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Korach 5770

Rabbi Siegel

Parshat Korach

Jun 11, 2010

 "They (Korach and his assembly) gathered together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them It is much for you! For the entire assembly, all of them, are holy and Hashem is among them, so why do you exalt yourselves over the Congregation of Hashem?" (1)


It is difficult to understand that having been present by the receiving of the Torah we find the rebellion of Korach against Moshe and Korach's subsequent
demise. Korach is called a pike’ach (one whose eyes are open). He possessed Ruach HaKodesh. (2) He witnessed Hashem giving the Torah to the Bnei Yisroel through Moshe. How did he allow himself to rebel against Moshe?

After numerous attempts to convince Korach and his men to retreat and put an end to their path of self-destruction, Moshe finally agreed to prove he was just in his divinely commanded choices. Moshe told Korach and his men that "If Hashem will create a new creation and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them and all that is theirs.......then you shall know that these men have provoked Hashem!" (3) Why did Moshe stipulate that Hashem create something like never before to strengthen his credibility? Hashem could have wrought any miracle but Moshe foretold something never seen upon this earth.

It is interesting to note that when Moshe was beseeching Hashem to refuse the korban (incense offering) of Korach and his men, Moshe told Hashem that he had "... not taken a donkey of anyone of them." Rashi explains that Moshe was alluding to the time that he had journeyed from Midyan ( where he encountered the burning bush) to Egypt to redeem Klal Yisroel. Moshe's claim to Hashem
was that he was not reimbursed for the use of his own donkey in his travels and therefore Hashem should not accept the offering of Korach and his men. (4)

Why is Moshe using the use of his own donkey as an incentive to rectify Korach and his followers?

The Medrash Tanchuma tells us that Korach professed deep shame at being forced to shave the hair of his entire body. (5) This was the rite of passage for the entry of the Levi’im into their service. In what way is this connected to his stated goal, to depose Moshe as a ruler?


Deeper Understanding/Backround

The first posuk in Parshas Koach mentions Korach's ancestry and stops at Korach's great grandfather, Levi. Rashi points out that the Torah specifically left out Yaakov's name (Korachs great-great granfather) becuase Ya'akov davened to Hashem that his name not be mentioned with this act of heresy to avoid degrading his name.

The Kli Yakar offers another explanation for the exclusion of Ya'akovs name. As we know, Ya'akov and Esav were polar opposites. In order to ensure the success of the Bnei Yisroel, Ya'akov was destined to acquire Esav's B'chor rights and did so for a bowl of lentil soup. Furthermore, Ya'akov masqueraded as Esav and duped his father Yitzhak into giving him the blessing of the first born.  At face value, Ya'akov seems to be setting the precedent for Korach's rebellion against Moshe. Just as Ya'akov took the honor of Esav, Korach was trying to usurp power from Moshe. This, as the Kli Yakar explains, is the reason why
Yaakov was so adamant about having his name excluded from his descendant Korach. Ya'akov felt that had his name been written, that would have legitimized Korach's actions Chas V'shalom!

Dating back to the period when Kayin and Hevel lived (Adam’s children), we find a tremendous disparity between their spiritual connections to Hashem. Hevel had a direct connection to Hashem as can be proven from the fact that his sacrifice was accepted by Hashem. On the other hand, Kayin's connection to Hashem was to be through his brother Hevel and therefore he was dependent on him. Hashem’s blessing reaches the world through the service of Hevel. Hevel was source of Mashpia (positive influence) unto Kayin whereby Kayin was the Mekabel (receiver) of everything that Hevel had passed over to him.  The role of Kayin is therefore a secondary one. It is for this reason that he did away with his brother Hevel.


This scenario repeated itself in the times of the children of Yaakov Avenu. Yosef HaTzadik saw himself as the source of sustenance of his brothers. In his dream, the very constellations bowed down to him. And his brothers marked him for death. (6)


Rav Chaim of Volozhen in his sefer Ruach Chaim (on Pirkei Avos) elaborates on this theme.  Rav Chaim points out that in the first mishna of Pirkei Avos, there is a switch in verbiage from recipient to donor.  "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and passed it on to Yehoshua..." Rav Chaim explains that everything in creation falls into at least one of the two categories if not both: those who give and those who receive (Mashpia and Mekabel). 


Moshe Rabeinu is said to be the ultimate Mashpia to everything that exists in this world.  Moshe is the conduit through which Bnei Yisroel are connceted to Hashem and thus kept alive. Our bodies are only in existence because of our Neshamos (souls) and our individual Neshamos are only sustained through the Neshama of all of Klal Yisroel which is a single unit.  This Neshama remained in Shamayim until the time of Yaakov Avenu and his sons, the twelve Tzadikim. When Moshe Rabeinu was born, it was this Neshama that was joined with his body. His Neshama is the Neshama of all of Klal Yisroel and this is why it is said that he sustains all of Klal Yisroel.


With this in mind, we now have insight into Moshe's words that he did not even take one donkey.  Moshe was reiterating the point that he was the Mashpia unto Bnei Yisroel and not the Mekabel.  Consequently, he had not taken even a donkey as compensation for his travels because his purpose in life was to give to Bnei Yisroel and not take back. 

Yaakov paralleled Moshe's position of being Mashpia. Through Yaakov's acquisition of Esav’s rights of the firstborn, he was mesaken (repaired) the world by setting the foundation for all of Bnei Yisroel. The taking of the rights of the first-born was a correction of an injustice. Esav had no right to be the one with a direct connection to Hashem. It is Yaakov that the Torah calls “Ish Tam” (the blemish-free man). Esav, like Kayin was an “Ish Sadeh” (a man of the field). He was meant to be the mekabel of the overflowing blessing brought to the world by the service of Yaakov. This is the opposite of what Korach sought to bring about.


Korach saw he was destined to be on the receiving end, unlike his ancestor Yaakov.  He understood that before the Bnei Ysroel received the Torah, Bnei Yisroel needed Moshe to attain the status to merit the Torah.  Moshe Rabeinu was the very life force of their souls. They could not directly access HaKadosh Boruch Hu. Once Bnei Yisroel recived the Torah, Moshe had elevated all of Bnei Yisroel to his level. When Korach and his followers told Moshe "The entire assembly all of them are holy" they were asserting that now that all of Bnei Yisroel were on the same spiritual level as Moshe. Why then was Moshe still held on a higher ranking than everyone else. As a result, Korach rebelled against Moshe because he felt that Moshe was no longer needed as the Mashpia for Klal Yisroel’s Neshamos. 



The Ari z”l reveals that the soul of Korach was the gilgul (reincarnation) of Kayin, and Moshe’s was the gilgul of Hevel. Korach came to the world to correct the flaw of his anscestor, Kayin. Kayin opposed Hevel at the wrong time. In the time of Kayin and Hevel the Torah had yet to be given on this earth, and Hashem would only spread his life-granting blessing to the world through the Neshoma of Hevel. So Kayin was mistaken in opposing and murdering Hevel. Korach would bring the Bnei Yisroel to a direct connection with Hashem in the proper time, after the giving of the Torah. So thought Korach. But he was wrong.


Korach was right, but at the wrong time. The only time that Moshe will no longer be our Mashpia and we will connect directly to Hashem is in the times of Olam Haba (The last letters of the phrase “Tzadik katamar yifrach” spell out the name of Korach).  Until then, we still suffer from the imperfections of the body, and we do not possess the ability to approach Hashem directly.


Korach was trying to reinvent world order by trying to switch Moshe from the position of being the one connecting Bnei Yisroel to Hashem.  Therefore, Moshe told Bnei Yisroel that a new creation will be created to punish those who rebelled against him.  Korach was punished by Hashem with he principle of measure for measure (Midah K'neged Midah).  Just like Korach was trying to recreate world order by compromising Moshe's spiritual ranking, so too he was punished by a new creation (i.e. the world swallowed him up). (6)


Hair, in men, is concentrated in three areas, the head, at the root of the arms, where they attach to the body, and the reproductive organs. Hair represents internalism spreading outwards, away from its source. Basically the principle of being mashpia. It is to be found mainly in men, who are considered the mashpia in the relationship between zachar and nekeiva, and in the areas of the body that represent flowing outward. In the place of the mind and speech, at the root of human acts, and the source of reproduction. (7)


The Levi’im were shaved. They were to be the recipients of the blessing brought to the Beis HaMikdash by the service of the Kohanim. Therefore, in their inauguration rite, they were shorn of their hair. It was this that Korach objected to. Korach’s very name had the same letters as “Kerayach” – hairless, bald. In his very essence lay the potential of being a great recipient of the life force received from Moshe Rabeinu. He failed his test.


Moshe is not with us physically so we therefore are required to learn from Rebbeim whose Rebbeim learned from their rebbeim all the way  back to Moshe Rabeinu.  Chas V'shalom should someone not have a Rebbe, then one is merely repeating the mistake of Korach in trying to connect to Hashem without a Rebbe.


Good Shabbos!


(1) Perek 16, Posuk 3

(2) Perek 16, Posuk 7 – Rashi

(3) Perek 16, Posuk 30

(4) Perek 16, Posuk 15 – Rashi

(5) Parshas Beha’aloscha, Perek 8, Posuk 7

(6) Nesivos Shalom

(7) Rav Moshe Shapiro

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