Parsha Korach may seem to the reader to be a logical continuation of Parsha Shelach as it would seem very much that Korach and his attempted power grab is a logical after-affect, a consequence of the denial of Eretz Yisrael by 10 of the 12 miraglim (spies).
In fact, Yehuda Nachshoni’s “Studies in the Weekly Parsha” (pages 1032-1033) cites Ramban’s view that the cause of the rebellions of our Parsha; Korach’s, Dasan and Aviram’s and the First Born’s was:
The spies’ severe punishment, which brought death to the generation of the desert and plague to its princes. It [the punishment]… brought to the surface all of the accumulated bitterness of the dissatisfied, who until now had not dared to come out against Moshe. Now they took advantage… to settle accounts.
One could say the event of the Miraglim brought the opening of the proverbial “Pandora’s Box.”
But the commentaries indicate that the steam behind Korach’s rebellion was a result of Hashem’s stripping firstborns of their Divine service after the Golden Calf, and conveying this service upon the Levi’im, of which Korach was a member.
However, there is more. It seems that Korach’s family was allotted encampment on the southern side of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), as was Shevet Reuven — the firstborn of Yaakov Avinu. So Korach, knowing that he had no chance to grab power on his own, agitated and incited Shevet Reuven regarding Shevet Yehudah’s honor, over Reuven, of being the first Shevet to offer korbonot at the inauguration of the Mishkan, as well as the Kehunah having been stripped from the firstborns and given to Aaron and his sons. Thus an alliance was formed — Shevet Reuven’s vengefulness and Korach’s attempt at a power grab.
The Sefer “Torah Gems” by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg states the following thought:
“Now took Korach…”; that Korach was blessed with many positive attributes: fine lineage, wisdom, qualities worthy of a leader of B’nai Yisrael. “‘Now took Korach — he took himself.’ He did not wait until he was offered the leadership, but he sought to take it by force. That is why he is not worthy of it.” (Torah Gems, by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, Parsha Korach, Volume 3, page 79.)
Nachshoni also cites Chasam Sofer (page 1033) who indicates that Korach’s contesting against Moshe stemmed from the Divine Conveyance of:
The monarchy and priesthood to the 2 grandsons of Kehas, Moshe and Aaron — sons of Kehas’ oldest son Amram. This was seen as a total negation of any claim by Kehas’ next 2 sons, Yitzhar and Chevron…
In short, the Chasam Sofer seems to indicate that Korach contested based on promoting a claim that the positions of power should have distributed evenly amongst Kehas’ 3 sons. He thus campaigned based on his assertion that Moshe employed nepotism and consolidation of power.
However, it seems that Korach, while feigning concern for the masses, actually stood in disdain of them selfishly seeking power and prestige for himself. And so, Korach apparently exploited Shevet Reuven’s vengefulness in pursuing what was an abortive attempt to seize power from Moshe and Aaron. A couple of years ago, a Parsha HaShevua by Rabbi Scott Ressler of the Jeff Seidel Student Center asked the following:
Why would 250 people follow him to their certain death, with apparently little to gain?
The answer can be found in Rashi, the great medieval commentator, who writes that just as Korach’s family camped on the southern side of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), so did the tribe of Reuven. Rashi quotes the words of Chapters of the Fathers, “woe to an evil person, and woe to his neighbor.” The 250 people met their death, simply because they were influenced by their neighbors! This points to the awesome influence that friends, neighbors and associates have on us.
Shem Mishmuel writes about Korach that he seemed to resent that Moshe was the leader of B’nai Yisrael, that Aaron was the Kohen Gadol and that he was not the one appointed head of the Children of Kehath, his branch of the priestly family. Korach’s motivations were complex, the layers of discontent behind his abortive challenge to the leadership numerous as is discussed by the great commentators. (Shem Mishmuel on Parsha Korach, page 335)
Shem Mishmuel relates a thought on Korach from Rashi;
“Korach was an intelligent man. If so, why did he involve himself with this nonsense? His eyes deceived him, for he saw a chain of noble descent emerging from him, ending in Shmuel HaNavi [the great prophet], who was considered equal to Moshe and Aaron. He said, ‘On his [Shmuel’s] account, I will be saved.’ There were also to be twenty-four stations of his descendents who would prophesy with the Divine spirit … He said, ‘Is it possible that all of this greatness will emerge from me and I should be silent?’ Therefore, he joined [with the other rebels] and came to the opinion that when he heard from Moshe that all of them would perish save one … he mistakenly assumed that it referred to him. He failed to look carefully, for his sons did teshuva…” (Rashi, Bamidbar, Perech 16, posuk 7 as related in Shem Mishmuel on Parsha Korach, page 335)
It seems that in Korach’s case, he had basis for reasoning that his decendents, the generations of nevi’im who came before Shmuel would emanate from him and thus “it must be because he himself was a worthy and holy person.” (Shem Mishmuel on Parsha Korach, page 335)
Korach’s perception of history brought him to envision himself as “born to lead” and therefore, he took issue with the leadership of Moshe and Aaron HaKohen. Thus, while Hashem and history look disapprovingly at Korach’s attempt at a leadership grab, one might be able to understand what was behind Korach’s actions and possible rationale behind his false claims.
But, what rationale could there be for the actions of this regime and its predecessors, which appear as nothing other than forced suicide being inflicting on B’nai Yisrael? How else can one explain leadership, governance (including so-called Hareidi politicians), sooo distant from any Torah sense of Halachic reality that they consider themselves and the nation they govern as if grasshoppers to be stomped on by giants.
Korach’s arrogance and lust for leadership was based on self-interest, wrong and invalid as it was, had an element of spiritual basis. But a regime which acts only irrationally; based anti-religious bias, and self-interest, in the continuation of their own governing power, influence and self-enrichment at the nation’s expense is without any basis or grounding in reality. About the self-interest part of the regime’s irrationality, Moshe Ya’alon, former IDF Chief of Staff, once voiced similar thoughts:
Government corruption is a greater threat to the country than Iran…. It is possible to deal with the threat from Iran but that corruption “is an internal and secret threat.”
Ya’alon said the leadership crisis in Israel stems from moral and professional failures. He charged that the political culture in Israel has forgotten the principle that “when a person fails, he should accuse himself and not others.”
The former Chief of Staff also attacked the current system whereby senior police and army officers seem to advance according to their political opinions and their friendships with those in power, instead of according to their professional abilities.
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to stand up to prevent the eviction of Jews from their homes and to prevent the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima — the Ultimate Redemption bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim” — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.