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In this week’s parshah, Korach wages a rebellion against Moshe Rabbeinu. He challenges Moshe’s authority, because he was not chosen for a leadership position that he felt entitled to. After the rebellion ended, and the ground swallowed all of the members of Korach’s assembly, people began saying that Moshe killed the “nation of Hashem.” At that point Hashem brought a plague on Bnei Yisrael. Moshe then told Aharon to take the ketores in a frying pan and go into the place of the plague and cause it to stop. Aharon listened and the plague ceased.

The Gemara in Shabbos 88b tells us that when Moshe ascended to the Heavens to receive the Torah, the malachim asked Hashem why would You give the Torah to a human being, of mere flesh and blood? Hashem told Moshe to answer them, which he ultimately did. Moshe pointed out to the malachim that many of the mitzvos in the Torah do not apply to them. The Gemara then says that all the malachim then took a liking to Moshe, and all gave him a gift.


The Gemara says that even the malach hamaves gave Moshe a gift; he told him that the ketores has the power to stop him. The Gemara cites the pasuk in this week’s parshah where Moshe told Aharon to take the ketores and stand by the plague and caused it to cease. The Gemara says that if the Malach Hamaves did not tell this Moshe, from where else would he have known it?

In order to save someone’s life one can transgress any aveirah in the Torah except for three; murder, gilui arayos, and avodah zarah. There is a question whether one can perform an aveirah to save someone’s life even if the remedy is not proven.

Performing ketores outside the Beis Hamikdash, and at the wrong time is an aveirah. The question is how could Moshe command Aharon to transgress this aveirah, if its remedy was not proven. The Ohr Hachaim suggests that this was a hora’as sha’ah, similar to that of Eliyahu Hanavi on Har Hacarmel.

The Mishnah in Yoma 83a says that if one is bitten by a certain dog, Rabbi Masya ben Cheresh says that we may feed him the liver of that dog in order to heal him. The Chachamim say that he may not eat the dog liver. The Rambam in his peirush on Mishnayos there explains that eating a dog’s liver is not a medical remedy; rather it is a segulah. The Chachamin opine that one may only transgress an aveirah if it is medically and clinically proven to heal; something that is real and has a natural power to heal. However, we do not permit one to transgress an aveirah with a remedy that is based on a segulah, for their potency is weak and is not proven.

We can rest assure that the Rambam’s explanation for why one cannot use a segulah would not apply to the case of the ketores. The Malach Hamaves himself told Moshe that it has the potential to stop death. In such a circumstance all would agree that one could utilize this remedy even if it requires one to transgress bringing the ketores at the wrong place or time.

Rav Shlomo Kluger in his sefer, Ubacharta Bachaim (87), writes that he heard that in a certain community someone permitted them to write a kvitel (a paper with the name of the sick individual) and to travel more than three parsa’os on Shabbos, which is prohibited m’d’Oraisa, in order to receive the berachah form a certain tzaddik.

The sefer Meged Givos Olam quotes that Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt”l, said that the Vilna Gaon permitted someone who was deathly ill to be mechallel Shabbos in order to receive a berachah from the tzadik Rav Yeshaya Zuchavitzer, zt”l.


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Rabbi Fuchs learned in Yeshivas Toras Moshe, where he became a close talmid of Rav Michel Shurkin, shlit”a. While he was there he received semicha from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, shlit”a. He then learned in Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, and became a close talmid of Rav Shmuel Berenbaum, zt”l. Rabbi Fuchs received semicha from the Mirrer Yeshiva as well. After Rav Shmuel’s petira Rabbi Fuchs learned in Bais Hatalmud Kollel for six years. He is currently a Shoel Umaishiv in Yeshivas Beis Meir in Lakewood, and a Torah editor and weekly columnist at The Jewish Press.