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Posted on July 5, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

And Korach took… (Bamidbar 16:1)

What knocked Korach out of this world? He had so much working in his favor! He was very learned, and extremely wealthy, and as a Levi, he had a highly prestigious position amongst the Chosen People. Where could he have gone so wrong? Moshe spells out the answer in his response to Korach, “Rav L’chem Bnei Levi” – “You have plenty, son of Levi”. What is the meaning of Moshe’s lifesaving message?

The Mishne in Avos at the very end of Chapter 4 makes a declaration about the human condition that might just open the door to an obvious complaint. It states, “Against your will you are formed, and against your will you are born, and against your will you live, and against your will you die, and against your will you will give a detailed accounting before the King of kings, the Holy One Blessed is He!”

Now someone can easily say, “Hey! I never asked for this! Why should I have to give an accounting? If something was delivered to my house against my will, then why should I be made to pay for it? It’s not fair!

Most everyone, I would assume, has struggled with some version of this question at some time. I didn’t ask for this family, these siblings, or to be born. The Mishne spells out that all the stages of coming into existence and remaining alive are against our will. That itself prompts the complaint, “NO FAIR!”

The Dubner Maggid offers an amazing parable that helps explain the riddle of this Mishne. There was a couple that lived far away from city life. This was surely a match made in heaven. They had mutually complementary handicaps that made their relationship work. He was extremely ugly. She, however, was blind. She lived with total unawareness of his dreadful appearance. Now, he was also deaf, like a stone, and unable to hear the slightest sound. That was good because she was a shrill, and often could be heard making wild noises. He was completely oblivious to this. What a perfect match!

One day a doctor from the big city came to town and he took a look at this couple and having mercy upon them informed them that with the advance of modern medicine their individual maladies can be cured.

They checked into the hospital and now you can imagine the tender and magical moment when they removed the patches from her new eyes and they unplugged his newly functional ears. She got a look at him and gave a scream. She covered her eyes and he covered his ears. They went home to constant misery. It was seemingly a disaster!

Then they discover that they are being billed by the Doctor one hundred thousand dollars. They are outraged. This is an insult to injury. First, he ruins our life and then they charge us for it!? The only thing they can agree upon and collaborate together on is to go to the hospital and visit the doctor to register their common complaint and tell him, “We are not paying!” The doctor listens carefully and agrees that they do not have to pay, but only under one condition.

He pulled out two consent forms and asked each of them to sign and then, he will readmit them and reverse the procedures. The man begins to express how much he enjoys the sound of rain against the window and the children playing, and the men singing in Shul, and pleads, “Please don’t send me back into that world of silence! She also chimes in that when the sun comes into the window in the morning and everything is lit up, she excitedly studies the pageantry of colors of the flora and the fauna and the faces of little children and she pleads, “Please do not plunge me again into that world of darkness.” The doctor looked at both of them incredulously and said that I see that it did benefit you and so you must pay.

Explains the Dubner Maggid, yes everything about coming into being is against our person, but when it comes to dying a person puts up a fight, “against your will you die and that reveals, even if we have legitimate gripes, we benefited and therefore we must pay with gratitude and service to HASHEM and give an ultimate accounting.

Korach had one minor complaint! Why am I not the Kohain Gadol? Moshe told him, “Look at all that you have!” You should be so happy!” Korach took! When one refuses to acknowledge the endless debt of gratitude, he owes HASHEM for all the gift of life, then he may be plunged back into darkness, and pay the ultimate price.