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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Korach

in a League of Her Ohn

Rabbi Stewart WeissSivan 27 5780
10
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The man, seemingly, had it all: He was enormously rich (the Medrash ranks him with Haman as the 2 richest people who ever lived!); he had a prominent position as a Levi & was one of the carriers of the Aron Kodesh; he hobnobbed with cousins Moshe, Ahron & the elite. But that, apparently, was not enough for Korach; he had to question G-d's choice of Ahron as Kohen-Gadol-for life, verbally attack Moshe & try to bring the whole system down. Why did he risk it all to lead an-ill-fated rebellion??

The answer, of course, is power, absolute power! After achieving fame, wealth, position & influence, there is only one threshold left to conquer: the ability to make your own rules, to challenge all the norms, to flaunt the law shamelessly & to dare society to make you back down.

This, in a nutshell, is the backdrop that frames our Sedra. Korach - who was as slick as his name implies ("kerach" means "ice," and "karayach" means "bald!") - cleverly couched his insurrection in high-minded language and hyperbole. He made himself out to be a populist & an egalitarian who just believed that the "common folk" ought to share equally in the wealth. But his true and real goal was to seize control of the nation & put himself above the law – including G-d’s Law.

It didn’t take all that long for Korach's erstwhile allies to see through his facade & for dissension to set in. Pirkei Avot says "an example of a machloket that is not l’shaym shamayim is that of Korach & his entourage." But wait; shouldn’t the argument be described as being between Korach & Moshe? Well, that’s exactly the point: It soon became clear to the rebels that Korach never intended to create a "rainbow coalition" with his high-minded protest; he never planned to "split the loot."

One pretty sharp person who recognized the flim-flam man for what he was is Ohn’s wife! She took Ohn by the ear & told it like it was: "You better own up to the truth, Ohn," she reprimanded him. "You’re trapped in a no-win situation: If Korach's rebellion fails, you'll go down with him. But even if Korach prevails, he'll take all the glory and power for himself and give you nothing. So either way, you lose!" Ohn wisely swallowed his pride & left the rebel side, & so he was not among those swallowed up by the earth.

There are 2 primary lessons to be learned from the Korach caper: The first is to beware of slick snake-oil salesmen who claim to be out for your good only. The second - & most important lesson - is to always listen to your wife. As the smart shopper in the family, she usually knows who’s selling the goods - & who will sell you out.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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