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Parshas Korach - Will the True Leader Stand Up       4 Tammuz 5783

06/23/2023 09:05:30 AM


I have a hunch that everybody who listens and learns the Parsha week in and week out has grown to have chosen a parsha favored above all the others. There is no question that every boy and girl who had an opportunity to learn and perform for their bar/bat mitzva love and cherish their special, personal parsha! I can personally attest to the fact that no matter how many years it has been (at least 46) since my bar mitzva, Parshas Korach is definitely my favorite. There are six parshios in the Torah that are named for people (can you name them?). As a kid I didn’t appreciate my parsha as it is named after someone who is not looked upon well in the eyes of Hashem. Nevertheless, as we mature, we begin to learn with a different perspective. We appreciate every angle of the parsha, not only its name but all the other components of the parsha which together help us to weave the lessons to be digested.. 

God created a world replete with opposites; when something is wrong something else is right. When something is high, there are other things that counter it that are low. Somethings are heavy while others are light. There will always be a set amount of money that exists in the world, and it moves (zuz) around from one place to another, some have more while others have less, and it never stays the same. In fact, when it comes to an illness for which there is  no cure, the rabbis teach us that the cure is already in the world just waiting to be discovered. In layman’s terms, this is the concept Hashem creates - the refuah is there even before the makka; God creates the cure even before the illness. There are many more examples of this concept. To highlight one more, we find that where there is a villain there is a hero. There are situations at the outset where we cannot determine if someone is evil, acting in a wicked fashion. It is only as the individual’s actions grow clearer that we are able to  see the truth and the person’s true sense, true intentions, are revealed. At times it is difficult to see the difference, but eventually the evil just pours out.  Well, according to my theory, there needs to be a hero. Even when it comes to the good guy, heroism isn’t necessarily detected immediately, growing more and more visible only after analyzing and then seeing the situation from beginning to end. Suspicions regarding the honesty and integrity that we questioned at first now become d more obvious, slowly determining that the individual is truly innocent. Our focus then is guided by the person’s righteousness, no longer believing him/her to be evil, but actually understanding that this individual is  truly good, honest, and sincere. This is the exact scenario we find in my Bar Mitzva portion, Korach.

In this week’s Parshas Korach we find all the criteria for what a leader is truly all about.  The Torah states in Bamidbar 16:4 "וישמע משה ויפל על פניו"  “And when Moshe heard this, he threw himself on his face”. The very next passuk states: "וידבר אל קרח ואל כל עדתו לאמר, בקר וידע ה' את אשר לו ואת הקדוש והקריב אליו ואת אשר יבחר בו יקריב אליו"  “Then Moshe spoke to Korach and his entire party. “[Tomorrow] morning”, he said, “God [will show that He] knows who  who is holy, and He will bring him close to Him. He shall choose those who shall [be allowed to] present [offerings] to Him”. Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Ba’al HaTanya, charges that Moshe could have said the second verse immediately. Why was it necessary that he first fall on his face? Reb Shneur Zalman reasons that Moshe viewed himself as a shaliach, a messenger from Hashem, and perhaps the challenge Moshe was experiencing is all from above. Moshe was thinking that just as he was a messenger, so, too, could others be messengers. Certainly, an individual with Korach’s lineage (identical to Moshe) could be chosen by Hashem to act in this manner. Therefore, Moshe fell on his face, first to contemplate the matter, considering that perhaps he  was acting in a haughty manner. After checking himself out, he concluded that he did not have within himself an ounce of haughtiness. At that point Moshe recognized that Korach was not sent by Hashem but was just an individual dissenter and combatant  seeking honor. At that point Moshe understood, proceeding to  answer as he did. Reb Yonason Eibeshutz, in his sefer Tiferes Yehonason, explains that  Moshe’s falling down is an expression of the highest degree of what a leader is all about. The Gemara in Moed Kattan 17a refers to the words of Chaza”l, words of the sages. The sages say any time or place the sages “put their eyes on someone,” meaning to stare or gaze at a specific individual, that person either died or became destitute. Since Moshe did not want to harm Korach and his followers, rather Moshe was holding out, hoping these revolters would ultimately  repent and do teshuva. Despite being attacked by Korach verbally and emotionally, Moshe still waited for him to repent; repentance is the ultimate goal. Moshe realizes it’s not about Korach or about Korach and Moshe; it’s about Korach and Moshe, watched by God, to willingly do whatever it takes for however long it may take to recognize the need for repentance. Therefore,  Moshe fell onto his face so that he wouldn’t come to gaze upon Korach and either kill him or make him destitute.  Moshe is willing to put aside his own victory over Korach to bring him back, to give him every opportunity to repent.

This is the apparent difference between the villain and the hero, between the tzadik and the rasha. The evil rasha wants to do one thing while the righteous tzdadik wants to accomplish something quite opposite.  The wicked want to destroy and take down while the tzadik wants to lift up, to build the person up, to help him rehabilitate. In life we make choices. We can choose to look and to hear about the one who makes the most noise, such as  Korach, or to look a little deeper in order to find the quiet, silent voice of Moshe.

In conclusion, we are all capable of being a Korach or a Moshe. Only one of these exhibited true leadership. Let us injest this lesson and act in the footsteps of Moshe Rabbeinu, keeping our eyes down. praying for the sinners to repent and come back, to join and participate together as part of Klal Yisroel.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Mon, April 15 2024 7 Nisan 5784