These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 466 – Tachanun: To Say Or Not To Say. Good Shabbos!
Korach Cashes In On The “It’s Not My Fault” Syndrome
There is an interesting Ramba”n at the beginning of this week’s parsha. The Ramba”n writes that Korach’s jealousy towards Elitzaphon ben Uziel’s appointment as prince of the Tribe of Levi, already existed at the time that the Children of Israel were in the Wilderness of Sinai. The Ramba”n is elaborating on Rashi’s comment that Korach’s complaint against Moshe Rabbeinu was due to the fact that Korach felt Moshe was guilty of nepotism for denying him his due honor. Moshe took for himself the role of leader, he assigned his brother the role of High Priest, and he made Elitzaphon — also a close relative — prince of the Tribe of Levi.
The Ramba”n notes, however, that the appointment of Elitzaphon occurred much earlier than Korach’s rebellion. Why did Korach suddenly ‘wake up’ now? The Ramba”n therefore comments that this plan had been percolating with Korach for a long time already. But as long as things were going well with the Jewish people, and Moshe’s popularity was high, Korach had to bide his time.
Up to this point, things were going well. Moshe Rabbeinu’s ratings in the polls were way up there! No one starts up with the President when he has an 85% approval rating. Even in the case of the sin of the Golden Calf, the number of people who died as a result of punishment therein was relatively small — in no small measure as a result of Moshe’s heroic plea to G-d for mercy in their defense. The Ramba”n suggests that had Korach tried to start a revolt against Moshe when his jealousy was first aroused, he would have been stoned by the people in outrage.
However, in the more recent narrative in the Torah, things have been going ‘down hill’ for the Jewish people. In Parshas Be’ha’aloscha, we read of the Complainers (mis-onenim) and the Graves of the Lustful (Kivros HaTavah). In Parshas Shlach, we read about the sin of the Spies and the decree that everyone would die in the dessert. In this case, Moshe did not pray on their behalf and was unable to nullify the decree.
This was a watershed event that marked the people’s disenchantment with Moshe Rabbeinu. “Moshe, what kind of leader are you? What have you done for us lately?” Korach saw that this was his moment. He was now ready to make his move and implement the plan that he had been waiting to unleash for all these many months of stifled jealousy.
Rav Yeruchem Levovitz (1874-1936) points out that this is human nature. The Jewish People were upset at Moshe Rabbeinu because G-d was punishing them and Moshe “didn’t do anything about it.” Wait a minute! Why blame Moshe? He only sent out the Spies because the people pressured him to send out spies. It wasn’t Moshe Rabbeinu who started complaining when the Spies gave their report; it was the Jewish People who were weeping for no reason. Who is really at fault here? Moshe Rabbeinu could certainly argue “It is not my fault! It is your fault!”
But the Jewish people are doing what we all do — transferring the blame to someone else. If this was true in Biblical times and it was true when the Ramban wrote about it in medieval times, and it was true when Rav Yeruchem pointed it out two generations ago — what should we say in modern day America where everybody and his uncle is a ‘victim’?
It is impossible to do anything wrong in America today. Everyone is a ‘victim’. My mother didn’t treat me right; my father didn’t treat me right; I was abused; my father was an alcoholic; I was raised in the streets. “It is not my fault” — for all the reasons in the world.
Nothing is “my” fault today. It is always “somebody else’s” fault. The refrain today is “mistakes were made”. Who made the mistakes? An anonymous person always makes the mistakes. Today, no one gets up and says, “I made a mistake. I blew it! It is my fault!”
The “Victim Syndrome” can be traced back to Biblical times — back to the days of Kayin and Hevel. Korach recognized it and he attempted to use the opportunity to cash in on it. This is why only now does he first begin to register his complaints against Moshe Rabbeinu.
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion (# 334). The corresponding halachic portion for this tape is: Leaving a Chasunah Before Benching. The complete list of halachic portions for this parsha from the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:
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Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Yissocher Frand and Torah.org.