JUNE 16-17, 2007 30 SIVAN 5767
"Why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem?" (Bemidbar 16:3) This week's perashah tells us about the rebellion of Korah and his men against the authority of Moshe. Rabbi Y. Haber adds an interesting insight into this well-known story. In the secular culture, and among other religions, there are a few slogans related to the concept of hypocrisy, for example, "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." In the Gemara itself there is such a slogan which seems to have made it into the popular culture, "Do you condemn the tiny splinter in my eye; what about the gigantic piece of timber in your own eye?"
There is also a slightly different sentiment also found in the Gemara, "The flaw which you have, do not project onto someone else." The idea here is not just simply, "How dare you condemn me for such-and-such? You are just as bad, if not worse!" It is more. It is rather, the reason for finding fault with the other person was because of the speaker's defect in that area. It is here we should look for an explanation of Korah's behavior. Korah was looking for things to criticize about Moshe and Aharon. Most of us are quite skilled in finding fault with people. If you wanted to criticize Moshe in public, which defect would you try to bring up? That he was not a good speaker, perhaps, or that he didn't want the job in the first place. But one thing you could hardly condemn him for was pride or haughtiness or love of honor. The Torah says explicitly, "The man Moshe was very humble, more than any man on the face of the earth." And yet haughtiness is just what Korah condemned him and Aharon for! "Why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem?" How can we understand this? The point is that Korah was the most arrogant person around, and he tried to pin his own defect onto Moshe! Rashi quotes an even stronger statement in the Gemara, "He who condemns others condemns with his own flaw!" When someone has a defect and realizes that someone else does not, he feels uncomfortable. The only way he can come to terms with this is by accusing the other person of having the same defect. So it was with Korah. He was arrogant, so he assumed right away that it must be the same way with Moshe, which was nonsense.
What can we learn from this? When we find ourselves attacking someone and finding fault, it behooves us to step back for a moment and search ourselves. For apart from the sin of lashon hara, which is serious enough, perhaps we are merely holding up a mirror to our own weakness. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"It's enough for you, sons of Levi." (Bemidbar 16:7)
When Korah, Datan and Abiram came to Moshe and questioned his authority, they also expressed their wishes to become like the Kohanim, and serve G-d in a closer way. Moshe tried to diffuse the issue by saying that they already have a special status by being Leviim (Levites), so why ask for more? Ultimately, this became a major rebellion, and the only way it could be squashed is by an open miracle of the earth swallowing up Korah and his followers. This was Divine proof that Moshe was correct in his decision.
However, the Midrash tells us that forty years later, when Moshe begged and pleaded with Hashem to try to enter Israel, Hashem refused him with the same words that Moshe used to Korah, "Rab lach - It is enough for you," which is similar to "Rab lachem" Hashem was saying to him, "Moshe, it is enough for you to be the leader here. You don't have to go to Israel." The reason these same words were used was that Moshe was being shown that it is incorrect to tell someone not to strive for a greater position in spiritual matters. Although Korah used the wrong methods and ultimately paid with his life, he still wanted an opportunity to get closer to Hashem, and Moshe seemed to be telling him, "It's enough. You don't need more."
We learn from here an important lesson. If we see someone getting close to Hashem more than we are able to handle for ourselves, we should never hold him back. Sometimes we see people learning more Torah than we do, or praying Amidah for a longer time. Even if we cannot be like them, we should not discourage them. We should understand that everyone has to be comfortable on his own level and ideally, we should be happy that Hashem is being served in a better way. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Korah separated himself…with Datan and Abiram…with two hundred fifty men from the Children of Israel…they gathered together against Moshe and Aharon" (Bemidbar 16:1-3)
Pirkei Abot states that a controversy which is not for the sake of heaven will not have an everlasting result and cites the controversy of Korah and his followers. How is it evident that Korah's controversy was not for the sake of heaven?
Korah was upset that his cousin Elisafan was appointed in charge of the Kehatite family (3:30). According to his calculations, since his father was older than Elisafan's, the post belonged to him. He challenged Moshe about this and also questioned if a house filled with Sifrei Torah requires a mezuzah and whether a garment entirely of techelet will requires a single string of techelet in its sisit.
These questions were totally irrelevant to the issue at hand. They were derisive questions through which he intended to ridicule and embarrass Moshe in the eyes of the community.
When two parties enter into a debate and adhere to the issues, it is a dispute for the sake of heaven. When Shammai and Hillel, for instance, had a dispute over a halachic issue, they would only argue the issue at hand and not bring in irrelevant matters in the course of their debate.
However, when one digresses and introduces unrelated matters it is a sign of weakness and a smoke-screen meant to distract attention in lieu of admitting defeat. When this occurs it becomes apparent that the dispute is not l'shem Shamayim - for the sake of heaven. (Vedibarta Bam)
"And On ben Pelet, the offspring of Reuben" (Bemidbar 16:1)
According to the Gemara (Sanhedrin 110a) he was saved by his wife's sitting at the entrance to their tent with her hair uncovered. Why, to act immodestly, did the wife of On ben Pelet uncover her hair and not another part of her body?
When the Jewish people arrived at Sinai to receive the Torah, Hashem said to them, "You shall be to me a kingdom of Kohanim and a holy nation" (Shemot 19:6). At that interval, they reached a level where all the effects of Adam's transgression on the world were nullified, and Hashem was ready to elevate them to a spiritual height where each would be a Kohen Gadol. Had they not sinned afterwards with the golden calf, this would have remained in effect forever.
The Gemara (Erubin 100b) says, "Since a woman (Havah) caused Adam to sin, thus bringing death upon humanity, [married] women cover themselves like mourners (and are ashamed to go out with their hair uncovered)" - Rashi).
Korah argued that the entire people were holy: "We all heard Hashem's message at Sinai." Consequently, he demanded that they all be considered Kohanim and not just Aharon. Obviously, he maintained that the sin of Adam was forgiven or at least that the red heifer would rectify that sin, as Rashi (19:22) explains, "Let the mother come and clean up the dirt of her child." Hence, there was no longer any reason for women to be in mourning and cover their hair.
Therefore, to prove the hypocrisy of Korah, the wife of On ben Pelet specifically uncovered her hair. If Korah would avoid approaching her, it would prove that he considered it immodest since after worshipping the golden calf, the Jewish people reverted to their old status and were not in fact all a kingdom of Kohanim. In other words, Moshe was right. (Vedibarta Bam)
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