Gleaned from the Sfas Emes

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Parshas Korach

The Essence of a Leader

Korach is unsatisfied with his position given to him by Moshe. He is jealous of Aharon who was appointed Kohan Gadol, and leads a rebellion against the leadership of Moshe. Moshe tries to dissuade Korach and his followers...

"And Moshe said to Korach, 'Listen, children of Levi! Is it a small thing to you that the L-rd of Israel has elevated you from the Congregation of Israel, to bring you near Him...? (16:8,9)

‘And Aharon - what is he, that you complain against him?’" (16:11)

Though we translated "ha’m’at me'kam" as "Is it a small thing 'to’ you?" it means literally "Is it the small thing ‘from’ you?" What does this imply?

With the words, "Is it the small thing ‘from’ you?", Moshe Rabbenu is pinpointing the cause of the dispute. When a person identifies with the whole, there is no room for feelings (let alone, claims) of individual achievement. It is always the whole which has achieved. But Korach separated himself from Am Yisroel and did harbor feelings of individual achievement, which caused him to want more than he was given. Moshe Rabbenu asks, "Is it the small thing from you (i.e., the small achievements which you claim are from you, alone) "that caused G-d to elevate you, from the Congregation?"

Moshe then explains why Aharon was given his office: "What is he?" Aharon had no individual aspirations. In stark contrast to Korach's splitting away, Aharon was so much a part of Am Yisroel that it was as if he, as an individual, didn't exist

Those who would merit to serve their fellow Jews must follow in the ways of Aharon. To be faithful to their mission, they must be free of personal aspirations. Their essence must reflect that of Klal Yisroel as a whole. Korach's misplaced ambition was a sure sign that, in his case, this was not so. (Sfas Emes, Korach 5640)


“Gleaned From the Sfas Emes” - excerpts adapted from a soon to published book, G-d Willing, by Simcha Leib Grossbard.Rabbi Grossbard is author of “The Sfas Emes Haggadah” (Targum Press) and “Kasheleg Yalbinu”, a two volume (Hebrew) work based on Sfas Emes.


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