Thursday, May 31, 2018



   When Rav Elazar Menachem Men Schach zt’l was a young yeshiva student he lived in dire poverty. At one point he was invited to join Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin. The students of the yeshiva were chosen for their extreme diligence and scholarliness ; it was for the most elite budding scholars of the time. It was housed in an upscale building and the students were treated regally as befitting great scholars. As can be imagined, Rav Schach was very excited by the invitation. However, when he went to consult with Rav Chaim Ozer Grozdenski zt’l, the leading Torah leader of that time, Rav Chaim Ozer urged him not to go. When Rav Schach tried to explain how hard things were for him, and how much better it would be for him in the yeshiva, Rav Chaim Ozer replied, “Rav Lazar, your time will come, but not yet!” 
   Ten years later, Rav Schach was speaking to a fellow named Rav Dovid Rottberg. He recounted his conversation with Rav Chaim Ozer and then quipped that it’s been over a decade since then, and he is still living in terrible poverty, never knowing where his next meal will come from.
   Thirty years later, in the early 1980s, Rav Dovid Rottberg was in B’nei Brak and he went to visit Rav Schach. By then Rav Schach was the renown Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovezh and was known across the globe as the leader of the Torah world.
   Rav Dovid entered Rav Schach’s home and reminded him who he was. Then he said, “I don’t want to take any of the Rosh Yeshiva’s valuable time. I just wanted to say that I see Rav Chaim Ozer’s words have been fulfilled.”

   At the beginning of parshas Beha’aloscha, the Torah instructs about the mitzvah of lighting the menorah.
   Rashi, quoting Medrash Tanchuma, asks why the mitzvah of Aharon preparing and lighting the candles of the menorah is juxtaposed to the special korbanos brought by the Nesi’im, enumerated in detail at the end of parshas Naso?
   Rashi explains, “Because when Aaron saw the inauguration of the princes, cholsha da’ato - he felt badly about it[2], for neither he nor his tribe was with them in the inauguration. The Holy One, blessed is He, said to him, “I swear by your life! Your role is greater than theirs, for you kindle and prepare the lamps.”
   Ramban understands G-d’s promise to Aharon as referring to the candles of the Chashmonaim at the time of the Chanukah miracle. The korbanos were only brought when the Bais Hamikdash stood, but the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles, which resulted from the efforts of the descendants of Aharon[3], remain in effect even during the exile. 
   A few parshios later we read about the disastrous story with Korach and his rebellion against the authority of Moshe and Aharon. Korach and his followers reasoned that they should have the opportunity to perform the avodah in the Mishkan that was exclusive to the kohanim.
   Korach is remembered infamously for all time. His rebellion is one of the great tragedies of the nation during their years in the desert, because it was prompted by vitriolic jealousy.
   If one would have asked Korach how he could be engaged in such a terrible endeavor, he would have undoubtedly replied that he was acting with altruistic motives. He might have very well pointed to the Torah’s narrative with Aharon and the candles. He would have noted that it was considered virtuous that Aharon felt chalishus hada’as about not having the same opportunity to serve Hashem as the Princes. Korach may have reasoned that it was the same feeling of chalishus hada’as that was driving his challenge against Moshe.  
   What indeed is the difference between chalishus hada’as, which is considered virtuous and laudable, and jealousy, which is considered deleterious and lowly?
   Chalishus hada’as is felt when one had previously thought that a certain accomplishment or level was personally unattainable, until he sees that someone else was able to master it. At that point, he is bothered that he hasn’t done so as well. The other person’s accomplishments demonstrates to himself his own failing.  
   Jealousy however, is focused on the other person. It bothers the jealous person that someone else has something he doesn’t. He isn’t driven by a quest for personal greatness as much as by a quest for accolades and recognition to outshine everyone else. He is not motivated by ambition but by avarice.
   The challenge is that sometimes it can be genuinely hard to identify one’s own motive.
How can one know if a feeling he has is a result of chalishus hada’as or jealousy?
   The answer is if one is able to be pacified/mollified by being shown how he will be able to accomplish the same things, albeit at a later time of place, that is indicative of the fact that it’s chalishus hada’as. If he feels pained by his lack of accomplishment and is sincerely driven by a desire to bring about greatness, he will be comforted in knowing that he has done all he can, and the positive result will occur, if even at a later time.
   One who is jealous on the other hand, won’t be satisfied in knowing that he has done his best. The fact that someone else is ahead of him or accomplished something he hasn’t will continue to burn within him, and give him no peace.
   When Aharon felt chalishus hada’as, Hashem told him “Yours is greater than theirs”. In other words, Hashem was telling Aharon, “You feel badly that you couldn’t bring about kavod shomayim in the same vein as the princes. Let your heart not be troubled! The time will come when your descendants will generate greater kavod shomayim based on the mitzvah that you fulfill, and it will be even greater than what has been accomplished by the Princes.” When Aharon was reassured that there was no failing on his part and that he would have a share in honoring Hashem, he was satisfied. The fact that it wouldn’t come for a millennium didn’t bother him. He had done all he could and was guaranteed positive results.
   Korach on the other hand, had a very different reaction. Chazal[4] state: “His eye led him to error. He saw a great chain of descendants emerging from him – Shmuel, who was equal to Moshe and Aharon[5], so he said (to himself): because of him I shall escape… but he did not see well, because his sons did teshuva[6].”
   Why did Hashem allow Korach to see that the prophet and future leader Shmuel would descend from him? That fact provided the real test whether Korach was altruistic or merely jealous. When Korach recognized that Shmuel would descend from him, that should have pacified him. If his real motive was to bring about kavod shomayim, he should have concluded that it will come, but not yet, and not from him. The fact that Korach drew the opposite conclusion and demanded greater prestige because of his worthy descendant, showed that he was driven by selfish desire for power, and jealousy. 

   Imagine if we went back to the late 1700s where we found a scholar, Aryeh Leib, living in abject poverty. It’s so cold in his ramshackle home during the Galician winter that while he writes his novel Torah thoughts, he has to keep the ink he’s using under a pillow to keep it from freezing. His table consists of a board supported by two barrels.
   It is conceivable that he wonders why he can’t have slightly more comfort so that he could accomplish even more in Torah study and teaching. It gives him chalishus hada’as. But an inaudible heavenly voice calls out “Yours is greater than theirs. In two hundred years scholars and the brightest yeshiva students will pride themselves in having any level of mastery in any of your incredible seforim.”
   If that scholar is motivated by a drive for personal recognition, then that won’t comfort him. But Rav Aryeh Leib hakohain Heller[7], author of Shev Shmatsa, Ketzos Hachoshen, and Avnei Miluim have  become mainstays and part of the gold standard of Talmudic lomdus[8]. Rav Aryeh Leib was indeed motivated by a drive for kavod shomayim above all.

   “His eye led him to error”
   “Yours is greater than theirs”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Based on the lecture given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh parshas Beha’aloscha 5777. It is based on a schmooze by Rav Uren Reich shlita, Rosh HaYeshiva of Woodlake Village in Lakewood
[2] The literal translation of cholsha da’ato is “his mind became weak”
[3] The Maccabees were kohanim
[4] Rashi (Bamidbar 16:7) quoting Medrash Tanchuma
[5] The gemara (Ta’anis 5b) derives that in certain respects Shmuel was equivalent in greatness to Moshe and Aharon together
[6] And Shmuel descended from them, though Korach perished
[7] 1745-1812
[8] Structural analysis of conceptual Talmudic thought


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