Shabbat Korah 5772

The stress keeps piling on poor Moshe and Aharon. Week after week in Sefer Bemidbar, the Book of Numbers, they encounter challenges to their leadership. This week, the trouble is caused by cousin Korah, and Aharon’s priestly role is under attack. By the end of the parashah, he is still standing, but at the cost of a significant body count.

Aharon’s status is validated not only by the events that transpire, but also by Divine promise. “All the sacred gifts that the Israelites set aside for the LORD I give to you, to your sons, and to the daughters that are with you, as a due for all time” (Numbers 18:19). In fact, the rabbis said that the kohanim were entitled to no less than 24 different sacred gifts. Imagine how good this must have made Aharon feel at the end of the day.

Consider also the timing of this announcement, coming on the heels of the Korah crisis. Rabbi Yishma’el considered just that when he mentioned a popular saying that came to mind: “Letovati nishberah regel parati–it was to my benefit that my cow broke her leg.” (Sifrei Bemidbar 119)

What does this popular expression mean in Rabbi Yishma’el’s time? Why does he invoke it here? Can you think of contemporary expressions, and have you ever felt this way? Most significantly, what’s the profound religious message behind this saying? We’ll talk about it on Shabbat morning, and look at a parable that the midrash brings to strengthen its argument.

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi David Wise