Torah Weekly

For the week ending 5 July 2003 / 5 Tammuz 5763

Parshat Korach

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Korach, Datan and Aviram, and 250 leaders of Israel rebel against the authority of Moshe and Aharon. The rebellion results in their being swallowed by the earth. Many resent their death and blame Moshe. G-d's "anger" is manifest by a plague that besets the nation, and many thousands perish. Moshe intercedes once again for the people. He instructs Aharon to atone for them and the plague stops. Then G-d commands that staffs, each inscribed with the name of one of the tribes, be placed in the Mishkan. In the morning the staff of Levi, bearing Aharon's name, sprouts, buds, blossoms and yields ripe almonds. This provides Divine confirmation that Levi's Tribe is chosen for Priesthood and verifies Aharon's position as kohen gadol, High Priest. The specific duties of the levi'im and kohanim are stated. The kohanim were not to be landowners, but were to receive their sustenance from the tithes and other mandated gifts brought by the people. Also taught in this week's Parsha are laws of the first fruits, redemption of the firstborn, and other offerings.


And Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon em

"And Korach took" (16:1)

Greatness is not for the taking.

The Bard of Avon once wrote, "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon em."

I beg to differ. No one is born great. "Rabbeinu" was not Moshes surname. He wasnt born with that title. Moshe became the teacher of all Israel for all generations because he made himself the humblest of men. The saintly Chafetz Chaim started off life as little Yisrael Meir Kagen. Only a lifetime of toiling in Torah and good character traits made him into the Chafetz Chaim.

The only thing that makes you great is the hard work of improving your character.

And even then, you could be great without the world knowing about it. You cant "achieve greatness" greatness in the eyes of the world by your own efforts alone. That kind of greatness is bestowed from on high. If you try and grab greatness for yourself, as Korach did -"And Korach took" - the result will always be disaster.

For that kind of greatness has to be "thrust upon" you.

Service And Celebrity

"they are all holy" (16:3)

In a similar vein, Korach made a fundamental mistake about the nature of holiness. He claimed that "they are all holy" that the Jewish People have within them their own power to achieve holiness. This isnt true. Holiness, being close to G-d, is a gift from G-d. And it is only G-d who defines its parameters. Judaism is not a democracy. The Kohen is inherently holier that the Levi, who in turn is holier than the Yisrael. Thats the way G-d made the world.

The Kohen is the perfect receiver of holiness. Just as the ultimate CD machine reproduces every sound with the utmost fidelity, so too Aharon the Kohen relayed holiness with the utmost fidelity. Thats what the Torah means when it says that "Aharon didnt change."

So really, Korachs jealousy was totally misplaced. The essence of a kohen is to be quite literally a "nobody," to be no more than a vehicle for the transmission of holiness from Above. The more of a "somebody" one is, the less room there is to receive that holiness. Korach thought that to be a kohen was to be the ultimate "Somebody."

He mistook service for celebrity.

"And Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon em" - The Pshike Rav, (lhavdil) W. Shakespeare "Twelfth Night"
"Service And Celebrity" based on the Sefat Emet

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