Korach: An Audacious Complaint

Galut Jerusalems and the forgotten Land of Israel.

Aloh Naaleh,

Arutz 7
Perhaps the most audacious complaint made by Korach's cohorts is made by Datan and Aviram, who say, "Is it not enough that you have brought us up from a land flowing with milk and honey [Egypt!] to cause us to die in the Wilderness...." However, its audacity is matched by its familiarity.

We're reminded of Lot's choosing the land of Sodom over the land of Canaan and, by extension, the immorality of Sodom over the wholesomeness and kedusha of Avraham's household. In Ruth, Elimelech turns his back on famine-struck Eretz Yisrael to move his family to the unethical prosperity of Moav. And, throughout our history, how often have Jews lauded their Galut "Jerusalems" and forgotten the Land of Israel?
At the end of our parsha we find the appropriate rejoinder to the complaint.

The Midrash Shocher Tov suggests that the real targets of the audacious complaint were the mitzvoth hatluyot ba'aretz. All the mitzvot of peah, leket and shichecha, of trumot and maasrot, and of shemittah, can be viewed as unbearable and unnecessary burdens on one's life. In that case, life outside of Eretz Yisrael, with its fewer demands, can seem preferable.

However, at the end of our parsha we find the appropriate rejoinder to the complaint. Wherever we speak of trumot and maasrot, we use the verb harama, "to bring up" or "elevate". Through the mitzvot connected to our agricultural produce, we elevate our material lives along with our spiritual lives. This opportunity only exists in Eretz Yisrael.

Finding ourselves within a shemittah year, many will agree that, despite some of the initial inconveniences, shemittah affords us an opportunity to look at the fruits of our land through a different lens. We recognize the special qualities, physical and spiritual, of the agricultural products of Eretz Yisrael and realize that each Jew's greatest potential for spiritual growth in all aspects of life can be realized only in Israel. Nowhere else. Nekuda.
Chaya Passow teaches English at an Israeli high school. She also teaches at Midreshet Rachel V'Chaya and is presently a fellow in the Halacha Program of Beit Morasha in Jerusalem.

The foregoing article was distributed by the Aloh Naaleh organization.