Honoring and Respecting the Rabbis – Short Insight on Parshat Korach 5775 2015

The Torah testifies that Moshe was a most pious man. וְהָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה עָנָיו מְאֹד מִכֹּל הָאָדָם, “And the man Moshe was exceedingly humble more than any person…” (Num. 12,3) Yet Korach and his followers attacked Moshe claiming that he took too much power for himself. Their punishment for this disrespect and for doubting Moshe that Hashem had appointed him for this position was that the earth opened up and swallowed him and all the people with him.

In relating this episode in the Portion of Pinchas the Torah says: וּבְנֵי קֹרַח לֹא מֵתוּ, “But the sons of Korach did not die.” (Num. 26,11) This implies that the children of Korach and the spirit of Korach did not perish. In all times there are people who find fault in leaders and criticize unjustly.

Many Rabbis in their congregations have to deal with this unjustified opposition. There are always people who for selfish reasons or to show they are more powerful than the Rabbi, begin with their criticism and before long they get friends and other followers to join them and too often the Rabbi has to be dismissed. We must be ever mindful of how serious an offense this is by recognizing the punishment netted out to Korach and his followers.

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Dvar Torah on Parshat Korach 5774 2014 | What’s Your Motive?

Korach rebelled against Moshe’s leadership arguing that Moshe and Aharon had taken upon themselves the leadership when: כָל הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים
“…for the entire assembly -all of them- are holy…why do you exalt yourselves…”. (Num. 16,3) Moshe’s answer to Korach was: הַמְעַט מִכֶּם כִּי הִבְדִּיל אֱלֹקֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶתְכֶם, “Is it not enough for you that G-d of Israel has segregated you…to perform the service of the Mishkan…?” (Num. 16,9)

What was Moshe’s argument against Korach? Korach wanted Moshe or Aharon’s position. What effect does Moshe’s argument have that Korach is a Levite and isn’t that enough for him? Obviously Korach thought it was not enough.

A great Rabbi once gave a clever answer to this question. Korach posed his opposition against Moshe saying that everyone is holy and why was Moshe taking a special position above everyone. Moshe’s answer was if everyone is holy, as you claim, why didn’t you complain when you were made a Levite above others and given special holy functions in the Mishkan? Since you accepted that position without considering others, you are only interested in glorifying yourself.

Before seeking a special position one should take an honest look at himself and try to determine his real motive. Is it to perform the task that is needed to be done or is it just to satisfy his own selfish interests?

Dvar Torah Parshat Korach 5773 2013

The Torah states: וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח, “Korach…took”. (Num. 16,1) The Torah does not say what Korach took. Rashi says: לקח את עצמו, “He took himself…”. Rabbi Simcha Bunim expounds on this Rashi and says that Korach, indeed, was a bright man. He did have leadership qualities. His problem was that he did not wait until it was his time. He tried to usurp the power before he was asked.

In life, this happens too often. People try to assume power without being appointed. They may have leadership ability but leadership is not something that one takes upon himself. That is the act of dictators. Leaders have to be appointed or selected by the people.

There are times when no one wants to assume the authority to take care of a task that has to be done. In such a case it is desirable to volunteer. Yet, even in these circumstances one should not merely assume, since no one else stepped forward to undertake task that he could automatically step in without being officially accepted. Even in such cases he should volunteer but not merely assume the position.

People who take upon themselves responsibilities are not always appreciated by others.

Dvar Torah Parshat Korach 5772 2012

In order to prove to Bnei Yisrael that it was Hashem who selected Aaron to be the כהן גדול, Moshe was instructed by Hashem to tell the leader of every tribe to have the staff that has his name engraved on it placed in the Tent of Meeting in the משכן. The staff of the one Hashem had picked to be the כהן גדול will blossom.

Moshe followed the instructions given to him and the next morning the staff of Aharon blossomed and the others did not, proving that Aharon had, indeed, been selected by Hashem.

The Torah says: וַיִּרְאוּ וַיִּקְחוּ אִישׁ מַטֵּהוּ, “…they saw and they took each man his staff.” (Num. 17,24) We can understand that each one took his staff. Why does the Torah have to tell us this? The answer is that each one took his staff and showed the people that it had not blossomed.

The Torah honors them for revealing to all that they had not been chosen. They did not try to hide the results in shame but demonstrated for everyone to see the results of the test. An honest leader must reveal all to his constituents and not try to conceal the facts. The Torah recognized the heads of the tribes as true leaders who accepted the verdict they were given by Hashem.

Dvar Torah Parshat Korach 5771 2011

Korach and his followers rebelled against Moshe. We know what Korach wanted. He wanted Moshe’s position of leadership. What did Datan and Aviram and the other followers want? From the answers they gave Moshe when he asked to talk to them we may find a clue.

When Moshe summoned them to come to him, their answer was: LO NA’ALEH, “…we will not go up.” “Isn’t it enough that you took us out of a land flowing with milk and honey”, LAHAMITENU BAMIDBAR, “to cause us to die in the Wilderness?” They also added: HA’ENEY HA’ANASHIM HAHEM TENAKER, LO NA’ALEH “…if you gouge out the eyes of those men we will not go up.” (Num. 16,12-14)

What did they mean by saying they will not go up? What men were they talking about when they speak of gouging out eyes?

If you put all of the statements together it seems to be comprehensible. This Portion follows the week before which told us about the spies who went to see the Land of Israel and came back with a discouraging and depressing report. It was then decreed by Hashem that this generation would not enter Israel but would die in the Wilderness.

This seems to be what Datan and Aviram and the others were complaining about against Moshe. “You took us out of a good land and now we will perish in the Wilderness.” “We refuse to ‘go up’ to that land because of what we heard about it.” “Are you going to gouge out the eyes of the people who reported about what they saw and try to change the facts?” This was their protest against Moshe and in effect, it blinded them and disorientated their judgment.

Dvar Torah Parshat Korach 5770 2010

Korach was proclaiming a principle that we often hear in our times – everyone is equal, KI CHOL HA’EDAH KULAM KEDOSHIM, “…for the entire assembly – all of them – are holy…”. (Num. 16,3) In fact the United States Declaration of Independence claims that “all men are created equal”. What was wrong with his contention?

His error was in one word which he added to his argument – holy. Yes, everyone is created equal but that refers to rights and freedom and liberties. It does not refer to holiness. Holiness is something that a person must acquire through his own efforts. We are taught that we are all born with a pure soul. What we do with it during our lifetime makes us different.

Holiness is something a person must strive to attain. One must make a genuine effort to live a holy life. It is not a gift. It is an achievement. Korach thought because he was born a Levite he was entitles to the same benefits of holiness as Moshe. He was incapable of distinguishing between himself and the greatness and holiness of a man like Moshe.

In life we are not entitled to everything on a silver platter. There are certain things we must earn.