Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Korach
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Berel Wein

Sivan 5775
In last week’s parsha Rashi commented that when the Jewish people stated that they wanted to return to Egypt rather than proceeding to the Land of Israel they thereby intimated that they wanted to replace Moshe as their leader and crown a new king over them. In this week’s parsha that earlier murmur of dissatisfaction with Moshe and his leadership becomes a full-throated shout. Korach pounces on the opportunity to attempt to replace Moshe, who has been weakened by the debacle of the spies and the resultant decree of death on the Jewish people of that generation. Korach undoubtedly harbored such ambitions for himself and his family for a long period of time. He was disappointed and frustrated by not being appointed to the priesthood of Israel when Aharon and his sons were so chosen. He deemed himself to be the equal of Moshe and Aharon in every way and therefore waits for what he will deem to be the proper moment to assert his claim. In his mind, the proper moment is the one when Moshe appears to be most vulnerable. Moshe’s popularity with the people is at a low ebb after the disastrous occurrences that most recently occurred to the Jewish people in the desert of Sinai. Korach senses an opportunity to topple Moshe and has great ambitions for ,himself to be the replacement leader for the Jewish people. It could very well have been that if there had been an election to be held at that moment to choose the leader of the Jewish people, Moshe would be hard-pressed to win the favor of the majority of the voters. Yet, as the parsha makes abundantly clear, the Lord is not necessarily democratically inclined and strongly supports Moshe against His competitors and enemies.

One of the facets of human nature is that it always is looking for new leadership and new personalities to rule over them. To a great effect, the day after winning an election, the victor becomes a lame duck. While campaigning for office, promising everything to everybody and demanding a new vision and political and social change, the candidate is seen as being dynamic, charismatic and a person of vision. Since the nature of human beings is to be eternally dissatisfied, the present is never sufficient to make us happy. It is always the future and the promises made to us by others regarding that future that holds our interest and initially even our loyalty. Korach effectively capitalizes on this all too common human trait and therefore finds a ready ear amongst sections of the Jewish people in his attempt to discredit Moshe and Aharon and promotes himself to become the leader of the Jewish people. Moshe realizes the falseness of Korach’s claims and the hypocrisy of his superficial piety and apparent public interest. But Moshe is aware that no public debate with Korach and his supporters will sway them and prevent the open split in dispute within the Jewish people that they wish to promulgate. He therefore has no recourse but to leave the matter to the judgment of Heaven, no matter what consequences may follow. There are many lessons in this story for us as well, if we but look at us and our society and leadership honestly and ignore the often-false visions of change for the sake of change itself.
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