Shabbos Kodesh 5 Tammuz 5769
A Sicha of The Lubavitcher RebbeParshas Korach
The Rebbe says:
1. In this week’s Torah portion Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our teacher) and Aharon Hakohen (Aaron the High Priest) plead with Hashem not to destroy Korach’s entire congregation; rather, Hashem should just destroy Korach because he was the one who incited and convinced everyone to rebel against Moshe Rabbeinu.
The Torah says, “Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon, saying: ‘Separate yourselves from among this congregation and I will annihilate them in an instant’. They (Moshe and Aharon) fell upon their faces and they said, ‘Almighty, the G-d of the spirits of all flesh; if one man sins shall You be angry with the entire congregation?’”
Rashi comments on this verse and explains why Moshe and Aharon prefaced the words, “Almighty, the G-d of the spirits of all flesh”, before their actual argument of, “if one man sins shall you be angry with the entire congregation?”. Rashi explains that Moshe and Aharon were saying, “(Hashem You are the) Knower of thoughts. Your attributes are not like mortal attributes. A mortal king against whom some of his kingdom acted insolently does not know who the sinner is and therefore when he is angry he punishes them all. But You- to You all thoughts are revealed and you know who the sinner is. Therefore, “if one man will sin will You be angry with the entire congregation?”
Rashi ends this explanation by saying, “The Holy One, Blessed is He, answered Moshe and Aharon and said, ‘You have spoken well. I know, and I will make known, who sinned and who did not sin” .
2. The Rebbe asks a question on this:
Why did Moshe and Aharon have to add in the words, “(Almighty, the G-d of the spirits) of all flesh”? Surely their argument would have been the same without those words.
Furthermore, the Jerusalemite Talmud teaches us that in general the words, “of all flesh”, always include even non-Jews. If this is the case, the words, “of all flesh”, definitely do not fit in with the context here because Moshe and Aharon were trying to argue that Hashem only kill one Jew- Korach, and not the entire congregation of Jews (Korach’s followers)! Why would Moshe and Aharon add in the words, “(Almighty, the G-d of the spirits) of all flesh”, which means that Hashem knows the thoughts of all people, even non-Jews, when they were only trying to differentiate between one Jew and another Jew, and not between a Jew and a non-Jew?
3. The Rebbe begins to explain:
The crux of Moshe and Aharon’s argument was that since Hashem knows and watches over every single person with Divine Providence (Hashgacha Pratis), He surely knows who the actual sinner was (Korach) and who the mere followers were.
This is as we explained in a different talk regarding the example that Rashi gives, “A mortal king against whom some of his kingdom acted insolently does not know who the actual sinner is and therefore when he is angry he punishes them all. But You (Hashem)- to You all thoughts are revealed and You know who the sinner is”: The congregation of Korach were not all “sinners”; they were people who “acted insolently” because they were influenced and persuaded by Korach. There is however only one “sinner” (who incites the ones who “act insolently”).
And this is what Moshe and Aharon were saying to Hashem: “Just as You know the thoughts of man and therefore You know who was the “sinner” (the inciter) and who were the followers, so too You should differentiate in their punishment and only destroy the actual sinner (Korach)”.
4. Still on the road to answer our question, the Rebbe now quotes the opinion of the Rambam (Maimonides) regarding Divine Providence with wicked people (Resha’im):
The Rambam writes that while every one of the four types of beings in this world are constantly watched by Hashem, only one type has the privilege of having every one of its details monitored and scrutinized by Hashem, and this is humans. In other words, whereas every single human being is monitored by Hashem, the other three types of beings, animals, plants, and inanimate objects, are only watched as a general whole.
The Rambam continues and explains that not even every human being is always watched and monitored. Only those who connect their mind to Hashem are individually monitored. “Foolish rebels” and wicked people are watched like the other three categories of life; they are only watched in bulk, not individually.
5. Based on this Rambam, the Rebbe now asks a question on the abovementioned story in the Torah:
According to this opinion of the Rambam (that wicked people are only watched as a whole), we must say that just as Hashem only generally watches over the wicked people, so too does He punish them as a whole.
If so, how could Moshe and Aharon ask Hashem to differentiate between the actual sinner and the ones who were merely influenced and followed in the insolence? Hashem was indeed justified when he said, “I will annihilate them (all) in an instant”!
6. The Rebbe answers this question by first explaining how the opinion of the Rambam that animals, plants, and inanimate objects, as well as wicked people, are only watched generally and not specifically, does not disagree with the opinion of the Baal Shem Tov who holds that all things are monitored by Hashem:
The Mitteler Rebbe (the second Chabad Rebbe) explains that even though it may seem like the Rambam and the Baal Shem Tov argue about Hashem’s Divine Providence over the world, this is actually not the case; they agree with each other.
How is this so?
There are in fact two types of Divine Providence. One is the “Internal” Divine Providence where Hashem’s guardianship is revealed and can be clearly seen by us, whereas the second type, the “External” Divine Providence, is hidden and clothed in the “happenstance” of nature.
The first type, the “Internal” Divine Providence, is what the Rambam is referring to when he says that this is dependent on the person’s connection with Hashem, and animals, plants, inanimate objects, and wicked people, are not watched and guarded with individual Divine Providence.
The second type, the “External” Divine Providence, is what the Baal Shem Tov is referring to when he says that every single creation is watched by Hashem. And even the Rambam agrees to this.
7. With all of the above mentioned in mind, the Rebbe now answers our original question (as to why Moshe and Aharon said, “(Almighty, the G-d of the spirits) of all flesh”, before they argued that, “if one man sins shall you be angry with the entire congregation?”):
As we mentioned earlier, our Sages tell us that the words, “of all flesh”, include even non-Jews. As the Rogatchover Gaon (Rabbi Yosef Rosen) explains the verse, “I am Hashem, G-d of all flesh”, that Hashem is saying He has Divine Providence over everyone, even non-Jews.
And this point is the foundation of Moshe and Aharon’s to Hashem: Moshe and Aharon were asking Hashem to scrutinize each individual person of the wicked congregation even though they were all generally classified as “wicked people” and differentiate between the actual sinner and the followers. But this is not the way Hashem acts with wicked people, as we mentioned earlier. Therefore, they first told Hashem, “Hashem, You know the thoughts of all flesh, even non-Jews, and Your Divine Providence extends even to the non-Jewish people. How much more so then You must know the thoughts and have Divine Providence over every single Jew, even the ones who have for the moment torn themselves away from G-dliness”.
8. The Rebbe finishes off and explains Hashem’s answer:
As we said earlier, when Hashem heard Moshe and Aharon’s case He said, “You have spoken well. I know, and I will make known, who sinned and who did not sin”. Hashem was telling them that not only will He do as they said and scrutinize every individual of the congregation in a way of “External” Divine Providence, He will even “make known” to the world that He is watching and guarding over them with “Internal” Divine Providence.
Translated and adapted by Shalom Goldberg. Taken from Likutei Sichos volume eighteen, second Sicha.