parasha

Korach 5778

The Long Road to The Destination – Parashat Korach
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the rebellion led by Korach, one of the respected members of the tribe of Levi, against Moses and Aaron. This rebellion, led under the guise of ideology, was quickly revealed to be motivated by the desire for power and rule. It ended when a miracle occurred in front of the entire nation: the earth opened up and swallowed the leaders of the rebellion.
People did not bring about this horrific end. God did, because the rebellion was not against one man or another but was actually against God’s determination regarding the nation’s leadership on its way to the Land of Israel. The appointment of Moses as leader was not made by man, and certainly not by Moses himself. Likewise, the appointment of Aaron to the priesthood. The leaders of the rebellion were fully aware of this. Their intent was to break free of Moses’ leadership while breaking free of God’s purpose – having them enter the Land of Israel where they would establish a Jewish state built on values of morality and Torah.

How do we know this? Korach, a veteran politician, used ideological terminology. But two other Jews stood alongside him in leading the rebellion: Datan and Aviram. They did not try to hide their agenda and spoke to Moses shamelessly: “Is it not enough that you have brought us out of a land flowing with milk. You have not even brought us to a land flowing with milk and honey, nor have you given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards…” (Numbers 16, 13-14). Notice the use made by Datan and Aviram of the phrase “land flowing with milk” – the term God uses to describe the Promised Land of Israel. But Datan and Aviram use it to describe Egypt! Yes, the land where the Children of Israel were humiliated slaves and from which God liberated them, now became, in the words of the rebels, the land for which they yearned.
Thus, Datan and Aviram revealed their motivation openly. Though Korach, who was shrewd, used basic claims to get the rebellion going, his goal was the same.
But Korach erred even in his basic claim. When he and his supporters approached Moses and Aaron, they claimed the following, "You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire congregation are all holy…So why do you raise yourselves above the Lord's assembly?" (Ibid, Ibid 3). These words sound positive, but they contain a basic error. At the end of the previous portion which we read last Shabbat, similar words were written but were said by God. To understand Korach’s mistake, we must discern the differences between the two statements. God’s words are, “So that you shall remember and perform all My commandments and you shall be holy to your God” (Ibid, 15, 40).
The difference between “are all holy” and “you shall be holy” is conveyed by the question: Have we reached our destination? Korach claimed that the Jewish nation had already reached its intended destination and thus “the entire congregation are all holy”, but God reveals to us that we are still in the process of reaching this destination and therefore must make the effort to become holy.
The difference between someone who is consciously striving to reach a destination and someone who is convinced he has already attained his goal is very significant. The consciousness of the road carries an obligation that motivates the person to make an effort to reach his destination; the consciousness of having attained one’s goal causes a person to rest on his laurels and allow himself to degenerate morally.
Moses teaches us that on Mount Sinai, we didn’t get an automatic “promotion”, but a mission to be accomplished, a destination to strive for. But Korach tries to convince us that the destination has already been reached and that we have time to deal in politics…
The Jewish nation has been walking a long road, for thousands of years. The road has been tortuous and intricate, but our forefathers walked it with devotion and left us a heritage and a command to continue on it. A famous slogan says, “The eternal nation does not fear a long road.” Indeed, we must be proud of the many generations who walked this road courageously. At the same time, we must remember that we have not yet reached our destination. The command “and you shall be holy” still echoes and obligates us to strive to accomplish the mission that every Jew shares - to continue courageously walking the road our forefathers walked, with the hope that the goal of being a holy nation can be achieved.

All Torah weekly sections

אתרי הכותל

במתחם הכותל המערבי מספר אתרי תיירות ייחודים, אשר מעניקים מבט מיוחד על תולדותיה של ירושלים ועל ההיסטוריה של העם היהודי לדורותיו.
הצטרפו לרבבות שכבר ביקרו באתרי הכותל ותיהנו מחוויה מעצימה שלא תישכח במהרה.

All western wall sites