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Beit Midrash פרשת שבוע ותנ"ך קרח

The “firing” Of Korach

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Oy; it can be so hard dealing with family sometimes!!

The battle between Moshe & Korach over the leadership of Am Yisrael is all the more tragic because they are cousins. They should have been the first to band together, to share in the joy of being in the upper echelon of Jewish society & representing the community. Instead,
they are part of a divisive machloket that rocks the nation.

But there is something quite puzzling in this saga. Korach criticizes Moshe for taking too large a chunk of power for himself & his immediate family: "It’s too much for you!" he says. "All the nation is holy, Hashem is with all of us, so why do you exalt yourself over G-d’s congregation?!"

Moshe then replies to him quite sharply: "Isn’t it enough that you, Korach, a Levi, serve in the elite ranks of the nation? Yet you want to be Kohen Gadol, too?!"

Sounds like a valid enough argument, eh? But hold on a moment. Didn’t Moshe himself also want to be the Kohen Gadol?! In fact, he actually held that position for one week, during the inauguration of the Mishkan, & he was quite reluctant to give it up – even to his own older brother Aharon!

As evidence, if you look at the section in Parshat Tzav, where Moshe, serving as Kohen Gadol, is commanded to consecrate Aharon & sons to service in the Mishkan, you will "note" something very interesting. The pasuk places a shalshelet note there, one of the few times this trope-note appears in the entire Torah. The shalshelet, by it’s back & forth cantillation (it also is shaped in a zig-zag, for added emphasis), always indicates hesitation & pause. It is used, for example, by Yosef, when he debates whether or not to succumb to Mrs. Potiphar’s advances; by Lot’s family when they are reluctant to leave the sin-city of S’dom, etc.

Moshe, clearly, is extremely reluctant to pass on this plum position to Aharon. So why should he be so angry at Korach for expressing the very same emotion?!

The answer, of course, is the man’s motivation, the will behind the wavering. Moshe’s sole interest in the Kehuna was his desire to get closer to G-d - which could be accomplished by performing the Avoda & entering the Kodesh Kadashim - & further serving His people. As opposed to Korach, who just wanted more power & more fame.

In the end, the test chosen to settle the dispute was to take fire-pans filled with ketoret-incense, & see whose offering G-d would choose. Ultimately, Hashem cannot be fooled; He knows the all-important "why" behind the "what," & whether our passion is holy fire, or just plain burning greed.


More on this Topic Korach

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