshe's mouth, that they would all be lost, but one would be spared: "The one whom G-d will choose, he is holy."55 He mistakenly attributed this to himself, but his vision was flawed, as his sons repented. But Moshe saw.56

Too much upon yourselves

You have undertaken an immense task for yourselves57 to dispute the Holy One, Blessed is He.

Verse 8: Moshe said to Korach, "Please listen, sons of Levi."

He began speaking gently to him, but when he saw that he was stiff necked, he said, "before the other tribes join and are lost with him, I had better speak with all of them, too."58 He began exhorting them, "please listen, sons of Levi."59

Verse 9: And to stand before the congregation.

To sing on the platform.

Verse 10: He brought you near.

To the service60 from which he distanced the rest of the community of Yisroel.61

Verse 11: Therefore,

Because of this,62 you, and your entire congregation who are gathered with you, have assembled63 against G-d, for I have acted as His representative in awarding the kehunah to Aharon. This quarrel is not with us.64

Verse 12: Moshe sent, etc.

From here [we derive] that one should not maintain a dispute,65 for Moshe sought them out in order to come to terms with them through a peaceful dialogue.66

We will not go up.

Their own words67 caused them to stumble--- they will have nothing but a downfall.

Verse 14: And [not] given us.

The statement relates to {Hebrew Ref} ("not"), mentioned above, as if to say, "you have not brought us, and you have not given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. You told us,68 'I will bring you up out of the suffering of Egypt to a good land ... [flowing with milk and honey].' You brought us out of there, but not to a land flowing with milk and honey69 did you bring us. Rather, you decreed, against us, that we die in the wilderness, as you said to us, 'Your corpses will fall in this wilderness'."70

If you put those people's eyes out, etc.

Even if you send agents to put our eyes out71 unless we go up to you, we will not go up.72

Those people.

Like a man who attributes his own curse to someone else.73

Verse 15: Moshe was extremely distressed.

And Moshe was very grieved.74

Do not turn to their offering.

According to the plain interpretation, [through] the incense which they will offer before you tomorrow,75 do not turn to them. According to the Midrash,76 he said, "I know that they have a portion in the continual communal sacrifices.77 Let their portion not be received by you favorably. Let the fire allow it to remain without consuming it."78

Not a donkey did I sequester from any one of them.

I did not take a donkey from any one of them.79 Even when I went from Midyan to Egypt and set my wife and sons on a donkey,80 when I could have justifiably taken that donkey from them,81 I took only of my own.82 Onkelos translates {Hebrew Ref} , "sequestered." In Aramaic, the king's service is called {Hebrew Ref} .

Verse 16: And they.

Your congregation.83

Verse 17: And you will offer before Ad-noy each man his firepan.

The two hundred fifty men among you.84

Verse 19: Korach congregated against them.

With mockery.85 All that night he went to the tribes and enticed them.86--- "Do you think I am indignant for my sake alone? I am indignant only for the sake of all of you! They came and took all the great offices, the monarchy for himself, and the kehunah for his brother...," until they were all convinced.87

Verse 19: The glory of Ad-noy appeared.

He came in the pillar of cloud.88

Verse 22: Almighty, the G-d of the spirits.

Knower of thoughts.89 Your attributes are not like mortal attributes. A mortal king, against whom some of his kingdom acted scurrilously, does not know who the sinner is. Therefore, when he is angry, he punishes them all. But You---to You, all thoughts are revealed, and You know who the sinner is.90

If one man.

will sin,91 will You

be angry with the entire congregation?

The Holy One, Blessed is He, said: "You have spoken well. I know, and will make known, who sinned and who did not sin."92

Verse 24: Depart (lit. go up).

As Targum [Onkelos] renders, ( {Hebrew Ref} ),"depart,"93 from around Korach's dwelling.94

Verse 25: Moshe rose up.

He thought they would treat him with regard, but they did not.95

Verse 27: Went out and stood.

With a haughty bearing, to revile and blaspheme,96 like "he stood disdainfully for forty days"97 [at the incident] of Golias.

With their wives, children and infants.

Come, see how inexorably destructive disputes are, for earthly tribunals do not mete out punishment until two pubic hairs have appeared,98 and the heavenly tribunal until twenty years,99 but here, even nursing infants perished.100 101

Verse 28: To perform all these deeds.

Which I have done by the word of G-d; conferring the kehunah Gedolah on Aharon, [appointing] his sons as assistants,102 and Elitzafan as leader of the Kehosites.

Verse 29: Ad-noy has not sent me.

Rather, I did everything independently, and he (Korach) is justified in opposing me.103

Verse 30: But if Ad-noy will create a new creation.104

To kill them with a death no one has ever experienced until now.105 What is this creation?106 "The earth will open its mouth and swallow them."107 Then, you will know that they angered G-d, and I spoke according to the word of the Almighty.108 The Rabbis109 interpret, 'if the mouth of the earth was created during the six days of creation, fine, but if not, let G-d it create [now]!'.110

Verse 34: Fled from their uproar.

Because of the sound of the earth swallowing them up.111

Chapter 17 - Rashi

Verse 2: And the fire.

In the firepans.112

Scatter yonder.

To the ground, from the firepans.113

For, they were sanctified.

The firepans, and may not be used for personal benefit, since they114 designated them as sacred service utensils.

Verse 3: These sinners with their souls.

They became willful sinners115 with their souls116 by disputing the Holy One, Blessed is He.




Hammered sheets. Tendes, "sheets," in Old French.

To overlay the altar.

The copper altar.117

They shall be for a sign.

A reminder, so that they will say, "These belonged to the ones who disputed the kehunah, and were burned."

Verse 4: And hammered them.

Atendirent, "hammered" in Old French.

Verse 5: So as not to be like Korach.

In order118 not to be like Korach.

As Ad-noy spoke to him, through Moshe.

Like {Hebrew Ref} , "about him." About Aharon, He spoke to Moshe, [saying] that he and his sons shall be kohanim. Therefore, a stranger should not approach who is not a descendant of Aharon, etc. Similarly, every {Hebrew Ref} , {Hebrew Ref} and {Hebrew Ref} next to {Hebrew Ref} , "speech," is interpreted as {Hebrew Ref} , "about." According to Midrash, about Korach,119 what is [the meaning of] {Hebrew Ref} , [literally "in the hand of Moshe,"] [why did] Scripture not write "to Moshe"? This alludes that those who dispute the kehunah are stricken with tzora'as, as Moshe was stricken in his hand, as it is said,120 "when he withdrew it, his hand was stricken with tzora'as---white as snow." This is why Uziyah121 was stricken with tzora'as.122

Verse 11: And atone for them.

This was the secret, the angel of death conveyed to him123 when he [Moshe] ascended to heaven, that incense holds back the plague, as stated in Maseches Shabbos.124

Verse 13: He stood between the dead etc.

He grasped the angel and held him against his will.125 The angel said to him, "Permit me to perform my duty." He said to him, "Moshe ordered me to stop you." He said to him, "I represent G-d, while you represent Moshe." He said to him, "Moshe says nothing of his own volition, only from the mouth of the Almighty. If you don't believe me--- why the Holy One, Blessed is He, and Moshe are at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. Come with me and ask." This is [the meaning of] what is said,

Verse 15: Aharon returned to Moshe.


Another interpretation: Why with incense? Because the Israelites were grumbling, and vilifying the incense, saying that it was a deadly poison--- because of it, Nadav and Avihu died, because of it, two hundred and fifty men were consumed. The Holy One, Blessed is He, said,127 'You will see that it [incense] halts the plague--- it is sinfulness, that kills.'128

Verse 18: For, [there is] one staff.

Although I divided them into two family groups,129 the kehunah family separately, and the Levite separately, still, they are a single tribe.

Verse 20: And I will abate.

Like, "the waters abated,"130 "the king's rage abated."131

Verse 21: Among their staffs.

He placed it in the middle,132 so that they would not claim that, because he placed it near the Divine Presence, it flowered.133

Verse 23: Blossomed.

Like the plain interpretation.134


This refers to the budding of the fruit, when the blossoms drop.

And bore ripe almonds.

When the fruit was discernible, it was recognized as almonds, as in "the child grew and was weaned."135 This term is generally used for fruit of the tree, as in "its buds will become ripening fruit."136 Why almonds? This is the fruit which blossoms more quickly than all fruits. One who callenges the kehunah as well, will be punished quickly, as we find with Uzyah, "the tzora'as emanated from his forehead."137 Targum [Onkelos] renders, "it clustered almonds"--- a sort of almond cluster, bunched together with each other.

Verse 25: To be preserved as a symbol.

Of remembrance that I chose Aharon to serve as kohein,138 so that they will never again dispute the kehunah.

So that their complaint will end.

Like {Hebrew Ref} , 'their'139 complaint will end. This term is a singular, feminine verbal noun, like {Hebrew Ref} .140 murmurdiz, "complaint" in Old French. There is a distinction between {Hebrew Ref} and {Hebrew Ref} . {Hebrew Ref} , a single complaint. {Hebrew Ref} , a singular noun, even when there are many complaints.141

Verse 28: Anyone approaching who comes close, etc.

We cannot take precautions against this. We are all permitted to enter the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting. And anyone who advances further than his fellows,142 and enters into the Tent of Meeting, will die.

Have we been consigned to death?

Perhaps we have been abandoned to die?143

Chapter 18 - Rashi

Verse 1: Ad-noy said to Aharon.

He told Moshe144 to say to Aharon,145 To exhort him concerning [precautions] for the benefit of the Israelites, so that they do not enter the Sanctuary.

You, your sons, and your father's house.

The children of Kehos, Amram's father.146

Will bear the sin of the Sanctuary.

I am casting, upon you, the punishment of the unauthorized persons who sin by their involvement with the sacred objects placed in your charge--- the Tent, Ark, Table, and sacred vessels. You must station yourselves and warn every unauthorized person who attempts contact.

And you and your sons.

The kohanim.

Will bear the sin of your kehunah.

Since it is not a charge given to the Levites, you must warn the erring Levites not to come in contact with you during your service.

Verse 2: Also, your brothers.

The sons of Gershon and the sons of Merori.

They shall join you.

They shall unite with you in also warning the unauthorized persons not to approach them.147

And serve you.

By guarding the gateways, and through the appointment, from them, of custodians and administrators.148 149

Verse 4: A commonor should not approach you.

I admonish you150 about this.151 152

Verse 5: So that there will be no more wrath.

As there already was,153 as it is said, "for the wrath has surfaced."

Verse 6: Given to you as a gift.

Perhaps for your personal, secular service? The Torah, therefore, teaches, "for G-d," as specified above,154 to attend to the mandate--- custodians and administrators.155

Verse 7: The service as a gift.

I have given it to you156 as a gift.157

Verse 8: Behold, I have given you.

With joy. This term denotes joy,158 as in, "behold, he is going out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will rejoice in his heart."159 This is compared to a king who gave a property to his intimate friend, but did not write and sign a deed, or register it with the authorities. Someone came and claimed the property. The king said to him: "Whoever wishes will come and claim against you. Behold, I will write and sign a deed to you, and register it with the authorites." Here, too, because Korach came and claimed the kehunah from Aharon, Scripture presents him with twenty four kehunah gifts,160 with the eternal covenant of salt.161 This is why this chapter was placed here.162

The guarding of my terumah-gifts.

Which you must guard in ritual purity.163

For consecration.

For greatness.164

Verse 9: From the fire.

After the burning of the fire.165

[Of] all their sacrifices.

For example, the communal shelamim-offerings.166

Their minchah-offerings, their sin-offerings, and their guilt-offerings.

As the plain meaning indicates.

Which they return to Me.

This refers to the proselyte's stolen property.167

Verse 10: You shall eat it in the supremely holy.

This teaches that the supremely holy offerings168 may be eaten only169 in the Sanctuary courtyard,170 and by the male kohanim.171

Verse 11: Their terumah-gift.

Which was set aside from the thanksgiving-offering,172 the peace-offering,173 and the ram of the nazarite.174

Of all of the wave-offerings.

Since these require waving.175

All those ritually pure.

But not those ritually defiled.176 Another interpretation of "all those ritually pure"--- to include his wife.177

Verse 12: Their terumah-gift.

This refers to the major178 terumah-gift.

Verse 18: Like the breast which is waved and like the right thigh.

Of the peace-offering,179 which are eaten by the kohanim, and their wives, children, and servants, for two days and one night. The firstborn [animal], also, is eaten for two days and one night.180

It shall be yours.

R' Akiva came, and expounded: Scripture adds an additional "being,"181 so that you should not say, "like the breast and thigh of the thanksgiving-offering,182 which is only eaten for a day and a night."183

Verse 19: All of the sacred terumah-gifts.

Because this parashah is precious, it is generalized at the beginning,184 generalized at the end,185 and detailed in between.186

An eternal covenant of salt.

He made a covenant with Aharon with a robust, enduring object which invigorates others.187

A covenant of salt.

Like the covenant made with salt, which never spoils.

Verse 20: And you will not have a share among them.

Even188 in the spoils.189

Verse 23: They.

The Levites will bear the sins of the Israelites,190 since it is incumbent upon them to warn unauthorized persons against approaching them.

Verse 24: Which they must set aside to Ad-noy as a terumah-gift.

Scripture calls it "a terumah-gift"191 until he separates the terumah of the tithe192 from it.193

Verse 27: Your terumah-gift will be considered the same as grain from the granary.

The terumah of your tithe194 is prohibited to unauthorized persons and to the ritually unclean,195 and they are liable to the death penalty,196 and to the additional fifth,197 like the major terumah-gift,198 which is called the first portion of grain from the granary.199

And [wine and oil of] fully ripened fruit from the cistern.

The terumah-gift of wine and oil taken from the cisterns.

Fully ripened fruit (lit. full).

The term denotes ripeness. Full produce.


This refers to the pit before the press, wherein the wine flows. The word {Hebrew Ref} always denotes an excavation of earth. Similarly, "the king's cisterns,"200 referring to the sea of Okiyanus, an excavation dug by the King of the universe.

Verse 28: So must you, too, set aside.

Just as the Israelites set aside from their granaries and cisterns,201 so must you, too, from your tithe, since that is your inheritance.202

Verse 29: From all of your gifts you must set aside all of the terumah-gifts of Ad-noy.

Scripture speaks of major terumah,203 [teaching] that if the Levite pre-empted the kohein 204 at the storage bin,205 and received his tithes before the kohein took the major terumah from the storage bin, the Levite must first set aside one fiftieth of the tithe as major terumah, and then return and set aside the terumah of the tithe.206

Verse 30: When you set aside the finest part of it.

After you set aside the terumah of the tithe from it.

It will be considered.

What remains for the Levites [will be considered] completely secular.

Like the produce of the granary.

To the Israelite. So that you should not say, since the Torah calls it "terumah," as it is said,207 "for the Israelites' tithe which they set aside for G-d as a terumah-gift," perhaps it is completely forbidden.208 The Torah therefore teaches, "It will be considered, for the Levites, like the produce of the granary." Just as that209 of the Israelite is secular, so is that210 of the Levite secular.211

Verse 31: Anywhere.

Even in the cemetery.212 213

Verse 32: You will not bear a sin because of it, etc.

Hence,214 if you do not set aside, you will bear a sin.215

And you will not die.

Hence, if you profane, you will die.216

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