Torah Weekly

For the week ending 19 June 2004 / 30 Sivan 5764

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.


The Gift of Wisdom

"And Korach took" (16:1)

Wisdom is a gift of G-d. No less than physical beauty, it is a gift. And it is a gift that we can forfeit if we dont deserve it.

What causes a person to lose his wisdom?

In this weeks Torah portion we witness the demise of a great, wealthy and wise man, because of two reasons: lust for status and envy of others.

Korach was of noble birth, the descendent of Kehat, the "first family" of the Leviim. He was a first cousin to Moshe and Aharon. He had been chosen as one of the carriers of the Holy Ark, an extremely prestigious position. He was extremely intelligent and learned, and he had a measure of prophecy to see that amongst his descendents would be the prophet Shmuel. He was very wealthy, having discovered a part of the treasure that Yosef had sequestered in Pharaohs royal coffers.

Yet all of this did not help him one iota when his desire for glory and envy was kindled by seeing those whom he considered his equals outrank him.

Korachs envy burned in his heart for a long time. He would frequently mull over his "grievances" with his wife, who was presumably a match for his position in the Jewish People.

Once aconversation took place after he returned home from the purification ceremony of the Leviim. Part of the process of purification involved removing all hair. When Korachs wife saw him devoid of his hair, his beard, and even his eyebrows, she said, "I hardly recognize you. Who disfigured you like this? "Moshe did this to me," replied Korach. "Not only this, but first Moshe and Aharon lifted me up and waved me up and down. I felt such disgrace. Then Moshe pronounced me pure because I underwent the purification process of the Leviim."

Interestingly we see from these remarks a demonstration that the Torah can be either the elixir of life or a deadly poison. Korach mocked the purification ceremony because, rather than making him feel more pure, it intensified his desire to rebel and blaspheme against the commandments.

Korachs wife said, "You see how much Moshe hates you. He invented this whole idea of shaving just to make you look ridiculous." Even Korach balked at that claim. "You cant say that," he said, "because Moshe did the same thing afterwards to his own sons." With the impeccable logic of hate, Korachs wife replied, "What does he care, as long as he can degrade you?"

Wisdom is a gift of G-d. It can be given and it can be taken away.

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