Sunday, June 23, 2013

Korach and Bilam were alike

One of the characteristics of Bilam was that he was greedy and selfish. A similar characteristic shows up in Korach. The Medrash states that Korach invented stories designed to try to show Moshe Rabbeinu in a bad light and pretend that he had made up the halacha himself for his own and his relatives' and cronies' benefit. One of the stories that he made up involved a "poor" widow and her two daughters. This widow actually shows the characteristic of S'dom in that she cannot accept that anyone else would get any benefit from what is "hers".

The widow owned property and wanted to grow crops on it. Of course, since the Bnei Yisroel were still in the desert (and now condemned to remain traveling for thirty eight more years) this could not have been an actual event. The first "problem" was that she could not have her land plowed with an ox and a donkey together or sow different types of seeds (kilayim) in the same field. This indicates that she was actually quite wealth in that she had sufficient livestock to mix as well as sufficient land and seeds to be able to have the forbidden mixtures in the first place.

If the land had been owned by her late husband, it would have been inherited by her daughters and not her. The assumption seems to be that the daughters must have been minors and she was running the estate for them. In any case, these laws are actually logical agricultural procedures in any event. Plowing with an ox and a donkey actually does not till the ground properly and mistreats the animals as well.

Whe the time came for the harvest, she was required to give the tithe (tenth) to the Levites, the Terumah to the Kohen, and leave leket shickcha, and Peah for the poor in the community. She objected so strongly to this that she sold the fields and bought some lambs. Here we see the characteristic greed and selfishness of Bilam as expressed by Korach. She objected so strongly to having to give to the poor, that she (illegally) sold the fields owned by her daughters at a loss. After all fertile fields are worth a lot more than two lambs. Of course this ignores the law of Yovel and that the value of the field would be set by how long it would be until the next Yovel.

She did not even buy sheep of proven fertility as the next complaint is that she was upset that the first born were to be redeemed of offered as a sacrifice. THis means that the lambs had not yet given birth at all. She could not bear that someone else might have benefited from these lambs in the past. She also was upset that the first shearing was to be given to the Kohen even though everything else was hers.

She was so upset at having to share, that she had them slaughtered. At this point, Korach "forgets" that he is talking about something that could not have taken place until after the land of Canaan had been conquered. He now speaks of the halacha of meat slaughter in the desert. At that time, all meat that was slaughtered was treated like a korbon and the matnas kehunah (gifts for the priesthood) were taken from the animal. Had the story actually occurred after the conquest, then the widow could have eaten all the meat and prevented anyone else from enjoying it. Of course, this would have left her daughters destitute as she had sold all of their property for these lambs which she is now wasting on a single meal.

She is so upset that anyone else gets to share in "her" animals, that she declares them cherem which means that is goes to the mikdash and becomes the property of the kohanim.

Korach tries to get us to feel sympathy for her by sliding over the fact that she put herself into this situation because she was so greedy that she could not allow any one else to benefit from what is "hers". She cannot allow a poor person to get any of "her" property and will not even share with the true owners of the land, her daughters. This shows what Korach really felt and that this was his basic character.

This trait of "Ayin Rah" is a basic characteristic of Bilam. Even when a politician is trying to evoke sympathy in order to create a mood, he cannot avoid showing his true character.