KORACH (Numbers, 16:1-18:32) — “Dead Wrong?”

Some people are just exasperating.  They take positions that are totally devoid of logic.

We, on the other hand, are paragons of correctness, totally removed from error.  Right?

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Moses was confronted by an angry mob of 250. They had been led astray by a malcontent named Korach. His jealousy of a cousin so corrupted his logic that he lost all contact with reality. He fabricated complaints against Moses  (See ”True Blue”)  and fomented a rebellion.

Korach’s hatred for Moses was so all-encompassing that he insisted on fighting to the bitter reprehensible end.  Faced with the threat of certain death, Korach and his gang stood by their guns and were buried alive in a miraculous earthquake.

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The Torah exhorts us to avoid Korach’s divisive ways:

”… and he should not be like Korach and his assembly …” (Numbers, 17:5) (See “There’s More to Being Right than Just Not Being Wrong”)

Don’t act that way, says the Torah.  Don’t lock yourself into illogical positions.  Don’t be stubborn and argumentative.  Don’t cling to ideas that are obviously wrong.  Don’t argue just for the sake of arguing.

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This is difficult to understand.  Korach was totally out of control.  His behavior was outrageous. Does the Torah really have to tell us not to follow his example?

You and I are much smarter than Korach, right?  We, of course, would never hold steadfastly to a position that is obviously wrong.  We would only argue to the end without compromise when our position is incontrovertible.  (Isn’t it a shame that more people aren’t as smart and intellectually honest as we are?  :-))

Korach, that stubborn, pig-headed, trouble-maker, only saw things his way.  He refused to consider the other side.  Would we really make the mistake of emulating Korach had the Torah not warned us not to?

Let us look again at what the Torah tells us:

”’… and he should not be like Korach and his assembly …”

The Torah says, “…‘v’lo yihyeh   —  and he should not be — like Korach …”  

There is another way to translate it: “…’v’lo yihyeh — and there will not be — like Korach …”

I once heard an explanation from Rabbi Yissochar Frand.  What the Torah is telling us is, “… there will never again be an argument like that of Korach and his assembly.”

The debate of Korach vs. Moses is unique in all the annals of history.  The Torah is telling us that there will never again be an argument like the one between Korach and Moses — where one side was 100 % right and one side was 100% wrong.

There was no merit whatsoever to Korach’s side; there was no flaw whatsoever to Moses’ side.

Perhaps the other fellow isn’t as wrong as I think he is.  Shouldn’t I be open-minded and honestly try to see things from his perspective?  Perhaps my own position isn’t as well thought out as I think it is.  And even if I’m right, am I going about it in the right way?

The Torah is telling us not to be so sure of ourselves, and not to be so quick to dismiss the other guy’s opinion.  The other guy is no Korach, and I am certainly no Moses!!

Remembering this may help to prevent bringing out that little bit of Korach that resides in all of us.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

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From the Archives

“A Good Fight With Your Wife” (2010)

 Ah, there’s nothing like a good fight with your wife!  … You DO fight with your spouse, don’t you?  You really should, you know…

Read more.

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“Caleb, Korach, and Me” (2009)

Never hit a guy when he’s on a roll; you have to try to get him when he’s down.

You couldn’t put anything on Moses; he was at the top of his game.  He was The Man!  He straight-talked the Pharaoh, and led us out of Egypt.  He led us through the split-open waters of the Red Sea, and presided over our nation’s receipt of miraculous manna from Heaven.  Even when we sinned he was there for us.  He caught us worshipping the Golden Calf, but negotiated our forgiveness from G-d.

Moses was great.  You just HAD to love him!

Most people did.  One of the exceptions was Korach…

Read more.

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“Behind Every Successful (and Unsuccessful!) Man…” (2007)

… Ever since the beginning of time, from Eve’s offer of fresh fruit to her husband to this morning when your wife asked you (again!) to take out the garbage, our wives have been right there telling us what we need to do.

… Korach, along with his fellow Levites, (including Moses’ sons) had their hair shaven.  Korach came home looking like Yul Brenner.  Mrs. Korach reprimanded her husband for allowing Moses to degrade him like that … By the time she finished with him, he was prepared to take Moses on in an uprising designed to “take back our religion.”

Korach ended up being swallowed alive by an opening in the ground.  (“Thanks for the advice, dear!”) …

Read more.

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“Dead Wrong?” (2006)

Some people are just exasperating.  They take positions that are totally devoid of logic.

We, on the other hand, are paragons of correctness, totally removed from error.  Right?…

Read more.

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“Almond Joy” (2004)

… How far should we go for positive PR? …    Any intelligent person HAD to understand by now that Moses was on the level…Why didn’t Moses tell them to take it as it is or leave it?  “I’m in charge and that’s the way it is.  If you don’t like it, go find yourself another desert!!” …

Read more.

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“True Blue” (2003)

…  What difference does it make whether the blue is on the string or on the clothes?  For that matter, does it really matter what type of dye you use?  You want blue?  You’ve got blue!  What difference does it make whether the Mezuzah paragraphs are on the doorpost or in the room?  You want Shema Yisrael?  You’ve got Shema Yisrael!…

Read more.

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“Flat Tax” (2002)

… The farmer works hard to grow his crops.  Along comes “Mr. Levine” (or Levy or Levitt, or possibly even Goldstein!) who didn’t work the fields and says, “I’m a Levite; I’d like my 10% please.” Mr. Levine, who has received his 10% of the farmer’s produce, must then give 10% of HIS take to “Mr. Cohen” (or Katz, or Klein, or Goldstein.)

Why should the farmer and the Levite give the same percentage?  The farmer had to break his back to grow that wheat! The Levite gets a windfall! Let him pay more!

Similarly, if I work hard 40 hours a week, I have to give 10% of my income to charity.  The recipient, who didn’t have to work for the money, should be “taxed” at a higher rate! (Lottery winnings are taxed at a higher rate than earned income.) Why is the worker treated the same as the gift recipient?…

 Read more.

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“There’s More to Being Right Than Just Not Being Wrong” (2001)

Every rabbi has a few.  There’s always someone looking to challenge the leadership with complaints of imagined misdeeds.  Moses certainly had his share of detractors.  Most noteworthy in the group are Dathan and Abiram, adversaries since Egyptian days, and Korach, the star rabble-rouser of this week’s Torah Portion…

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2012 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on June 29, 2006 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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