And Moshe said to Korach, “Listen please, son of Levi! Is it a small
thing that the G-d of Israel distinguished you to sacrifice to Him and to
perform the work of the Temple of HASHEM, and to stand before the
congregation as their servant, and He brought you close and all your
brothers, the children of Levi and you also quest the Kehuna (priesthood)?
The evil inclination is likened to a fly… (Brochos 61A)
How could such a great man as Korach have fallen so far so quickly? He was
endowed with extraordinary wealth and charisma. How could have allowed
himself to be brought literally over the edge? Let us pause to appreciate
just how fatal a flaw can be.
I heard a marvelous parable from a close colleague and friend Rabbi
Zecharia Wallerstein shlita that goes something like this. A fellow living
comfortably in his beautiful home is approached by a stranger with a
bizarre request. He offers to buy the house for a million dollars, a fare
market price but the man refuses. He loves his house and has no intention
of selling. The stranger persists. I’ll rent a room from you for a $500,
000.00. The man begs off once again and denies his offer. The stranger
counters that all he wants is a bed, not even a whole room and for that
he’s willing to pay $250,000.00, but the homeowner insists more fervently
than ever that he doesn’t want the stranger living in his house under any
conditions. You might think that that would have been the end of the
conversation but the stranger makes a stranger than ever offer. All he
wants is a spot on the wall and for that he’ll pay $125,000.00. The man
could resist no longer. What would he lose by selling a spot on the wall?
The deal is done.
The next night at 2:00 AM there’s a thunderous knock on the door. The
stranger is there demanding to visit his spot. The owner is compelled to
let him in. The stranger begins to hammer a nail into his spot. The
homeowner protests at first but the stranger reminds him that the spot
belongs to him and he can do with it what he pleases. The next night at
3:00 AM there is another loud knock on the door. The stranger enters with
a large painting. He hangs an objectionable image on the nail. The owner
protests but the stranger convinces him that it his spot and he can do
with it what he pleases. Every night there’s another intrusion and the
terribleness of the pictures he hangs are increasingly distasteful. He
tries to force the stranger out of his house but the stranger has firmly
staked out his turf. The owner offers him a million dollars to exit but he
makes life so miserable that owner abandons his own home.
Rabbi Wallerstein explains that the negative inclination comes to us and
offers to take away our entire Yiddishkeit and we bravely refuse. The he
tries to separate a person from some major organ of his Torah life like
Shabbos or Kashrus and we are stalwart. Then the evil inclination angles
to enter our lives in some more subtle form and that we flatly reject.
Finally he seeks a spot the width of a wire on the wall, a seemingly
innocuous concession and before we know what has happened we are at risk
of forfeiting what was never negotiable.
The negative inclination is likened to a fly because it is persistent, and
no matter how many times it is chased away it returns. Its genius is in
finding that point of greatest vulnerability and deficiency. So it was
that an unchecked trait like jealousy was able to sink Korach’s ship and
that’s no small point!