By Rabbi Naftali Reich
Korach says to Moshe, “Why do you elevate yourself above the
congregation of Hashem?” Korach claimed that Moshe was acting
haughtily. How could he possibly have accused Moshe, the humblest of
all man of vanity, wasn’t this rather absurd?
Commentators explain that Korach’s charge was reserved of
projection. As our sages teach us ‘one who seeks to disqualify another
projects his own defects on him.’ Korach’s distorted perception of
Moshe was because he himself possessed such an inflated self view. It
was impossible for him not to see that characteristic in others.
But why do we see ourselves in others? Why can’t we judge others
rationally and objectively, outside of our tainted self perceptions?
The answer is that this is a natural weakness of the human
condition. We deeply desire to feel comfortable with ourselves. And
the only way we rationalize our defects is by seeing the world as an
extension of our own tainted selves.
A young man lived through the horrors of the holocaust and told a
religious leader that in the valley of death he lost his faith in G-d. It
one story he said that stripped him of his faith. A religious Jew had
smuggled a prayer book into the barracks and fondly shared it with
those who shared half their daily bread rations with this opportunistic
wicked Jew. When I saw the long line of emaciated Jews being forced
to give up their lifeline to this supposedly religious Jew, I knew I would
never be religious again.
“What do you mean”, said the Rabbi? “Why did you look at those
other Jews that refused to share the siddur with others? Why didn’t you
look at those who were willing to give up their precious life support for
In our own lives, all too often we too see others with our own
warped sense of pointing out the failings of others. We are simply
trying to justify our own weaknesses. Let’s try to cultivate a positive
sense of hi-lighting other peoples good points, thus accentuating our
own positive traits.
Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Naftali Reich and Torah.org.
Rabbi Reich is on the faculty of the Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum Education Center.