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Posted on June 23, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

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 16:7)

you have taken too much upon yourselves, sons of Levi: – …What did Korah, who was astute, see [to commit] this folly? His vision deceived him. He saw [prophetically] a chain of great people descended from him: Samuel, who is equal to Moshe and Aaron… – Rashi

Welcome to the crime scene with yellow tape and lights flashing. What just happened here? What is the cause of the death of Korach and his congregation? It seems a toxic combination of hubris and being too smart. Rashi tells us he knew a little too much and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. This may help explain what the Talmud means when it says, “Chochom Adif M’Navi” – “A wise person is greater than a prophet!” Korach felt he would succeed because he saw a great person like Shmuel would descend from him and he did, but only because one son was saved from the pit of destruction. The Chidushei HaRim says that Korach was actually on the same level as Moshe but what he didn’t realize is that his spiritual level came from Moshe. He effectively cut off the branch that he was standing on, and from there he went all the way down.

How could such a person produce someone as great as Shmuel HaNavi and how could Shmuel be equal to Moshe and Aaron? No one was greater than Moshe and Aaron. The Talmud in Chulin engages in a great debate. Who was greater than whom? The measuring stick for greatness is much different than what we might imagine. Greater is that which is said about Moshe and Aaron than what is said about Avraham. Regarding Avraham it is written, “I am dust and ashes….” However, by Moshe and Aaron it is written, “What are we…? The world is only maintained because of Moshe and Aaron. It’s written here, “What are we…?” And it’s written there (Job 26:7), “The world is suspended on bli-mah – silence. (The world hangs in the merit of those who make themselves without- “what”-nothing) in the midst of a fight. (Chulin 89A)

Moshe and Aaron are crowned as being greater because they actually felt about themselves that they were MAH – nothing! It’s hard to beat that! However, there is a question here that is waiting to be asked. We recite during Kabbalah Shabbos every Friday Night a verse from Tehillim (99:6) and there is says, “Moshe and Aaron through his service and Shmuel with the calling of his name.” From these words the sages learn that Shmuel was equal to both Moshe and Aaron”.

How did Shmuel get into this contest? What was his claim to greatness by the standards of ultimate humility? When we take a closer look at the Book of Shmuel, in the very beginning, it describes Chana’s desperation for a child. She launched what I would like to call the irresistible prayer. She told HASHEM that she doesn’t want this child for herself, so she can bounce him on her knee and feel motherly but rather she wants a child for HASHEM’s sake. When she had a child and named him Shmuel there are two different reasons given for this name. One is that Shmuel is a contraction of SHMO, for HIS sake, he is dedicated for E-L! Also, Shmuel means, M’HASHEM Shoalti… from HASHEM I requested or borrowed him. In either case, Shmuel was designated and dedicated for serving HASHEM even prior to his conception. It was his mother’s pledge to commit him to Divine service that brought him into existence. This was not just lip service. She meant business and the biggest proof is that when he was just two years old, she made him a coat and shipped him off to the holiest man of the generation, Eli. She forfeited the cutest of years to make certain he would be completely subsumed by an environment of holiness. Now we can go back and revisit the verse in Tehillim. How did Moshe and Aaron become great? How were they able to whittle their egos down to almost nonexistence? Through His service! They nullified themselves by willful submission to HASHEM.

How is it that Shmuel was equal to Moshe and Aaron? With the calling of his name! He was nullified prior to conception! He was dedicated before his existence on this earth. Shmuel was born an already humble servant. So, Shmuel was like Korach minus hubris.