Thursday, June 25, 2009

Korach: The Man Who Wanted it All

Korach: The Man Who Wanted it All
Tammuz 3, 5769/June 25, 2009
Korach had it all: He was fabulously wealthy, highly intelligent, he had been to the finest schools, he was impressively handsome, charismatic, a mesmerizing speaker and a mover of men. Korach was a scion of the tribe a Levi, counted amongst the distinguished leaders of the fabled Kohati clan, whose Levitical responsibilities included the most prized of tasks: the transport and placement of the Ark of the Covenant, the golden ark which contained the tablets of the law which Moses brought down from Sinai, in the Holy of Holies.

Korach had it all, but he wanted more. The Midrash teaches that it was his Lady Macbeth-like wife, driven by ambition, who egged him on to open rebellion. But he no doubt would have easily rebuffed her provocations had his own passions not already been enflamed. Korach wanted the one thing he didn't have - the priesthood. Not only was it the one thing he didn't have, but it was the one thing that Korach's wealth, intelligence, good looks and charisma could never obtain. For the priesthood was granted not to Korach, but to his cousin Aharon, and his descendants, by no less an authority than G-d Himself.

Therefore, Korach's rebellion wasn't merely against the authority of Moses, or against the privilege of Aharon. Korach's rebellion was against the G-d of Israel. As our sages point out, one cannot rebel against the authority of the G-d of Israel without ultimately denying creation itself. Little wonder, then, that Korach's punishment was nothing less than an aberration from our normal expectations of how the created world works, when the earth opened up and swallowed both Korach and his band of rebels, whole. Again, our sages have noted that the very "mouth of the earth" that swallowed Korach up was created especially for this one task, in the twilight hours of the sixth day of creation. Did Korach really think that he was something new, something special, unanticipated by G-d since the beginning of time?

Korach truly did lack something, but it wasn't the coveted priesthood. Korach lacked all the qualities that Moses and Aharon possessed: humility, deference to others, obedience to G-d. It was these qualities that enabled Moses to quickly counter the growing uprising, divide the rebels, and readily despatch of Korach himself. If Korach felt he could engage Moses in a battle of ego and prestige, enticing Moses into playing according to the rules which he, Korach, could best manipulate, he was dead wrong.

Korach, whose name has become a byword for squandered potential, nevertheless, provides for us an invaluable lesson as to what transpires when one allows for vanity to be his guide. But it is Moses, who once again, steers his people safely clear of the snares of demagoguery, and the base instincts to which silver-tongued divisive speech leads. Humble, soft-spoken, "heavy-tongued" Moses, the ultimate shepherd, sensitive and open to every individual appeal, (see Numbers 9:6, 27:1), knew a beast of prey when he saw one, and acted quickly to diffuse the danger. Many try to take the reins, but it is Moses who leads the children of Israel: "Happy is the people that is in such a case. Yea, happy is the people whose G-d is HaShem." (Psalms 144:15)

Tune in to the week's Temple Talk as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss Korach, a man destined for greatness, who could have been remembered as a righteous individual, but his vanity and his materialism got the best of him. Who was Korach and what was his real problem? Why did he attack Moshe and Aharon and make ridiculous, baseless claims against them? Also, the new month of Tammuz, what it has to do with Korach, and a Rosh Chodesh lesson from the great Rebbe Nachman for us all to take home and apply.

This week features the new Light to the Nations teaching by Rabbi Chaim Richman, entitled, "Holiness in this World: Maimonides’ Hilchot Beit HaBechirah - Laws of the Chosen House, chapter VII: The Holy of Holies, the holiest place on earth: What is holiness? How can we become holy? Can a place or time be imbued with sanctity? Torah teaches us an emphatic yes to all these questions. And the soul/time/space nexus where the holiest moment of the year, (Yom Kippur), and the holiest spot on earth , (the Holy of Holies), and the individual who represents the holiest possibility of man, (the Kohen Gadol – High Priest), meet and merge together is nothing less than the entire purpose of creation." Click here to view.

By now, many of you have seen our video "Jewish Response to the Obama Cairo Speech" in which Rabbi Chaim Richman spoke out against President Obama's embrace of the Moslem "narrative" concerning Israel and the many falsehoods and distortions he expressed throughout the speech. But now, for the first time, thanks to the initiative of Frank "Subtitleman" Hadzalic, we have the video subtitled for the hearing impaired. To view the video, please click here. (To view the original video, click here.)
(To view other videos subtitled by the "Subtitleman," please click here.)

In this age of instant access to endless information, we are tempted to try to know everything! Is curiosity necessarily a good thing, or is it sometimes, as our sages suggest, an offshoot of arrogance? True wisdom is in the acknowledgment that there are things that lie beyond our intellectual grasp. This wisdom is the portal to purity. Click here to view Rabbi Richman's short teaching on parashat Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1).

Blessings from Jerusalem,
Yitzchak Reuven
PO Box 31876
Jerusalem, Israel 97500

It appears Soetoro/Obama is "related" to Korach and hopefully soon will also "go down" in history.

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