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Moshe's Very Own Donkey

07/06/13 10:18:37


R Pesach Siegel

Moshe’s Very Own Donkey

Parshas Korach 5773

Korach staged a rebellion against the leadership of Moshe Rabeinu.

There are a number of stated causes for the basis of his revolt.

Moshe had promised to bring the Bnei Yisroel to a land of milk and honey. He failed to do so. The entire generation was doomed to die and be buried in the desert. This was a result of the sin of the meraglim.[1]

Kehas, the son of Levi, had four sons; Amram, Yitzhar, Chevron & Uziel. Amram was the eldest and thus it was fitting that his sons should fill the positions of importance in Klal Yisroel. Moshe Rabeinu was the Melech of Klal Yisroel, and Aharon was the Kohen Gadol. The next available position was that of Nasi, the prince of the tribe of Levi. Korach was the child of the second son, Yitzhar. He was entitled to that position. Moshe Rabeinu appointed Elitzafan son of Uziel to the position instead.[2]

He ridiculed the mitzvos that were given to the Bnei Yisroel by the hands of Moshe Rabeinu. He reasoned, it is understandable that a white garment requires the mitzvah of the blue string of techeles in order to elevate it and perfect it. But, why should a garment made completely from techeles require a blue techeles string to perfect it. Its entire makeup is from techeles.

So too, a room devoid of sanctity requires a mezuzah scroll to be posted on the doorpost in order to imbue the room with sanctity. For what reason would a room already filled with scrolls require an additional scroll to be placed on the doorpost?[3]

Refusing to see reason, Korach and his assemblage were instructed to fill their fire pans with incense on the morrow. Aharon HaKohen would follow suit. Hashem would choose the one who would serve Him.[4]

The daily sacrifice brought in the Mishkan brought merit to the entire nation. Moshe Rabeinu beseeched Hashem, “Al tayfen el minchasam lo chamor echad mayhem nasasi.” – Let not the korban brought on behalf of the Bnei Yisroel stand in their merit. When I journeyed from Midian to deliver the nation from the Land of Egypt, I was entitled to supply myself with a donkey of the Bnei Yisroel, for my travels were on their behalf. Yet, I chose to ride upon my own donkey.[5]


Moshe Rabeinu was concerned that Korach might achieve victory. The communal sacrifice might in some way come to his aid. What was the source of his concern? Moshe, of all people, knew with absolute clarity that Korach’s claims were unjustified.

What is the significance of mentioning the donkey that would bring Moshe to Mitzrayim? How would matters between Moshe and Korach have turned out differently had Moshe Rabeinu ridden on the donkey of another?

Korach, along with the rest of his assemblage, witnessed with their own eyes and heard with their own ears the giving of the Torah. Hashem gave the Torah to Moshe Rabeinu before the entire Klal Yisroel. How could Korach possibly deny the evidence of his own eyes and ears?


Moshe Rabeinu was chosen from all men to be the mekabel haTorah. It was a role he was uniquely qualified for.

The Torah preceded our world. It is the will of the Creator that the words of the Torah be revealed in all possible forms. The ministering angels understand the Torah in their own unique way. To the angels, a parah (cow) is not a physical creature. The term has meaning that transcends the physical.[6]

Hashem wishes the Torah to be revealed as seen through the eyes of man. This is the ultimate revelation. It is only through the perspective of man that the lowliest entities in all creation are found to be part of the essence of the Torah.

It is a shortcoming that man tends to edit and filter what he takes in with his senses. Often the outcome of one’s observations has been altered to the extent of being unrecognizable from the input it was based upon. This is because of the introduction of bias. A conclusion based on the personal leanings or preferences of the observer will veer from the unadulterated truth.

Moshe Rabeinu is described by the Torah as the anav mikol adam[7] – most humble among men. He had no sense of personal self. He viewed himself solely as a vessel in the hands of G-d to faithfully transmit the holy Torah.

When divrei Torah are revealed to Moshe Rabeinu he views them as they are, without any embellishment. He views the Torah with human eyes. He views Torah the way Hashem wished human eyes to view the Torah. Thus, he invests physicality with sanctity. He faithfully transmits precisely what he sees, giving over the Torah of HaKodesh Baruch Hu.[8]

Moshe Rabeinu’s name reflects his very essence. The letter shin in the middle of his name is a three pronged letter. It represents our three avos, Avrohom, Yitzchok and Yaakov. Any greatness that Moshe attained, he attributed it to his great forbears, and not to himself. The numerical value of the letter shin is 300. This reflects the same message. The number 300 is the expansion of the number three. Moshe saw himself as the expansion of the three forefathers.

The two letters that remain are the letters mem and heh. Together, they form the word “mah”, meaning “what”. Moshe Rabeinu is “what”.  He doesn’t take up any personal space.[9]


Korach is called a pikayach – one who reveals.[10] He was a gadol in Torah. His understanding of the Torah led him to believe that the rights of the elder sons must be preserved. Veering from this constitutes a departure from the Torah.

In his mind, the way he understood the mitzvah of tzitzis and the mitzvah of mezuzah, conflicted with the manner presented by Moshe. He was convinced that his understanding was the true one. It was based on his clear understanding of the entirety of the Torah.

And in his mind was a burning question. How could this be? How could Moshe Rabeinu err? He is the mekabel HaTorah.

He came to a fatally mistaken conclusion.

Indeed, Moshe Rabeinu was the mekabel HaTorah. At the time of the giving of the Torah, Moshe Rabeinu was on the high and lofty level of being free from all bias.

But the giving of the Torah is an ongoing process. The level that Moshe Rabeinu attained must be maintained. Korach reasoned that following the giving of the Torah Moshe Rabeinu was no longer on the level of anav mikol adam. He was no longer on the level that his name represents. He was not giving over Toras Hashem when he chose Elitzafan as the Nasi, nor when he handed down the mitzvos of tzitzis and mezuzah.

It is also quite possible that Korach blamed the failure of the meraglim on this shortcoming that he imagined in Moshe. The meraglim had before their eyes the example of a fallen leader and this caused them to stumble.[11]

It was not Korach that Moshe Rabeinu feared.

Had Korach been correct in his assessment, he would then have the right to compete with Moshe.

It is for this reason that Moshe Rabeinu included in his prayer the mention of the very beginnings of his journey. He certainly had the right to take something for himself upon embarking upon his shlichus. He refrained from doing so. He wanted, at the very outset, to remain unsullied from any personal gain.

His prayer was that he be awarded heavenly assistance to sustain that level, at the outset, continuing through the giving of the Torah and for all time.

Being chosen by G-d is not sufficient. Only by maintaining total consistency is he worthy of his position.

[1] Parshas Korach, perek 16, posuk 14

[2] Medrash Tanchuma, Rashi, perek 16, posuk 1

[3] Medrash Tanchuma, Rashi, perek 16, posuk 1

[4] Parshas Korach, perek 16, posuk 5

[5] Medrash Tanchuma, Rashi, perek 16, posuk 15

[6] Meseches Shabbos, daf 89a

[7] BaMidbar, perek 12, posuk 3

[8] Meseches Yevamos, daf 49b

[9] Rav Moshe Shapiro

[10] Rashi, perek 16, posuk 7

[11] Ironically, it was Korach’s own bias that prevented him from seeing the Torah in the true light. Were it not for his personal stake in the matter, his wisdom would have led him to understand why Elitzafan was to be the Nasi. See the above mentioned Rashi.

Wed, September 23 2020 5 Tishrei 5781