Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Korach

Look Under the Surface

The story related in parshat Korach about the aborted rebellion against Moshe has great relevance in all generations and all societies. For it is not so much a story of an historical event that happened over three millennia ago as it is a story about human failings and personality faults. Korach is the paradigm for the ambitious, talented, self-confident and aggressive person who feels that the society does not appreciate his talents and abilities. He is slighted because his position in society, according to his own lights, is unworthy of his own true stature. Naturally, Korach cloaks his personal frustration in the mantle of lofty ideas and purposes. He becomes a populist, someone who is interested in bringing democracy to the people of Israel and freeing them from the autocratic rule of Moshe. As do all such ambitious, unscrupulous people, he gathers to himself all of the malcontents of the society, united only in their hatred and disrespect towards Moshe and his leadership. His slogan is “All the people are holy” but his real meaning is “How come I can’t be the High Priest?” The torah warns us that many times high- sounding principles proclaimed for the general good of society only mask personal ambitions and agendas. It is regarding this frequent occurrence in human affairs that Rabbi Yisrael Salanter coined the ironic phrase: “One’s actions on behalf of the sake of Heaven also must in themselves be for the sake of Heaven.”

Demagoguery and simplistic populism have always posed a problem in Jewish society Especially so, in a situation that cries out for solutions, with apparently none on the horizon. Korach is in essence a type of false messiah, someone who offers platitudes and panaceas to a generation that sees no bright future for itself. It is no mere coincidence that Korach appears on the scene and attempts his putsch against Moshe after Moshe has informed that generation of Jews that they are doomed to die in the desert and will not enter the Land of Israel. Seeing no way out of their problems, clutching at straws and illusions, there are many Jews of that generation who are willing to listen to and support Korach. Moshe offers them no easy solutions and does not raise their hopes and spirits. In such a situation, a charlatan such as Korach has a golden opportunity to ply his false wares.

Moshe’s reaction to the rebellion of Korach is to demand that an exemplary punishment be visited from Heaven upon the rebels. It is not a measure of revenge – certainly not personal revenge – that motivates Moshe in this request. Rather, it is the realization that this situation of Korach will recur often in the long story of Israel and mankind generally and therefore something dramatic must happen to remind later generations of the dangers of being misled by false prophets and scheming egotists. The final admission of the followers of Korach that ‘Moshe is true and his Torah is true” rings down through the ages as a vital lesson that reality and faith, logic and thought, will always trump demagoguery and unbridled egotism.

Shabat shalom.
Rabbi Berel Wein


Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Berel Wein and Torah.org


 






ARTICLES ON SHOFTIM AND ELUL / ROSH HASHANAH:

View Complete List

A Welcome Houseguest
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5759

Tuff Trust Tuff Love
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5765

Blueprint for Utopia
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5772

> Left and Right
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5756

Less is More
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5770

Starting From Scratch
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5764

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Open Your Eyes
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5763

Recognition of Good
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5760

A Time of Introspection
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5759

ArtScroll

To Crown a King
Shlomo Katz - 5767

Just Say "No"
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5757

Past, Present, and Future
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5763

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Judges, Kings, Workers & Scholars
Shlomo Katz - 5771

Enticement To Worship Avodah Zarah Is Worse Than The Act Itself
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5772

Conspiring Witnesses: The Conspiracy
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5767

A Wake Up Call
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5763



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information