Parashat Korach!

Dear Friends;

I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parasha summary followed by a Dvar Torah;

” Parsha in a Nutshell ”

Korach, Datan and Aviram, and 250 leaders of Israel rebel against the authority of Moshe and Aharon. The rebellion results in their being swallowed by the earth. Many resent their death and blame Moshe. G-d’s “anger” is manifest by a plague that besets the nation, and many thousands died. Moshe intercedes once again for the people. He instructs Aharon to atone for them and the plague stops. Then G-d commands that staffs of all the tribes, be placed in the Mishkan. In the morning the staff of Levi, bearing Aharon’s name, sprouts, buds, blossoms and yields ripe almonds which proves that Levi’s tribe is chosen for priesthood and verifies Aharon’s position as the High Priest.

The specific duties of the levi’im and kohanim are stated. The kohanim were not to be landowners, but were to receive their sustenance from the tithes and other mandated gifts brought by the people to the Mishkan.

” Dvar Torah ”

In this week’s parsha, we read about the disturbing story of Korach who rebelled against Moshe and Aaron and questioned their leadership. The Torah says that Korach along with Datan and Aviram gathered two hundred and fifty men, all of them leaders and men of renown, and they all came up to Moshe and Aaron with the following argument: ” It is too much for you! For the entire assembly, ALL of them are holy and Hashem is among them. Why do you elevate yourselves over the congregation of Hashem?”

Moshe responded to Korach by proposing a contest for the position of High Priest. He said to him: “You, your followers and Aaron, each shall bring an incense offering for Hashem tomorrow and the one whose offering is accepted by Hashem, he is the holy one.”

Moshe then tried to reason with them and told Korach that “you already have an important job of taking care of the Mishkan. Then why do you seek to get the priesthood and the leadership positions too?” Then he tried to talk sense into Datan and Aviram, but they won’t even come to sit at the table with Moshe. They didn’t want to work out their differences with Moshe. They just wanted Moshe to step down! They wanted a democratic election. They wanted Hashem to choose his leader from the candidates among each tribe.

Well, so far, in my opinion, their argument is not so much out of line. They wanted a confirmation from Hashem that Moshe and his brother Aaron are the true chosen leaders! But we suddenly see that Moshe is really upset and angry with Korach’s rebellious request. He tells Hashem: ” Do not turn to their offerings, for I have not even taken a single donkey of theirs, nor have I wronged even one of them.” And, eventually, he asks Hashem to kill them in such a supernatural way that no one has ever seen before. Soon after, the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and all their belongings, and they all descended alive to the pit. The earth covered them over and they were lost from the face of the earth forever.

The question that bothers the Chachamim is as follows. Why is Moshe so angry at Korach? Moshe has heard rebellious complaints from the people many times before, but he never reacted in this way. He always prayed to Hashem to forgive them for their sins, but this time he asked Hashem to not accept their offerings and eventually, he prayed for their destruction?! The Chachamim say that the severeness of a sin is measured by the method used to kill a convict when sentenced to death. So far, “stoning” was the worst method used in executing death penalties, but earth opening its mouth and swallowing the people alive, is by far the harshest method used! Accordingly, the Chachamim derive that Korach may have committed the worst sin of all times! So, what was the sin of Korach that both Hashem and Moshe couldn’t find it in their hearts to forgive? What did he do that was so wrong??

Well, a simple explanation is that Korach’s rebellious action was not against Moshe, but rather, it was against Hashem. He didn’t acknowledge Hashem’s decision in choosing Moshe and Aaron as the leaders, and that’s why Moshe was so upset. He wasn’t worried for his own honor, but he was worried that he may have disrespected the Almighty!

But Rabbi Frand has a different insight to this question which I found it to be more interesting. He says that the answer can be found in “one” word used in the first pasuk of this week’s parsha. It says “Korach son of Izhar, son of Kohath……. SEPARATED himself, with Datan and Aviram….. and stood before Moshe and Aaron!” Korach separated himself from the rest of the community; he created a division; he broke the chain of unity! And that was his biggest sin!!! Korach was not only held responsible for his own sin but for the affect it had on the nation. His rebellion divided the nation. He didn’t care what the rest of the community felt; he went after his own desires, disregarding the community’s interest. Moshe was not bothered by being challenged for the leadership position, but he was devastated to see Korach breaking the unity among his people. The Chachamim say that the sin of Korach was worse than the sin of the Golden Calf, since Hashem forgave the people accompanying the idolaters, but he didn’t forgive the people accompanying Korach; because the people at the time of Golden Calf were at least “united”.

Yes my friends, once again the Torah emphasizes the importance of unity. The foundation of Judaism is based on unity. Our only secret to survival is unity. Our strength and success is directly proportional to the level of our unity! There is nothing wrong to disagree with our leaders, but it should never create a division amongst the people. If there is a disagreement in the community for example, we should work it out together and have respect for each others view. We should each feel as a leader and look out for the interest of the whole community as a whole and not just ourselves. We should always have respect for our leaders and talk to them in a civilized manner and never humiliate them in public. Remember that we are all on the same team working towards the same goal. Nothing pleases Hashem more than to see his children getting along together. If only Korach would have approached Moshe in private and asked for a contest respectfully, then non of these would have happened. But unfortunately he did it in public, creating confusion and division amongst the people!

So my friends, remember that in a community we never use the words “You & Us”. It’s always US only!

Shabbat Shalom, Rosh Chodesh Tov & Regards;