D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


“Korach the son of Yitshar, son of Kehath, son of Levi, separated himself, with Dathan and Aviram, sons of Eliav, and Oen, son of Peles, the descendants of Reuven. They stood before Moshe with 250 men from the Children of Israel, leaders of the assembly, those summoned for meeting, men of importance. They gathered together against Moshe and against Ahron and said to them, “It is too much for you. For the entire assembly are holy and G-d is among them; why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of G-d?”

Korach was a very learned man with tremendous leadership qualities. He had a seemingly serious issue to debate with Moshe: why did Moshe and Ahron assume themselves as leaders of the Jewish people, weren’t all the Children of Israel holy? Korach’s complaint is one of the oldest complaints known to man. Why can’t all people be equal?

Why was Korach punished so severely by G-d? (He and his followers were swallowed up by the earth). 

Korach made two mistakes in his quest for leadership. The first one was one of human nature. As communism has so aptly proved, human nature does not allow for all people to have equal skills or leadership.

His second mistake, however, was much graver.

Regardless  of how Korach felt, the bottom line was that G-d had specifically chosen Moshe and Ahron to be the leaders of the Jewish people. Korach had seen and experienced enough to understand that everything G-d does is for the good of the Jewish people. Unfortunately, there is a misconception in enlightened society that everybody must be equal in actions. In reality the Jewish people were equal in importance in the eyes of G-d. Man or woman, Kohen or Israelite. The Jewish nation works on a role playing basis. What is more important in a symphony: a cello or a viola? Both play their role;  thus they are equal in importance, but not in action (or in this case, in sound).

In his quest for power Korach fell prey to a concept of Judaism the way he wanted it, not the way G-d wants it. This is the essence of pluralistic Judaism: projecting contemporary social mores onto the Torah. By doing so, Korach became the first pluralistic Rabbi in Jewish history.

By virtue of our history with G-d we have a relationship with Him. Though at certain times it might feel as if we are “behind the times”, we have confidence that the Torah G-d gave us is for all time.

History has proven that Jewish movements which have not accepted the principles behind the written and oral law* as given by G-d at Sinai, no longer exist (examples are the Sadducees, Essenes, Karites and hundreds of other groups which have sprouted throughout the years).

All Jews have inside themselves a tremendous potential to change the world for the better by keeping the Torah. To throw away this potential, as Korach did, is a tragedy.

May we merit to live up to our potential as Jews.

*The oral law is the explanation behind the written law.


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