Korach the son of Izhar, the son of Kohas, the son of Levi took [himself to one side] along with Dasan and Aviram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peled descendants of Reuven. They confronted Moshe together with two hundred and fifty men from the children of Israel, chieftains of the congregation, representatives of the assembly, men of repute. They assembled against Moshe and Aaron, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire congregation are all holy, and the Lord is in their midst. So why do you raise yourselves above HASHEM’s assembly?” Moshe heard and fell on his face. He spoke to Korach and to all his company, saying, “In the morning, HASHEM will make known who is His, and who is holy, and He will draw [them] near to Him, and the one He chooses, He will draw near to Him. Do this, Korach and his company: Take for yourselves censers. Place fire into them and put incense upon them before HASHEM tomorrow, and the man whom HASHEM chooses, he is the holy one; you have taken too much upon yourselves, sons of Levi.” (Bamidbar 13:1-7)
There is so much going on this dialogue between Korach and Moshe and then Moshe to Korach. Korach accuses Moshe of taking too much upon himself. Moshe’s reaction is to fall on his face. Why? Then Moshe volleys back to Korach, “You have taken too much upon yourselves, sons of Levi.” Each one, starting with Korach, believes the other has taken too much.
Who’s right? We know the answer, of course because we read further and saw what happens in the end. If we were bystanders at the time, we might have trouble discerning who is being genuinely genuine and who is being disingenuous.
Let us analyze the situation with a ubiquitous psychological phenomenon. It’s commonly called, “projection”. There is a subconscious tendency to hoist our own foibles and faults upon others and to assume that even our darkest motives must be theirs. Why and how this works is not our discussion here and now. That it exists and is pervasive is a reality that we must be on guard for. How might it apply here?
Korach assumes that Moshe must have some political motive for the appointments that he made. He is crowning himself as the leader because of his love for power and control and authority. He selects his brother because of nepotism. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. On a Machiavellian level it all make much sense.
However, we are talking about Moshe Rabbeinu, the most self-effacing and humble man on the face of the earth. He has done nothing on his own without consulting with the Creator first. He does what he is told and when he is told to do it. He has dedicated his life to serving the People of Israel and being dutifully loyal to whatever HASHEM commands him to do. There is no personal discretion in any of his appointments. He didn’t want this job in the first place and he is willing to surrender again and again.
So where did Korach get this big idea that Moshe is doing all this for himself and his family? The answer is as simple as a dimple. It is born in his own mind. He has political ambitions and an appetite for grander grandeur, so he projects his own subconscious motives onto Moshe and assumes that he too must have these same ulterior motives and is acting out of self-interest. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Moshe falls on his face because the accusation is so preposterous. Moshe realizes that Korach grossly misunderstands his true motives, so he points back to him, “you have taken too much upon yourselves, sons of Levi”. The problem is with you!
Admittedly it is hard for most of us to understand a level above our own and to appreciate that some people really are operating on a higher plane of existence. This is like the farmer who fed his horse a healthy bale of hay every day. One day the farmer failed to feed the horse and the horse was thinking to himself, “Hey, the farmer must have eaten my hay!” We know that the farmer is not interested in eating his hay, but hey that’s the way a horse thinks!
In business and in psychology it is important to know “who owns the problem?”. In this particular situation it is abundantly clear that it is Korach who is the one who owns the problem.