Parashat Korach

Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Selli Bat Lulu A’h

Parashat Korach

Parashat Korach begins with Korach, who was from the tribe of Levi, confronting Moshe and Aharon together with Datan, Abiram, On ben Pellet, and 250 followers.

“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 went 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’s Ego

Korach was one of the greatest men of that generation, but he had a flaw that brought down him, his entire family, and all of his followers. Korach understood that Hashem had picked Moshe as the leader of B’nei Yisrael. Korach watched as Moshe appointed his brother Aharon to be the kohen gadol. But when Moshe then appointed his younger cousin Elizafan ben Uziel to be in charge of the Kehat family — which made him even greater than Korach — Korach was greatly disturbed.

Korach became very jealous, as his kavod (honor) was affected in a big way. He felt he had no choice but to direct his anger at Moshe, as if Moshe had decided whom to appoint, and had deliberately skipped over Korach. To the contrary, the Torah teaches us that Hashem told Moshe whom to appoint — it wasn’t Moshe’s personal decision at all.

It says in Pirke Avot (4:28): “Rabbi Elazar Hakappar said: Jealousy (kinna), lust (taava), 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 feeling that we deserve honor grows stronger, and we must be more careful not to let it get the better of us.

Korach’s Rebellion

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 HaHayyim 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.

Machloket: Good or Bad?

Rabbi Frand says that there are a number of sins associated with machloket (divisiveness), such as slander, jealousy, hatred, and causing others public humiliation; 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 Gemara the great Rabbis argue about every detail of life and halacha, 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 thirty years ago. There were outside influences trying to penetrate our synagogues to bring foreign ideas to our community. I remember clearly how Hacham Baruch A’h, spoke out vehemently against these negative influences, despite his general soft demeanor. When it came to defending the Torah and 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.

Saved by His Wife

The midrash tells us that when the mob led by Korach stopped by On ben Pellet’s home in order to tell him that it was time to come, his wife took off her head covering in order to scare them away. She 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!” In other words, whether or not Korach succeeds in gaining some high office for himself, you will remain a common man. So why take the gamble of joining a rebellion against Moshe?

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. This can lead to very destructive consequences.

In this passage the Torah refers to “Korach and his followers,” but the machloket was really between Korach and Moshe. The Torah is teaching us that Korach was not seeking the truth or the best interest of the people. 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.

Timing is Everything!

Rabbi Frand brings out Rashi’s commentary that Korach’s motivation for starting up with Moshe was based on the appointment of Elizafon ben Uziel as the Head of the Family of Kehat. Moshe Rabbeinu, based on Divine command, gave this honorable job to Elizafon, who descended from the youngest of the sons of Kehat. This appointment bothered Korach to no end. Of Kehat’s four sons, Amram was the oldest brother. Therefore, Korach was willing to live with the fact that both of the sons (Aharon and Moshe) of Amram had leadership roles. One was the King and one was the High Priest. But, he felt, that the next major appointment in the family should go to himself, who was the son of Yitzhar – Kehat's’ second son. He was so consumed with jealousy over the fact that he was passed over for the son of a younger brother that he started a revolution against Moshe.

But the difficulty with Rashi’s scenario is that the appointment of Elizafon ben Uziel took place in Parshat Bamidbar on Rosh Chodesh Iyar! That event took place long ago. If Korach was so upset by this appointment, where was he for the last five parshiyot (which transpired over far longer a period than 5 weeks)! When a person is consumed with jealousy, he does not bide his time and sit back waiting for an opportune moment. Jealousy makes a person crazy.

The answer is that Korach was a pikeach (a shrewd individual). He was a smart person who knew that in life, timing is everything. One has to know when to make his move. In Parshat Bamidbar, Moshe Rabbeinu was riding high. He was the Master of all Israel. He performed the great miracles in the desert. He took care of all the people’s needs. His approval ratings were off the charts! It was certainly no time to mount a challenge to his leadership!

The Ramban explains the reason why Parshat Korach follows the chapter of the Spies: The people were depressed as a result of the aftermath of the Spies debacle. Morale was at an all time low. We must remember that the incident of the Spies followed the incidents of the Complainers (Mis’onenim) and the Graves of Lust (Kivrot haTayvah). Now they faced 40 more years of wandering in the desert.

It was at precisely this moment that Korach decided to make his move against Moshe. This was the ‘pikchut’ (shrewdness) of Korach. If he was a foolish person, then he would have opened up his mouth to complain as soon as he was upset about something. For a person who is so consumed with jealousy and so upset to realize that “now is not the time to address this issue” is the sign of a special person. Instant gratification is the sign of a fool, an immature baby, and a person with no intelligence. The older we get, the more we realize that we often need to put things off.

Korach nursed his grudge against Moshe until the proper time. Perhaps this was not the sign of a person with a sterling character; however it was the sign of a ‘pikeach’. We need to give Korach that much credit. He had the wisdom to understand that in life...timing is everything.

The Rewards for Avoiding Machloket

Even though no machloket occurred but the fact that one person felt hurt by another persons words and actions both can be affected and both can see much beracha when corrected. Rav Lugassi related a story told to him by a woman from Eretz Yisrael, whose name was Rachel. She had a classmate in high school from a wealthy family, while she came from a poor background. The wealthy friend’s attitude toward her made her feel worthless. Her Gaavah and condescending remarks were like arrows shooting into Rachel’s heart. The girl might not have realized the damage she was causing, but Rachel said she lost her self-esteem and felt broken.

The relationship had such an adverse effect on her life that it was hard for her to date and she found herself alone, with no direction, at the age of 28.

One day, Rachel ran into an old friend, Leba, on the street.

“How are you doing?” asked Leba.

“Not so great,” Rachel replied, and proceeded to tell her about all the negative feelings toward their old classmate that she had carried around since high school. She just could not let them go.

Leba decided to look up the young woman and try to bring peace. She found out that the woman now lived in the United States. She gave her a call and asked how things were. The woman replied, “Baruch Hashem, fine except for the fact that I have been married for several years already without having children. It’s so hard. We’ve been trying doctors and Rabbis, but nothing is working.”

Leba told her about the heartache she had caused her former classmate and said that the best segulah would be to appease her. The woman was shocked to learn that her comments had done so much damage. Nevertheless, she did not hesitate to admit guilt. She didn’t make excuses for her youthful callous behavior; rather, she immediately decided to fly to Eretz Yisrael to beg forgiveness in person.

Rachel later described how difficult it was for her to totally forgive her former classmate. They actually had to meet several times until Rachel was maavir al midoseha and was able to let go of all her negative feelings. Finally the two young women hugged and kissed each other. Before they parted, the friend said to Rachel, “I am anticipating that you get married this year. Please send me an invitation. I am going to come back and dance with you at your wedding”.

Later that year, baruch Hashem, Rachel did get married. However, her friend could not attend the wedding – for a very good reason because B’h she was in labor with her first baby!

The Gemara (Berachot 58a) says; “she’en daatam domeh zeh lazeh, ve’en 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 our feeling of kavod in check, so that we can stay far away from machloket. Also, when we have a difference of opinion with others — whether in our families or in our professions — may we try to step back and look at the situation from the other side’s perspective, so that we can find the most harmonious solution that satisfies all sides. Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack E Rahmey

Discussion Points:

· Do we have any disagreements with others or hurt feelings that we’re holding on to?

Leiluiy Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Sarah Bat Chanah Esther Bat Sarah

Shulamit Bat Helaina Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rafael Ben Miriam

Rav Haim Ben Rivka Moshe Ben Mazal

Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal

Chanah Bat Esthe Ovadia Ben Esther

Moshe Ben Garaz Rahamim Ben Mazal

Avraham Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal

Yaakov Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Kami

Meir Ben Latifa Moshe Ben Yael

Malka Bat Garaz Mordechai Ben Rachel

Yaakov Ben Leah Saadia Ben Miriam

Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal

Natan Ben Rachel

Margalit Bat Mazal

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