Parshat Korach

The name of this week’s Torah portion is Korach. Korach is the name of the great and holy man who created a rebellion against Moshe. I am sure you are wondering about my choice of words in describing Korach as a great and holy man. After all, when the Mishna in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 5, Mishna 17) seeks an example of a dispute that is not for the sake of heaven, Korach and his gang are the perfect specimens. Additionally, he is the only person ever in history to die of a punishment created by Hashem specifically for him.  If he actually was such a great and holy person, how could he have created a rebellion against Moshe Rabbeinu? Moshe represents the very authenticity of the Torah, since it was through Moshe that Hashem gave the Torah to the Jewish People.

The reality is, a lesser person would not have been able to raise even the slightest doubt about Moshe’s integrity. But, coming from Korach, someone in the same league as Moshe, he was able gain a substantial following, including of some of the most prestigious people in the nation.

Korach was a hundred and thirty years old, (almost 50 years older than Moshe and Aharon) someone who had “divine spirit” (he could see the future) and was one of the four people who carried the Holy ark. The Holy ark contained in it the tablets of the Ten Commandments, and a small Sefer Torah on a small shelf inside.

If Korach was suitable to carry the Aron Hakodesh (Holy Ark) that means he was one of the four holiest people in the nation. When a person who was not on a level to carry it would as much as touch it, he would die on the spot.

This actually happened to Uza the son of Avinadav who was escorting the Aron Kodesh as it was being carried on a wagon from his father’s house. The wagon hit a bump and Uza thought the Aron Kodesh was going to fall off the wagon, so he held on to it to stabilize it. Unfortunately, he died on the spot.

We see from this how great and holy a person Korach, who was one of the designated carriers of the Ark must have been. As you would well expect, he had the respect and awe of the people.

This greatness played a very important role in the rebellion Korach created. His rebellion centered around the fact that Moshe had chosen Aharon his older brother to be the High Priest. He claimed that Moshe chose him out of nepotism, and that God did not tell Moshe to choose him. Korach felt he had very strong evidence for such an accusation.

What prompted this challenge was the undeniable “mistake” Moshe made by picking  Elitzafan to be the leader for the family of Kehat which Korach was from. You see, Kehat, Korach’s grandfather had four sons. The eldest was Amram, the father of Moshe, Aharon and Miriam. Yitzhar, the next eldest, was Korach’s father. Then came Chevron, and Uziel, in that order.

Originally, Korach had no problem with Moshe choosing Aharon as the Cohain Gadol. It made perfect sense to him since Amram, their father, was the oldest son of Kehat. Therefore, the first two positions of leadership should rightfully go to them. But as the eldest son, of the next in line, Yitzhar, the next position should go to him. Especially since he was so eminently qualified for a position of leadership due to his stature as a bearer of the Holy Ark.

But instead of choosing Korach, Moshe chose Elitzafan, the middle son of Uziel the youngest son of Kehat.

Korach thought this could not possibly be from Hashem; Hashem knows how holy and close to Him I am! Moshe must have something against me and therefore has overlooked me for someone much inferior to me. Elitzafan doesn’t come to my toenails! If he would even touch the Holy Ark, he would die on the spot! This must be a Moshe’s own doings! So, if he wasn’t following Hashem about this, he probably wasn’t following Hashem about Aharon either. He is just choosing whoever he wants for whatever position. I am going to expose him.

When Korach presented his argument to people, no one could refute him. His position was rock solid. Or so it seems, save for a little unknown fact that the Zohar reveals to us.

There was a very good reason why Hashem passed over Korach from being the leader of the family of Kehat. The Zohar tells us, that he was destined for a position much greater than that. He was earmarked for the position of the High Levy. That’s right, the High Levy. Just as there is a Cohen Gadol, a High Priest, so too there was to be a position of the High Levy who would have special holiness and responsibilities. This is truly a job befitting a holy person such as Korach. But, apparently, he had a test to pass before he would be granted that great position. What was that?

Instead of judging Moshe unfavorably, and creating a public dispute with him by accusing him of not receive the instructions from Hashem, Korach should have sought out a peaceful way to resolve his question.  He should have given Moshe the benefit of the doubt and gone and asked him.
“Moshe, I don’t get it! I am one of the carriers of the Holy Ark. How is it that I was passed over and not chosen to become the leader of the Kehat family?”

Moshe would have responded, as he did a few times earlier, “I really don’t know! To be honest, it was quite a surprise to me as well. But you know what? I will ask Hashem what the reason was.”

The response would have come back, “Yes, Moshe, Korach is correct! He is too great for the position of leader of the family of Kehat. He is the only person worthy of a new position of greatness, the position of The High Levy!”

Korach was so close to everything he wanted so much. He would have been able to serve in the Holy Temple in a position of leadership equal to that of Aharon whose position he coveted. If he had been one who sought to shun arguments and confrontations, and had sought a peaceful avenue through which to achieve his goals, how much different would his life have been?

And what a tremendous lesson this would have been for all of us! Instead of Korach going down in history for all eternity, as the example of an argument not for the sake of heaven, he would have gone down in history as the very first Levy Hagadol of equal status to Aharon.

The reason that position never materialized the Zohar says, was because only Korach was great enough to become the very first Levy Hagadol. When he failed his test, there was no person great enough to fill it.

Had those who joined him, instead of choosing to create strife and ill will, had told Korach, “Can’t we solve this issue peacefully, instead of tearing down Moshe and everything he stands for?” Let’s figure out a peaceful way to go about this. What an example it would have set for future generations in how to deal with a rebel and arguments.

This is the lesson for us as well. We need to give the other person the benefit of the doubt and to seek a peaceful path to resolve issues. Especially when speaking about someone close to us such as a spouse or a close friend who has done something that we feel slighted from. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that they have something against us, ask them what they were thinking. We may be very surprised by their answer.

In dealing with Korach we see that Moshe acted completely out of character. Instead of asking Hashem to save Korach and his group, Moshe actually asked Hashem to create a new punishment never seen before.

As it says (16/28-30) And Moshe said:

“By this you shall know that Hashem has sent me to do these deeds and that I have not done them of my own mind. If these men will die as all men die, and if a fate like that of all men will be visited upon them, then Hashem has not sent me. But if Hashem will create an entirely new thing, and the earth will open up its mouth and swallow them up with all that is theirs, so that they go down into the grave alive, then you will know that it is these people who have scorned Hashem.”

Upon the conclusion of Moshe’s words, that is exactly what happened.
Why did Moshe react in this way here and nowhere else?

The answer is, that the integrity of the authenticity of the Torah was at stake here. If the authority of Moshe was questioned while he was alive, by one of the most important people of the generation, and it was not proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that the rebel was wrong, how could future generations be expected to accept the complete authority of Moshe as the giver of the Torah? This insurgent needed to be exposed as a complete trouble maker without a shred of evidence to stand on.

This is why there had to be a new creation to punish Korach and his followers. Hashem Himself, needed to show His complete support for Moshe to guarantee the unquestionable position of Moshe as the person who Hashem chose to give the Torah to the Jewish people. And that everything Moshe did was done exactly as Hashem had commanded him, without exception.

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