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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Korach

Parashat Korach

Spiritually Fulfilled

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In the course of Datan and Avirams' dispute with Moshe, they challenge him saying: "Is it a small thing that you have brought us out of a land that flows with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you also make yourself a prince over us?" (Numbers 16:13). Egypt becomes the land of milk and honey, and Moshe is held responsible for the nation’s not entering the Promised Land.

Commenting on this verse, Rabbi Ovadia Seforno (Italy, 1475-1550) writes that according to Datan and Aviram, Moshe's teaching of the laws pertaining to the Land while the people were still in the desert, was itself a mockery. Moshe acted as if they had already entered the Land even though they had not. It was for this reason that they so emphatically stated that Moshe had not fulfilled his mission.

Seforno may have been triggered by the reference to Egypt as the land of milk and honey. To Datan and Aviram, the purpose of the nation’s Aliyah is material enhancement. If the people escape bondage and reach a land flowing with milk and honey, the mission is successful. If the people’s physical well being does not improve, then Egypt becomes the land of milk and honey and the mission is deemed a failure. If material enhancement is the key, then any talk of future mitzvot related to the Land of Israel, while still in the desert, is out of place.

According to the Torah, however, the purpose of the nation’s Aliyah is spiritual enhancement. The study of the mitzvot is therefore relevant at all times: in the desert no less than after entering the Land. Milk and honey, rather than being the objective of Aliyah, are the just reward for a people spiritually fulfilled.

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