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Parshas Korach

Rabbi Pesach Siegel

Parshat Korach

Oct 21, 2009



The gemora in baba basra 74a relates how an arab took Rabba bar bar Chana to visit the location where the assemblage of korach were swallowed by the earth. He heard them saying "Moshe v'toraso emes v'hen badain" - Moshe and his Torah are true and "they" are liars. Why do they refer to themselves in the third person?

In perek 16 pasuk 15 Moshe Rabeinu entreats Hashem not to accept the mincha offering of the sinners. He stresses that in all his years of leadership he never caused them harm or took anything from them for his personal benefit. Had he indeed done so then it is evident from the passage that there was a chance that their korban might have been accepted. Wasn't he confident that all the decisions he handed down were Hashem's will. What room was there for his detractors being vindicated solely because he took a donkey from community funds for his use?

In general, it is difficult to understand how Korach, who was a gadol hador, sought to unseat Moshe Rabeinu. He was also successful in attracting 250 heads of Sanhedrin to his cause. These supporters were gedolai torah, whose loyalty to the torah was unwavering.

We find that Korach differed with Moshe Rabeinu on the very interpretation of the torah. He felt that a talis made completely of techeles should be potur from tzitzis. The same for a bayis filled with seforim in regards to mezuzah.

The torah is the prophecy of Moshe. Hashem reveals his word to his prophets. A correlation exists between the level of self negation that was attained by the prophet and the clarity of the message received. The person's "self" blocks out or distorts the prophecy.

It was because of the great dedication to the words of the torah that Korach fomented his rebellion against Moshe. He felt that had the Torah been revealed to him personally, then it would be revealed in it's true form. A talis shekulo techeles should be potur from tzitzis, etc. In his own mind it was a machlokes for the sake of heaven. That is why he was able to attract the great heads of the Sanhedrin.

He vindicated himself because he saw the wellspring of ruach hakodesh emanating from him. He saw his descendant Shmuel Hanavi and the 24 mishmoros of leviim who would number among his issue. This is evidence of the purity of his motives. He was convinced that he was defending the honor of the torah rather than attacking it.

What didn't he see? He didn't see well enough into himself. The greater a person is the greater his yetzer hora. The yetzer hora has the ability of distorting the sense of one's self. The Rambam in his sefer Moreh Nevuchim explains that from the time of the sin of Adam Harishon, when he internalized evil by ingesting from the eitz hodaas, man can never be sure of his own motives. He is fooled into thinking that the suggestions of the yetzer hora are those of his own.

The gemora in meseches nidda states that a malach teaches the unborn child the entire torah. He teaches him the torah in the manner that it was revealed to Moshe Rabeinu. At the moment of birth the child loses conscious contact with this torah but he regains his "lost object" later in life, and is reunited with Toras Moshe.

Moshe Rabeinu was "anav mikol adam" - modest of all men. He was the only one worthy of passing the torah on in a pristine, unadulterated manner. There existed no confusing veil between Moshe and Ha-shem. Had Korach delved into himself to the extent that was expected of him, he also would have been aware of this. He would have seen the Toras Moshe within his very own self. This is the torah with which Ha-shem created him and the whole universe.

Perhaps now we can understand why Moshe was so concerned about not being on the receiving end of any personal benefit from the bnei yisroel. Had he done so then the effect would have been his perception of the torah would be colored. To the extent that he is concerned with his own needs and uses his office over the bnei yisroel in the pursuit of those needs, he sacrifices his ability to see the word of Hashem.

It becomes clear why the assemblage of Korach was heard to say that Moshe and "his" torah are "emes" and "they" are liars. It would be incorrect to refer to themselves as liars in the first person. Their very own self is forged from Toras Moshe. It was the effect of the yetzer upon them which caused them to be untrue to themselves.

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