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Tamuz 5767

Datan and Aviram

Written by the rabbi

Dedicated to the speedy recovery of
Yehudah ben Hadasah Hinde Malkah

As the controversy between Moshe Rabbenu and Korach's company heats up, there is a bewildering exchange between Moshe and Datan and Aviram which beckons our attention. Datan and Aviram chide Moshe, saying: "Moreover you have not (af lo) brought us to a land flowing with milk and honey, va-titen lanu nachalat sade va-karem." While the first clause of the verse is easily understood as they complain that Moshe failed to deliver on his promise to lead them to the "land of milk and honey", the second clause is quite problematic. Literally translated, the words mean: "And you have given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards"- which fields and vineyards are Datan and Aviram referring to?

Rashi interprets the introductory phrase "af lo"as the antecedent of both clauses in the verse. Thus, according to Rashi, Datan and Aviram have two complaints: 1)You have not brought us to the land of milk and honey; 2)You have not given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards.

The Seforno has a fascinating approach to our question. He suggests that the verse be read according to our original interpretation, namely that Datan and Aviram are indeed upset about fields and vineyards that they did receive. To what fields and vineyards do they refer? According to the Seforno, Datan and Aviram said to Moshe as follows: Not only have you not brought us to the land of milk and honey, but you speak to us as if we have already arrived in Israel and received our portions. Here we are in the desert, the wilderness where nothing grows, yet you insist upon teaching us the laws of terumot and ma'asrot and the laws relating to the gifts that must be left in the field and in the vineyard for the poor. Moshe, you add insult to injury in that you have not delivered on your promise and yet you teach us laws that pertain only in the Land of Israel.

Datan and Aviram failed to comprehend that no matter where a Jew might be at a given moment, the possibility of settling in the Land of Israel is always a reality. "Next year in Jerusalem" is not only a hope but a decleration that we are ready to return to Israel and once again observe the shemita and other land related mitzvot to their fullest.

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