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Parshat Korach - Questions for Self Study

Questions for the 'Shabbat Table'
Questions for Shiur Preparation
Questions on Parshanut
Questions for Preparation for Shiur on the Haftara

Part I - Questions for the 'Shabbat Table'
1. In order to prove that Moshe is indeed the divinely chosen leader, it is necessary for God to make a "beriyah" - i.e. a 'creation' (see 16:30).

    a. Where is the first time (and last time) in Chumash that the word "beriyah" [shoresh bet.reish.aleph] is mentioned?
    b. Who (exclusively) can perform an act of "beriyah?"
    c. In your opinion, how (and why) does specifically an act of "beriyah" [as opposed to any other type of miracle] prove to the people that Moshe's and Aharon's leadership was indeed a divine decision?
    d. Relate your answer to Pirkei Avot 5:9 concerning the ten things that were created on the 6th day "bein ha'shmashot" (note that the list includes "pi-ha'aretz").
2. In 16:22, Moshe asks a very difficult question: Should one man's sin cause punishment for an entire group [="eydah"]?
    a. According to pshat, does 'one man' refer solely to Korach, and "eydah" to the 250 men?
    Or does 'one man' refer to the Korach & Company, and the "eydah" to the entire nation?
    Support your answer, based on the use of the word "eydah" in earlier or later psukim.
    b. Does Hashem answer Moshe's question?
    If so, what is that answer?
    If not, why not?
    How does this relate to the next set of events (i.e. from 16:23-28)?
    c. How does your answer to part (a) affect your answer to part (b)?
    [Be sure to relate to 16:23-26 in your answer.]
    d. If a group is punished because of the acts of an individual, would you expect that the group may be somehow responsible for the behavior of that individual?
3. In this week's haftara, we read about the coronation of King Shaul by Shmuel (I Shmuel Chapter 12).
The most obvious connection to this week's Parsha is 12:3 ("et shor mi lakachti..."; compare 16:15).
What other thematic similarities exist between Shmuel and Moshe and Aharon?

In what manner is Shmuel similar to Korach as well!?
[Relate the type of reform that Shmuel performs in contrast to the complaints raised by Korach.]

In your answer, relate to actions of Eli's sons (see Shmuel chapter 3) and Shmuel's function as the political leader ("shofet") and involvement with establishing the monarchy.
Relate also to Shmuel's genealogy (who was his great great grandfather?!), as can be deduced from I Divrei Ha'yamim 6:3-13.

See also Shmuel 3:19-20, 7:3-17.
In what manner does Shmuel, who is a Levi, act like a Kohen?
(Relate to Shmuel 3:1-3, 13:8-12.)
How is this similar to Korach?

4. [For old timers:] In earlier shiurim (Yom Kippur and Parshat Tetzaveh), we discussed the special nature of the k'toret and its function as a protection from the consequences of "hitgalut Sh'china."
Recall also the events that led to the death of Nadav and Avihu.

    a. Why do you think Moshe suggests that the 250 men offer specifically k'toret in order to prove if they are chosen (see 16:5-7)?
    Do you that this 'test' is Moshe's idea or God's?
    See Ramban's discussion of this issue in 16:5 [towards the end].
    b. Do you think that Moshe is aware of the potential outcome that all 250 men would be consumed by fire, or is he trying to convince these people to remove themselves from Korach's revolt?
    c. Relate your answer to the nation's ensuing accusation that Moshe has caused the death of God's people (17:6-15)?
    d. In your opinion, why is specifically the k'toret used to save the people from their ensuing punishment?

Part II - Questions for Preparation (for weekly shiur)
1. As you read 16:1-35, carefully note where (and when) each conversation and/or event is taking place.
Is the narrative continuous or do you find certain 'jumps' within it?
If so, explain where.
What details are missing?

2. As you go over these psukim, try to figure out precisely where Korach is, especially when the punishment comes.
Explain what (and where) "Mishkan Korach Datan v'Aviram" is!
[Why do you think that it is referred to as a 'mishkan?']

3. List the various complaints against Moshe and Aharon that are raised in this parsha.
Are they raised jointly by everyone, or can you identify two distinct groups?
Would you consider any of these complaints (at least partially) justified?

4. At the end of the story, is there one punishment or two?
If there are two, which group gets which punishment?
Can you relate your answer to this question to question #3?

5. Now, relate your answers to questions 3 and 4 to your answers to questions 1 and 2.
Based on your answer, who (or to which group) is Moshe Rabbeinu referring to in 16:20-22 when he asks "should one man sin and the entire eydah be punished?"
Relate both to the psukim that precede this question (16:16-19) and those that follow it (16:23-27).

6. Considering that God has just created a "beriyah" to bury Korach and his followers, why do you think that the people accuse Moshe and Aharon for causing the death of "Am Hashem" (see 17:6)?
Wasn't this miracle enough to prove to the people that it was God's doing and not Moshe's?
[How is the test of the "matot" (17:16-24) any more convincing?]
In this new complaint, which specific punishment are the people complaining about?
[Relate to your answer to #4!]
Can this distinction help answer this question?

7. If there are indeed two groups and two complaints and two punishments [hope you figured this out by now], which of these two groups does Korach lead?
What punishment does he receive?
Based on your answer, try to better understand the opening pasuk of the parsha "va'yikach Korach..." What did Korach take?!

Now that you've prepared, go to the shiur.

Part III - Parshanut
1. There are at least four different opinions in the rishonim that explain what Korach took (see 16:1).
Explain why there are so many different opinions.

See Rashi and Ramban.
On what specific point do they argue?
[Be sure to see the entire Ramban (it's long!).]

See Ibn Ezra (second "dibur ha'matchil"), Rashbam and Chizkuni.
In what manner is their approach to this question totally different than the approach taken by Rashi and Ramban?
[What is the different basic assumption taken by each parshan?]

See now Seforno.
Is his approach more similar to that of Ibn Ezra or to that of Rashi/Ramban?
Explain why.

See also Rasa"g (in Torat Chayim).
[He explains that "va'yikach" should be understood as "va'yigash" - i.e. and he came near.]
In what manner is this pirush totally different than all of the other pirushim mentioned above?

See also the opinion of Rebbi Yona Ibn Janach (the final opinion quoted by Ibn Ezra in his pirush).
What phrase does he add to this pasuk?
Whose pirush is his most similar to?

2. Ibn Ezra (in his opening pirush - 16:1) claims that the entire story of Korach took place before Chet HaMeraglim, i.e. while Bnei Yisrael were still encamped at Har Sinai!!
What problems in "pshat" lead Ibn Ezra to this conclusion?

See Ramban's rebuttal of this opinion (at the end of his pirush to 16:1).
Note how Ramban explains his position in regard to the topic of "ein mukdam u'muchar!"
What problems in "pshat" does Ramban employ to support his opinion?
On what points does he actually agree with Ibn Ezra?
How does he resolve this within his own interpretation?

3. In 16:15, Moshe pleads that God not accept "their mincha."
Read this pasuk carefully, noting its context.
Whose mincha is Moshe referring to [Datan v'Aviram's or Korach's]?
What mincha is he referring to?
[Is it a korban? If so, which one, and by whom and where is it being offered?]

Now, see Rashi.
Note how he offers both "pshat" and "drash."
[Use this to explain how Rashi distinguishes between pshat and drash.]
What is difficult with Rashi's explanation of pshat?
Why do you think he brings down a drash as well?

Now see Ramban.
How and why does he argue with Rashi?
Relate Ramban's rebuttal to the questions in Part II above (i.e. to this week's shiur).
Note as well that Ramban also claims that his pirush is the basic "pshat."
In your opinion, which pirush is closest to pshat - Rashi's or Ramban's [or neither]?

Next see Ibn Ezra.
In what manner is Ibn Ezra's pirush totally different than Rashi and Ramban?
Would you consider this pirush "pshat?"
Explain why yes or no.
[Be sure to relate to how each parshan explains the second clause of this pasuk (16:15).]

Finally, see Seforno.
To which of the above pirushim is his pirush most similar?
Would you consider Seforno's pirush as "pshat?"
In what way does he differ from Ibn Ezra?

Part IV - Questions for shiur on the Haftara (I Shmuel chapters 11-12)
1. To the best of your recollection, is Shmuel in favor of Bnei Yisrael appointing a king, or against?
In your opinion, is there any positive value in Am Yisrael having a king?
If so, what is positive about it?
What is the danger in having a king?

2. Attempt to define the differences between "melech" (king) and a "shofet" (judge).
[Relate to type of government, transfer of power after death, ability to levy taxes and conscript soldiers, setting national policies, etc. Bring examples from Sefer Shoftim and from Shmuel.]

3. In what manner can (or does) "malchut adam" - a kingship of man - conflict with the concept of "malchut shamayim" - the kingship of heaven (i.e. God)?
[Relate to the words of Gideon in Shoftim 8:23]

4. See Devarim 17:14-20 in relation the mitzvah to appoint a king.
[If you have time, see the various commentaries there.]
Is it a mitzvah ot appoint a king?
[See TSC shiur on Parshat Re'ay.]
See also Rambam Hilchot Melachim chapter 1 halacha 1.

If it is a mitzvah, why has it taken so long to fultill the mitzvah?
Why does Shmuel seem to be against it?
See also Masechet Sanhedrin 29:2 (from the Mishnah).
[If a melech is something negative, then what type of government is ideal?]

[Now we can begin our study of the Haftara]

5. Skim chapters 7-13 in Sefer Shmuel (I), and note why and how chapters 8-12 form a separate unit [i.e. note how chapter 7 completes the topic of Shmuel as the leader, and how chapter 13 begins the topic of Shaul's kingdom].
What is the topic of this unit (chapters 8-12)?
How does its opening chapter relate to its closing chapter?
How do the chapters in between flow from one to the next?

6. Why did Bnei Yisrael ask for a king specifically at this time?
In your opinion, was there more than one group among the people?
Why was Shmuel angry, and why did Hashem tell him to agree?

7. Why are the people so worried about war at this time?
What is their alternative if they do not appoint a king?
Why do they ask Shmuel for a king, are they not capable of appointing a king by themselves?

8. From the story in chapter 9, does Shaul seem to be a 'natural leader?'
How is his leadership character enhanced in Chapter 10?
What is the reaction of the people after he is anointed king at Mitzpeh?
Are there two groups?
Explain each.

9. How is Shaul's leadership character enhanced in Chapter 11?
Why does Shmuel re-anoint Shaul after the battle of Yavesh Gilad?
Why is the reaction of the people more favorable this time?

10. Note how chapter 12 answers most all the questions raised regarding the problems of appointing a king in Chapter 8. To do so, note the following parallels:

Chapter 12 Chapter 8
Compare pesukim 3-5 to pesukim 11-18
6-12 19-20
13-15 7-9

11. Note 12:3, is Shmuel 'showing off' or is he trying to set an example for Shaul? [Explain.]
Why is there an increased fear of corruption with the melucha (kingship)?
Relate this to the parallel Shmuel- Korach.
[Compare Bamidbar 16:15.]

12. What is the main point Shmuel is making in 12:6-15?

13. Shmuel causes it to rain during the wheat harvest (late spring) as a sign of Hashem's anger to their request for a king.
Is rain good or bad?
At what time of the year?
How can this reflect the potential good (or bad) of appointing a king?

14. In 12:19 the people finally regret asking for a king.
If Shmuel is truly against Bnei Yisrael having a king, why does he insist they now keep their king instead?
Does 12:22 help explain that reason?
Why does Hashem want a melech?
Under what condition will the kingdom be successful?

Now that you've prepared, go to the shiur.