<i>Korach</I>: For the Love of <i>Hashem</i>

The Great Defender suddenly turns on Korach and his cohorts with a vengeance, demanding that Hashem dispose of them in a spectacular manner, in a way that no one will ever forget. Was Moshe fed up with attacks on his leadership? Was he sick of spies, cynics and seditionists? What made him go ballistic?

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Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
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All of us have our breaking point. There comes a time when our patience and even-temperedness run out, when our "top just has to pop," and we let loose.

Is this what happens to Moshe in our Sedra? The Great Defender suddenly turns on Korach and his cohorts with a vengeance, demanding that Hashem dispose of them in a spectacular manner, in a way that no one will ever forget. Was Moshe fed up with attacks on his leadership? Was he sick of spies, cynics and seditionists? What made him go ballistic?

I suggest that Moshe was true to his usual form and not acting out of character. He was mad, yes, but it was not strictly personal. Moshe knew that Korach was, at the end of the day, attacking Hashem by questioning G-d's prerogative to call the shots, to assign the roles of king, Kohen and ketoret-bringer as He saw fit. Korach sought to bring down the whole Divinely-installed system.

Of course, that's not how Korach packaged his rebellion. The man was slick; the man was smooth (I suggest that's why his name, Korach, is related to the Hebrew words kerach and keyrayach, - "ice" and "bald" - both of which have smooth, slick surfaces). Korach presents very compelling arguments. He says to cousin Moshe: "You have told us that the spies sinned by resisting G-d's directive to leave the super-charged spirituality of the desert and enter the ?real world?, where we will set up a normative lifestyle of commerce, government and society. Alright, we accept that. But let us at least have a democracy! We have a multitude of qualified, righteous citizens - let us elect them to leadership posts. Why should a ruling ?clique? hold power for life? Why not let the people decide?"

Korach was a persuasive orator, and his ideological arguments sounded right and just to many of the people. After all, who can be against democracy, equality and fair play?

But Moshe sees through it and reacts strenuously. He knows Korach is no civil libertarian; he's just another power-hungry egomaniac, couching his greed in yet another high-minded "ism." Moshe knows Hashem is Korach's real target. Today, Korach is questioning G-d's choice of leader; tomorrow, he will demand a vote to declare Tuesday Shabbat, or a referendum affirming that keeping "7 out of 10" Commandments is more than sufficient. That's why Moshe lets Korach have it with both barrels.

For our own kavod, we may be meek as mice. But for the glory of G-d, we should roar like a lion.
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Rabbi Weiss is Director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra?anana.


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