Parshas Korach

The Medrash Tanchuma (Korach 5) asks “וקרח שפקח היה מה ראה לשטות זו – And Korach who was a very clever person, what is it that he saw which led him to this folly?” “עינו הטעתו – his eyes lead him to error, etc.” A man once came into the Skverer Rebbe z”l and asked him for a Bracha that his child become a gadol, a great person. The Rebbe later related that he had heard people asking for brachos to be “yirei shamayim” (a God-fearing person); but to be a great person, a big person, this is something that he had never heard of. Great and big are the opposite of humility, God-fearing equals humble. It was very strange to him. It seemed actually a somewhat conceited request.

The gemara (Tractate Bava Basra 116a) says “מי שיש לו מוחה בביתו ילך אצל חכם ויבקש עליו רחמים – someone who, Heaven Forbid, has a family member that is sick, should go to a wise person and have him pray for mercy.” The Ahavas Yisroel of Viznitz asked, “Why do you say to go to a wise person? Would it not be more of fitting to go to a Tzadik (a righteous person)?” He answers that indeed we are talking about a righteous person but what the gemara means to say is to go to a righteous person who is also wise and not just to go to any righteous person. A wise tzadik realizes that the person does not get healed because of his prayer, it is only because it is the will of Hashem. The tzadik is only a vehicle through which the salvation comes; the salvation itself is only from the Almighty Himself.

The Yad Ahron (Reb Ahron Leib of Nadvorna) explains the pasuk in Parshas Matos “ידבר משה אל ראשי המטות – Moshe spoke to the leaders of the tribes” as follows:

Rashi explains that the heads of the tribes are the nesiim. Why does the pasuk say “you fed to them as ראשי המטות (heads of the tribes)” and distinctly use the word “מטה” for tribe rather than just use the word “שבט” (the more common term) for tribe? He explains that the word “מטות” can also be used as staffs, sticks or a cane. The leaders of the nation of Israel have to look at themselves as if they were a cane. A cane is made from wood and then you put a silver handle on one side. The side that the silver handle is placed on is not at all better than the other side. It is just that one side by default needs to be the head and automatically the other side is now the foot of the cane. So too, by the leaders of Klal Yisroel there need to be leaders so Hashem gives some people the capacity to lead but they have to realize that it is not because they are more special then the regular Jew. (This lesson is for the leaders only. The common folk obviously have to respect the leaders.)

My ancestor, the Beis Ahron (Reb Ahron of Karlin), explained the verse in Tehilim (111:2) “גדולים מעשה ה׳ דרושים לכל חפציהם – great are the works of Hashem, available to all who desire them” as:

Gedolim (great Torah scholars) are the work of Hashem, he gave them the mental capabilities to become great Torah scholars, however the ability to desire Hashem is available to all no matter what ones is. He can always desire Hashem and become his servant.

With the explanation we brought earlier from the Yad Ahron we can explain the previous pasuk as follows. Gedolim – gedoley Yisroel, leaders of Klal Yisroel, who are chosen to lead, that is the work of Hashem. To seek and desire Hashem, however, that is for everyone. Becoming true leaders in Klal Yisroel is the work of Hashem, as such there is no reason to be jealous of the leaders

Now we return to our parsha. The leaders of Klal Yisroel are called “עיני העדה – eyes of the congregation” (bamidbar 15:24). Korach was a wise man. Wise here means, as we mentioned before in the name of the Ahavas Yisroel, that he was of the stature to realize that true leaders of the nation are chosen by Hashem. It is written in the singular (“led him astray”), he saw his greatness alluded to in the words “his eye.” This led him astray and he saw himself so great that he could not understand why anyone else was greater than him. He failed to recognize that great stature comes from Hashem.

The Medrash (also cited by Rashi) referring to the pasuk, “You shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart,” explains that “your heart should not be at odds with the “מקום” (literally, “The Place”) a term referring to Hashem. Reb Shlomo Karliner explained the Medrash as meaning that in every place or situation a person finds himself, he must serve Hashem in that very situation. There are some people that find themselves in a certain place and they struggle in their Avodas Hashem, blaming the place for their failures. “If we would be in a different place,” they say, “we would certainly serve Hashem.”

This is the lesson the Medrash is teaching, says Reb Shlomo Karliner, that it is forbidden to harbor such thoughts. “Your heart shall not be at odds with the מקום (with the place you are in right now), he explains. It is not the place that disrupts avodas Hashem, chas v’shalom, since everything comes from Hashem and it was His will that this person particularly should be in this place at this time. It is therefore obvious that Hashem knew that this place would not be a bother to this person’s avodas Hashem. The disturbance in avodas Hashem, therefore, must rather have been caused by the person himself. With the lesson we learned from Korach and this lesson taught by Reb Shlomo Karliner, we now understand that even someone’s social status is something that someone should not try to change. It is specifically his place in the world that Hashem chose for him and he should serve Hashem in that status. This was the mistake of Korach.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Sochet