In parshat Korach, we read about Korach and the 250 men who rebelled against Moses and Aaron. After his efforts to make peace with them fell on deaf ears, Moses was very distressed.1 He said to G‑d, "don't pay attention to their offering..."2 Rashi3 explains, "According to the simple meaning, [Moses said:] the incense that they are offering before you tomorrow, don't pay attention to them. And the Midrash4 says, '[He said:] I know that they have a portion in the daily communal offerings; let their portion not be accepted favorably before You, let the fire leave it and not consume it.'"

The words of Rashi are difficult to understand.

His first answer was that Moses was asking G‑d not to accept their offering of incense. Why would Moses even consider for a moment that G‑d would accept the offering of these wicked people?

The answer also seems grammatically incorrect. If he is talking about the incense, he should have concluded, "don't pay attention to it." Why does he say, "don't pay attention to them?" This question is so strong that some5 go as far as to change the words of Rashi to read, "don't pay attention to it."

Rashi only brings a second answer when the first one is lacking. Why was the first answer so inadequate that it necessitated a second answer?

Rashi changes the words of the Midrash in the second answer. The Midrash says, "I know that they have a portion in that offering." And Rashi changes it to "daily communal offerings." Why is that?

Rashi's way is to be as concise as possible. It begs the question: Why does he bring the first words of the Midrash, "I know..." He could have simply said, "they have a portion in the communal offerings; let their portion not be accepted favorably," and we surely would have understood. Why does he use the extra words, “I know”?

Another question: In the verse, Moses says, "don't pay attention to their offering..." It seems that it would make more sense to say, "don't accept," or "don't take." Why does he say, "don't pay attention?"

Moses statement, "don't pay attention to their offering," came after he tried every which way to make peace with them.

At first, when they came with their complaint, one could have thought that they were idealistic. They wanted to be High Priests, the holiest of holy. Moses said to them,6 "This is what you should do. Take for yourselves pans ... put fire in them and place incense on them, tomorrow before G‑d, the one who G‑d will choose, he is the holy one." And Rashi7 explains, "He said to them ... we don't have but ... one Kohen Gadol, and you 250 men are requesting to be the Kohen Gadol. I also want to be [the Kohen Gadol]. Here you have a service that is the most cherished of all, the incense that is more cherished of all the offerings. With it is the poison of death, through it Nadav and Avihu were burnt [and died]. Thus, we were warned through [their deaths] ... Whoever He chooses will come out alive, and you all will be lost."

In other words, everyone wants to be the Kohen Gadol, but G‑d only wants one. Let's see who He will choose. But if you are not the right ones, you will surely die.

However, after having tried so hard to make peace with them while they continued to refuse, he realized that their intentions were not pure. They had only one interest in mind: to attack Moses and Aaron's position that G‑d gave them. This brought him great anguish.

So Moses made a request of G‑d. It was obvious to him that G‑d wouldn't accept their offerings since they were wicked. He was asking for something more, and that is what Rashi is telling us.

When he said, "don't pay attention to their offering," Rashi explains that he was saying, "don't pay attention to them," not only their incense. He wanted G‑d to not pay attention to them at all. In other words, they shouldn't be punished like Nadav and Avihu for bringing the incense, but for their sin and rebellion. If they ought to die, it should not be for a holy thing, but rather for their wickedness.

Now we can understand why Moses said, "don't pay attention," rather than, "don't accept," or "don't take." He wasn't asking that G‑d not accept their incense, but that He shouldn't pay attention to them, and it should be clear that their downfall wasn’t because they brought incense, but because they were wicked.

Now that the first answer is understood, Rashi is left with a dilemma. From the sound of the verse, "Moses was very distressed, and he said to G‑d 'don't pay attention to their offering,'" it doesn't make sense to say that Moses was asking just that they should be outed for what they are, because that should be expected. Rather it sounds like Moses is asking for something more. And that is why Rashi brings the second answer from the Midrash, "I know that they have a portion in the daily communal offerings, let their portion not be accepted favorably."

With this answer he is stressing that not only should their attack on the office of the Kohen Gadol be foiled, and not only should they be punished for that, but they should also be excluded from the Jewish community. Their portion in the daily communal offerings should be ignored, as it says, "let the fire leave it and not consume it." And this is why Rashi changes the words of the Midrash from "that offering," to "daily communal offerings," because G‑d not accepting their offering of incense should be expected, to say the least. For that, Moses shouldn't need to ask. Now that he is asking for something of G‑d, it must be for something greater than that. Rashi therefore explains that he was asking that they should be excluded from the Jewish community as well.

Rashi's change in the words of the Midrash goes according to his opinion in his commentary on the Talmud,8 that if one doesn't have ownership of a minimum of a perutah (a small coin similar to a penny) in an item, it is not considered his. The incense alone doesn't have enough value that if you were to divide it, every Jewish person would have a perutah. So they wouldn't have a portion in that anyway. However, the daily communal offerings refer to the offerings that were brought all year on behalf of all the Jewish people. Everyone gave a half-shekel towards them, and a half-shekel is surely more than a perutah. You can say that they have a portion in the communal offerings.

There is a beautiful lesson about the Jewish people hinted in Rashi's words, "they have a portion in the daily communal offerings." In line with the words of the Arizal, "Holiness doesn't move from its place."9 Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi10 explains this to mean, "Even after it ascends above, it isn't completely uprooted from its original place and level."

In general, when something becomes communal it is removed from its individual status completely.11 When one donated a half-shekel towards the communal offerings, he gave it up completely12 and it became the community’s.

By saying "I know that they have a portion in the daily communal offerings," Rashi is telling us that even though it became community property, it still retained some connection to the individual. "Even after it ascends above"—and becomes communal property—"it isn't completely uprooted from its original place and level" is still is connected to the individual.

And this is why Rashi says the extra words, "I know." These are the words of Moses, who was the leader of the Jewish people. And as the leader, only he was in a position to see this dual reality.

The normal perspective is that there is a clear divide between the individual and the community. This is the basis of the divide in worldviews and political opinions. There are those who put the community above all else, and then there are those who champion the needs of the individual.

It is only Moses, the leader, who is in the position of realizing the value of both. Although he is an individual with personal needs and wants, his life is fully given over to the community. And even though he must think about the community’s best interests, he is also there for each and every individual, thinking about his or her personal physical and spiritual welfare. So only Moses knows that the individual has a portion in the communal offerings. That's why Rashi adds the words, "I know."

Parshas Korach is often read in the week of Gimmel Tammuz, the third of Tammuz, the day that Joshua stopped the sun in Gibon, allowing the Jewish people to be victorious and conquer the land.

It is the day that the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, was freed from Russian prison. He was arrested for his work, spreading and strengthening Judaism in the Soviet Union. He was responsible for saving Jewish life in Russia and strengthening Judaism in Europe, the United States and around the world when he came out of Russia.

And finally, it is the yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, who established a network of emissaries to strengthen Judaism worldwide. You can find a Chabad House in every corner of the world, inspiring an unprecedented revival of Jewish life.

The common denominator is that they were true Jewish leaders, seeing the value of both the community and the individual.

I am a Chassid of the Rebbe, and have the honor of being his emissary. I saw how he gave himself completely to the Jewish community and also cared for the welfare of every individual Jew. He didn't take into account the religious level of the individual. He was there for every single Jew.

He demanded the same from his emissaries and of his Chassidim, to do what is best for the community and at the same time, be ready to pull up your sleeves and help an individual in need.

This is an attitude that everyone can embrace, and there is no doubt that this approach will change the world, strengthen Judaism, and bring Moshiach ever closer. May he come soon.13