Parshat ha Shavuah Verses – Korach / קֹרַח‎

This is a very hard Parshah. Honestly, aren’t most of them hard to digest? Here, we see that the fight for a better position, more privilege or higher standard of living is as old as time itself.

Korach, a man of distinguished lineage and great knowledge orchestrates a revolt against Moshe and Aaron.

When the text lists all the illustrious ancestry of Korach, it stops short of going down to Yaakov. Why? RASHI says that it is because Yaakov is beyond reproach and he even prayed to Gd to spare him this association.

 

א  וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח, בֶּן-יִצְהָר בֶּן-קְהָת בֶּן-לֵוִי; וְדָתָן וַאֲבִירָם בְּנֵי אֱלִיאָב, וְאוֹן בֶּן-פֶּלֶת–בְּנֵי רְאוּבֵן.

1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men;

ב  וַיָּקֻמוּ לִפְנֵי מֹשֶׁה, וַאֲנָשִׁים מִבְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתָיִם, נְשִׂיאֵי עֵדָה קְרִאֵי מוֹעֵד, אַנְשֵׁי-שֵׁם.

2 and they rose up in face of Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty men; they were princes of the congregation, the elect men of the assembly, men of renown;

ג  וַיִּקָּהֲלוּ עַל-מֹשֶׁה וְעַל-אַהֲרֹן, וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם רַב-לָכֶם–כִּי כָל-הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים, וּבְתוֹכָם יְהוָה; וּמַדּוּעַ תִּתְנַשְּׂאוּ, עַל-קְהַל יְהוָה.

3 and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them: ‘Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them; wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?’

ד  וַיִּשְׁמַע מֹשֶׁה, וַיִּפֹּל עַל-פָּנָיו.

4 And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face.

Why did Moshe fall on his face?

It says that he was (rightfully) afraid that Gd will no longer tolerate his pleading on behalf of the rebellious “stiff-necked” people. They have just witnessed so many miracles, yet there is always something that triggers their rebelliousness. How much longer can Gd tolerate this behaviour? Indeed, Gd is ready to finish this once and for all:

כ  וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר.

20 And the LORD spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying:

כא  הִבָּדְלוּ, מִתּוֹךְ הָעֵדָה הַזֹּאת; וַאֲכַלֶּה אֹתָם, כְּרָגַע.

21 ‘Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.’

כב  וַיִּפְּלוּ עַל-פְּנֵיהֶם, וַיֹּאמְרוּ, אֵל, אֱלֹהֵי הָרוּחֹת לְכָל-בָּשָׂר:  הָאִישׁ אֶחָד יֶחֱטָא, וְעַל כָּל-הָעֵדָה תִּקְצֹף.

22 And they fell upon their faces, and said: ‘O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt Thou be wroth with all the congregation?’

I am inserting the beautiful Torah from Dr. Ackerman here:

Korach is a trouble maker.  That’s why God warns the Israelites to stay away from him: “Separate yourself from the midst of this eidah, or community.”  (Num. 16:20) We know an eidah means at least ten people, because last week, the ten spies who badmouth Canaan are called an eidah ra-ah, an evil community (Num 14:27). So when God says, “I will be sanctified in the midst of the Israelites,” (Lev. 22:32), the rabbis connect these three verses to determine the Jewish practice of requiring a minyan, or prayer quorum of ten individuals to read Torah and recite prayers that sanctify God’s name, such as the barchu, k’dusha, and kaddish (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 23b).  Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook wonders, though: if prayer is a private matter between the individual and God, why do we need a minyan at all, and if we do, why does the ruling derive from two stories of rebellion-Korach and the spies?

Kook explains spiritual growth and sanctity require focusing on others, not on yourself (because that honors God, the creator).  That’s why prayers require a minyan; without a community of others to benefit, the individual can’t climb to any true spiritual heights.  Enter Korach and the spies.  In each case, they are punished not only for their behavior, but also for their negative influence on the community.  Accordingly, the righteous also are rewarded not only for their good actions, but for their positive influence on the community.

 

לב  וַתִּפְתַּח הָאָרֶץ אֶת-פִּיהָ, וַתִּבְלַע אֹתָם וְאֶת-בָּתֵּיהֶם, וְאֵת כָּל-הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר לְקֹרַח, וְאֵת כָּל-הָרְכוּשׁ.

32 And the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods.

לג  וַיֵּרְדוּ הֵם וְכָל-אֲשֶׁר לָהֶם, חַיִּים–שְׁאֹלָה; וַתְּכַס עֲלֵיהֶם הָאָרֶץ, וַיֹּאבְדוּ מִתּוֹךְ הַקָּהָל.

33 So they, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit; and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the assembly.

לד  וְכָל-יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבֹתֵיהֶם–נָסוּ לְקֹלָם:  כִּי אָמְרוּ, פֶּן-תִּבְלָעֵנוּ הָאָרֶץ.

34 And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them; for they said: ‘Lest the earth swallow us up.’

לה  וְאֵשׁ יָצְאָה, מֵאֵת יְהוָה; וַתֹּאכַל, אֵת הַחֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתַיִם אִישׁ, מַקְרִיבֵי, הַקְּטֹרֶת.

35 And fire came forth from the LORD, and devoured the two hundred and fifty men that offered the incense.

Talmud, Sanhedrin 110a:14

It was taught in a baraita: Korah was both among the burned and among the swallowed. He was among the swallowed, as it is written: “And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them with Korah” (Numbers 26:10). He was among the burned, as it is written: “And fire came forth from the Lord, and devoured the two hundred and fifty men that burned the incense” (Numbers 16:35), and Korah was with them. (Text taken from the great source – Sefaria)
I, for one, feel for Moshe here. It falls upon a leader to be responsible for the k’lal and a real leader feels that responsibility for every rise and every fall. The word “leadership” seems to be all over now. Everyone is a leader. Many of them seem to be more concerned with leading themselves. Only a selected few really care for every person they touch.
I just hope that we, as people, are worthy of the leaders we crave to have.
Shabbat Shalom!
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