Parashat Korach

Dedicated in memory of my Mother in Law - Mrs Dubby Shulman A"H. A Woman of Valor, Chesed, and Kindness to all By Shifra and Ezra Hanon and Family

Parashat Korach

Parashat Korach begins with Korach who was from the tribe of Levi, going aside with Dathan, Abiram and Oun ben Peleth and was joined by 250 leaders, confronting Moshe and Aharon: Vayikhalu al moshe ve al aharon vayomru alehem rav lachem! "And they gathered together against Moshe and against Aharon and said to them, You take too much upon yourselves!" They go on to say, "We are all Holy and Hashem is with all of us, so why do you exalt yourselves over this congregation of Hashem?" Korach was considered to be one of the greatest men of that generation, but he had a flaw that would bring him and many others down, including his entire family. Korach understood that Hashem had picked Moshe as the leader of B'nei Yisrael. Korah watched as Moshe appointed his brother Aharon to be the Kohen Gadol, but when Moshe then appointed his younger cousin Elizaphan Ben Uziel to be in charge of the Kohathite family, which made him even greater than Korach, this disturbed Korach greatly. Korach became very jealous as his kavod was affected in a big way. He felt he had no choice but to direct his anger at Moshe as if he had decided on these appointments thereby skipping over Korach. To the contrary, the Torah teaches us that it was actually Hashem that was in control who was appointing and directing Moshe on all these moves.

It says in Pirke Avot (4:28): "Rabbi Elazar Hakappar said: jealousy (Kinah), lust (Taavah), and [a sense of one’s own due] honor (Kavod) remove a man from this world. When we see people acting in a manner that seems appalling to us, it is often because their Kavod has been ruffled. People can engage in long-lasting vendettas against others whom they think have infringed on their honor. As we get older, the tendency to give in to a sense of one’s own due honor grows stronger, and we must be more careful not to let it get the better of us.

The Rabbis explain that Korach was planning to wait until they were in the Land of Israel to confront Moshe, but after the spies’ reports, and the response of the people, Hashem punished B'nei Yisrael with forty additional years of wandering in the desert so Korach decided not to wait any longer. He decided to rally up the 250 leaders and accuse Moshe of setting himself and others that were chosen to be above the people. In other episodes in the Torah, Moshe always prayed to Hashem on behalf of B'nei Yisrael but in this case Moshe asked Hashem to bring about a dramatic punishment against Korach and those who sided with him. Moshe asked this of Hashem because Korach attacked his credibility, which meant in essence attacking the validity of the Torah. This episode had to set an important precedent for all the future generations, so that no one would attack the Torah's validity, for the Torah is Emmet, Moshe is Emmet and all that stems from Hashem is Emmet!

The Or Hachaim comments that Moshe never wanted to be the leader of the Jewish people and when Hashem instructed him to give the job of Kohen Gadol to Aharon and his family, he neither asked for those assignments nor desired it in his heart! Moshe pointed out to Korach that these decisions had not been his to make.

Rabbi Frand says that their are a number of sins associated with Machloket (divisiveness), such as slander, jealousy and hatred, causing others public humiliation and embarrassment, but the core evil of Machloket is the obsessive need to win! The argument may have begun over something small but as time lapses it grows out of control and takes on a life of its own. It can cause enormous rifts within families, rifts that go on for years. Sometimes no one even remembers how the rift began. We must remember that Hashem runs the world and therefore Machloket goes against Hashem! One very important thing we learn from this Parasha is that Machloket is probably the worst thing that we as a people can get involved in.

There are times, believe it or not, when argument is good, but this is only when it is Leshem Shamayim (for the sake of Heaven). In the Gemarah the great Rabbis argue about every detail of life and how we should proceed in accordance with the rulings of Hashem, but this argumentation is in pursuit of Emmet, and is done with love and respect.

This episode of Korach reminds me of a story we had in our very own community over 30 years ago when there were outside influences trying to penetrate our synagogues to bring foreign ideas to our community. I remember clearly how Hacham Baruch A’h would speak out vehemently against these negative influences with strong convictions, despite his general soft demeanor. When it came to defending the Torah, its precepts, and more importantly protecting the people of our great community from any negative influences, Hacham Baruch stood up strong and spoke out about the dangers of following those foreign ideas.

The midrash tells us that when the mob led by Korach stopped by the home of Oun Ben Pellet in order to recruit him, his wife took off her head covering in order to scare them away, and thereby saved her husband’s life. She knew that Machloket was something to be avoided, and she said to her husband, "What good would come out of this dispute and what benefit would it bring to you? If you win, then Korach wins and you are in the same position as before, and if they lose, it’s even worse!" King Solomon called her a most brilliant woman, yet it seems like this should be common sense. The problem is that when we get caught up in divisiveness, we tend to lose our common sense, and this can lead to very destructive consequences.

The Torah refers in this passage to “Korach and his followers”, but the Machloket is really between Korach and Moshe. The Torah is teaching us that Korach was not seeking the truth or the best interest of the people, but rather he and his followers were seeking to put Moshe down merely to raise their own status and receive the Kavod that they felt was owed to them and that they had been deprived of.

To teach us about the rewards of avoiding Machloket, Rabbi Ashear tells another story about a man who forty years ago felt that he was totally wronged by another individual. The pain that individual caused him was very great. At that time, he was only twenty years old, and since then, not a day had passed without this bothering him. He just couldn't get over it for all these years. At the age of forty, he found himself lost and out of the fold as a result of this pain. He was still not married, and he had little connection to religion. One day he decided that he had carried this burden for too long. He decided once and for all that he wanted to make peace with this individual. He sat in a room crying until he got the strength to call this man that wronged him so many years earlier. He called the man and asked if they could meet. He went to meet the man at his business and with tears in his eyes, his first words were, "I'm so sorry for anything I might have ever done to you." The man apologized as well and they both hugged and began talking again, catching up on old times. They went back to being friends again. He said, "When I walked out of his office I felt such a great weight lifted off my shoulders." Less than two weeks later he was rewarded for his efforts from Hashem as he met his wife-to-be. Baruch Hashem, now it’s been another twenty years later and he has a beautiful devoted family, he became shomer shabbat and couldn't be happier. Forgiving is therapeutic and brings us so much beracha! The Hafetz Hayyim says that maintaining Shalom is a big Mitzvah which goes a long way towards creating a peaceful environment for all of us and within all of K'lal Yisrael.

In Gemarah (Berachot 58a) it days; "She’eyn daatam domeh zeh lazeh, ve’eyn partzufehen domim zeh lazeh". "No two faces are alike, and no two opinions are alike". We do not have identical faces, therefore why should we expect to have identical views, perceptions and thoughts? Keeping this profound teaching in mind would go a long way in helping us to avoid conflict and divisiveness.

May we all learn from this Parasha to keep the feeling of our Kavod in check, so that we can stay far away from Machloket. May we also step back and try, when we have a difference of opinion with others, whether in our families or in our professions, to look at the situation from the other sides perspective, so that we can find the most harmonious solution that satisfies all sides. Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

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