Korach and company are gone but the Jews are complaining again (for Korach and Chukat)

The challenge to Moshe's authority is settled, so why are the Jews complaining again and what is really bothering them?

Torah MiTzion ,

Torah Mitzion Beit Midrash
Torah Mitzion Beit Midrash
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Dedicated in memory of Yaakov Aharonov z"l

Korach and Company

By Hanoch Shalev, former Shaliach in Melbourne (2003 - 2004)

Korach and Company. What a plot. Our parasha is every bit the drama, mystery and action you could hope for. Family disputes, jealousy, a rebellion, climax and paranormal phenomena and justice. This portion of the parasha is so well read and familiar that It is for this reason that it is so difficult to clear the theatrical magnificent mist to figure out the deep roots of the dispute and sin.

Fortunately, the Midrash Rabah has efficient methods of mist clearing to delve deeper in. The Midrash often finds a reference in the current story that resonates with some story in the other side of the Tanach. In our case, the Midrash on Parashat Korach finds two references and transfers us from the desert surrounding in the era of the nation’s birth to the Israeli scenery of Emek Ha’Ela, on the verge of the birth of a new kingdom. from Moshe to Shmuel.

The first wormhole is the search of the Midrash for some kind of twisted logic in Korach’s actions. It quotes the pasuk in Tehilim 99:

"מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן בְּכֹהֲנָיו וּשְׁמוּאֵל בְּקוֹרְאֵי שְׁמוֹ".

Korach recognizes a deep future potential in him that is comparable to Moshe and Aharon. He assumes this emanates directly from him and he argues for his birthright (vice versa).

With the prospect of Shmuel in mind, the midrash carves away a second gateway between the two eras. It finds a similarity between the rude and arrogant behavior of Datan and Aviram and that of non-other than Goliath himself. Both go out of there way to stand against the Kedusha to deny any authority of Hashem or his messengers.

Korach and Datan and Aviram join forces to object to Moshe and Aharon’s authority but the Midrash wants us to acknowledge the this alliance is superficial. They are not like-minded and are not driven from the same agenda. This is our first fruit beyond the mist. Our first lesson of what is this sinful dispute all about. It is about negative alliances that hold no inherent harmony except for a common enemy.

Still, the Midrash does not suffice with that. Taking us to the Goliath story in the book of Shmuel, only emphasizes an apparent absence. In the whole story of Goliath, the Prophet Shmuel is not mentioned. He, who did not hesitate to behead The king of Amalek, Agag, does not aid at the battle of Emek Ha’Ela. This is mysterious and catches our attention.

I wonder whether Shmuel hears the words of Goliath the Defiler and is immediately reminded of Datan and Aviram. He remembers the outcomes of his forefather’s association with this kind of situation. Buy why is he worried? What else does he see in this Goliath situation?

I’d like to suggest that Shmuel identifies Israel is encountering the combination of the three desert sins; The Golden Calf, The Meraglim and Korach and Co.


Goliath’s words hint towards the latter, Datan and Aviram’s undermining of the authority of Hashem’s chosen leaders.

Goliath performs this ritual of mocking and challenging the Israelites for 40 days. He demands a man come down from the mountain to the valley to combat him. Last time no man descended from a mountain for 40 days…. A Golden Calf was created. The Israelites are losing hope for a leader and savior, and might eventually seek an alternative.

Goliath, the giant, and the Israelites terrible fear are a fullfilment of the Meraglims’ slander/prophecy of the giants awaiting the Israelites in the promised land.

Thus it seems that in the lowest part of Emek Ha’Ela – the Israelites are themselves at their lowest of all three sins.

Shmuel knows this. He is keeping back to set the stage for his new disciple – David of Bet Lehem and the rising of the king. David does not fight metal with metal but rather uses his Emuna and devotion to Hashem and the belief in the Israelites.
"... וְיֵדְעוּ, כָּל-הָאָרֶץ, כִּי יֵשׁ אֱלֹקים, לְיִשְׂרָאֵל
וְיֵדְעוּ כָּל-הַקָּהָל הַזֶּה, כִּי-לֹא בְּחֶרֶב וּבַחֲנִית יְהוֹשִׁיעַ ה':
כִּי ל-ה' הַמִּלְחָמָה, וְנָתַן אֶתְכֶם בְּיָדֵנו".

David, the Mashiach (anointed), emphasized that today all will know there is a G-d for the Israelites to counter the sin of the Golden Calf. The smooth rocks will counter the fear of giants, just as Caleb prophesied. And through himself – he counters the defilement of Goliath, Datan and Aviram – There is a chosen one and Hashem has chosen his nation and anointed a savior for them.

Korach’s sons were saved from the disaster of the wrath. We find them comprising poets in Psalms. Rashi on Psalms 42, a song of Korach’s Sons, describes how they were saved. At first they were partners with their father’s plan, but regretted and turned back at the last second. Rashi describes how the earth swallowed all their surrounding, except the ground where they stood. And at that point they sang songs of praise for Hashem. In that moment they saw in a vision the Exiles, the Destruction of the Temples and The Kingdom of David.

Korach saw just as far as Shmuel.
His sons saw past that and through that.
They saw a chosen leader, repented and survived.

comments: hanochsh@hotmail.com

Chukat - Complaining again: Hearing what people really mean

By Liat Jackman Former Shlicha (Montreal, 2003-05)

Forty years have passed. We arrive at the desert of Zin, Miriam dies. But what is the first thing that happens? We run out of water, complain about water, and about leaving Egypt. Has nothing changed? Have 38 years not left their mark?

Although on the surface the complaint seems the same, if we look carefully it is different. They are not complaining that they will die, as in Shemot, rather that they would die here. They say “If only we had died with the death of our brothers before the Lord” (Bamidbar 20:3). According to the Ibn Ezra, with the generation of the desert. In verse 5 they complain that they were brought out of Egypt “to bring us to this evil place; it is not a place for seeds, or for fig trees, grapevines, or pomegranate trees”.

It seems that although they are complaining about water, they are worried they will die here instead of being able to go to Eretz Israel. In parashat Shelah when the spies are sent to the land, these fruits are also mentioned; they bring back figs, grapes and pomegranates. So here they are complaining that here is not Eretz Israel. In Shemot there was no sense of destination.

The Netsiv, Rav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (1816–1893) in his commentary on the Torah, Haemek Davar, points out that we are now in a very different situation. For 40 years they walked in this big desert without complaining, they understood they hadnt reached their goal yet. Now suddenly they complain? Yes they don’t have water – but they have been getting all they need, so why expect it to change?

He explains that in this last year G-d is gradually changing His conduct with the people. Until this year G-d provided constant miracles for daily survival. As they are transitioning into being in Eretz Israel, living a more natural life with indirect Divine Providence, there is a gradual shift to a more natural existence. Like a toddler being weaned who is fed little by little until he can eat fully on his own, so too Hashem gradually allowed us to live more naturally. When Israel saw that there was no water, they understood that it wasn’t a punishment, but to get them used to a different existence. So why complain? Because they tried to find water naturally but couldn’t! So how are they supposed to survive?

As a result, according to the Netsiv, the response to their complaint needed to be different from 40 years earlier. Moshe should take the staff, as there will be a miracle, but to talk rather then hit the rock, because He wanted Moshe to teach them what to do in times of need. How does a Jew respond to lack of water now? They come together, learn, do teshuva and pray to G-d to give them rain. So Moshe should say some Torah to all assembled and pray to G-d. After Moshe would do this, the water would come. As a result, when the people come to the land, they will know how to live without constant miracles.

Things did not happen this way. But there is a lot we can learn here. Firstly to remember how to ask Hashem for help. Secondly, listen more carefully. To be open to hear changes, even if something sounds the same. We often hear our children and think “oh, I’ve heard this before”. Really? To try to adjust, move on, hear exactly what this specific generation is saying. This is not a simple task! We might not succeed. But we can certainly try to respond differently and allow new things to happen.

In memory of my father, Moshe ben Yehuda Aryeh z”l whose first yahrtzeit will be this Shabbat, Parshat Chukat.



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