Lessons To Be Learnt from Parshas Korach
1. The power of one to do either good or bad is only limited by
ambition. (Moshe vs. Korach)
2. Do not underestimate the efficacy of the minority to sway the
(Miraglim and Korach)
3. Humility is the only viable foundation for truth and
(Moshe and Aharon)
4. Arrogance must result in falsehood and destruction. (Korach)
5. Falsehood like truth will seek out its own. (Korach and his
6. Good people are often influenced by evil so don’t be surprised.
7. Always be compassionate and understanding, but do not be a fool.
(Moshe’s approach to Datan and Aviram)
8. Assume the best in others, believe in miracles, but protect
yourself. (Moshe’s approach to Datan and Aviram)
9. Within the good, majority should rule; however, in general do
the majority. (The manner in which the nation could be influenced by the
Miraglim and Korach)
10. You do dot have to defend G-d; you only have to listen to Him.
vs. Miraglim and Moshe vs. Korach)
11. There comes a time when absolutes must rule. Not everything can
negotiated. Moshe vs. Korach, his assembly, and Datan and Aviram)
12. Be very certain of your absolutes and assume that other’s will
not agree. Your absolute is another’s negotiation. (Aftermath of Korach
13. Compromise for the sake of peace but never make peace with
(The entire story)
Starting with the end of Parshas B’Haloscha the Torah addressed the
uniqueness of the individual to effect changes in the world. By focusing
on Moshe in contrasts with Aharon and Miriam the Torah established that
personal decisions are often misunderstood by others, even those who love
and trust you the most. Nevertheless, the individual must do what he knows
to be true, regardless of any other person.
The strength to stand-alone and effect changes in the world is founded
upon having faith in G-d. If a person believes that he is doing the will
of G-d, and if his belief is predicated on more than personal feelings and
desires, then he should have the courage to confront all adversaries. He
should approach the conflict knowing that “G-d will do battle for you.”
True belief in G-d should render the individual fearless in the face of
When my Grandfather Zt’l first came to America he was known to be a young
Gadol (exceptional Torah leader) with extraordinary talent in Halacha
(Jewish law). At the time there were older more established Rabbis and
Poskim (experts in the application of Torah law to everyday situations) in
America who wanted to help launch Rav Moshe Zt’l’s reputation as a Posek
and Gadol. When an opportunity arose to adjudicate a high profile Din
Torah (adjudication), the Rabbis recommended to the parties involved that
they ask Rav Moshe to judge the case as a "court of one" (rather than
three). It was then recommended to Rav Moshe that the merits of the case
suggested ruling in favor of one party over the other. Furthermore, the
high political profile of the case supported the same outcome and if
judged accordingly would considerably advance Rav Moshe’s reputation as a
rising star in the Torah world.
Rav Moshe accepted the case and against the better judgment of the others
involved ruled in favor of the other party and against the strong
recommendations to the contrary. Others, peripherally involved in the
case, approached Rav Moshe to reconsider his ruling and change the
outcome. They expressed concern that his decision against the majority and
politically safer opinion would destroy any possibility of his being
recognized as the talent he was. Rav Moshe refused to change his judgment
stating that his ruling was Torahs Emes – the truth – and his personal
outcome was in the hands of G-d. His job was to always present the truth;
everything else was up to G-d.
As history records and as world Judaism recognizes, the outcome of that
fateful Din Torah propelled Rav Moshe Ztl’s reputation within the Jewish
world of the late Thirties to a level impossible to have predicted.
Instead of his stubborn stance backfiring and ending his yet to develop
career as the leading Posek of the generation, his refusal to back down in
the face of political pressure established him as a rabbi of impeccable
integrity and fearless leadership. Instead of ending his career it
catapulted it beyond all expectations.
His integrity and fearlessness were founded upon a belief that if he did
his best to ascertain what was and wasn’t G-d's will he could depend upon
G-d to do the rest. It was not for him to protect G-d or the Torah. His
job was to apply the Torah as he best understood. Integrity and
fearlessness remained my Grandfather’s life long signature.
In this Sefer Bamidbar (book of Numbers) we once again see Moshe Rabbeinu
fearlessness. As the “most humble and trusted in G-d’s home,” Moshe
approached life with utter confidence in G-d’s commandments. He feared no
one except G-d.
At the start of this week’s Parsha the Jews were recovering from the
devastating punishment of the Miraglim. Consigned to die in the desert,
Moshe not only had to be king and teacher to the people, Moshe also had to
model for them trust in G-d and His ultimate, unquestionable love and
Until the episode of the Miraglim the generation of the Exodus were the
fulfillment of G-d’ promise to the Avos, “To your children will I give this
lands.” In one tragic moment of lost faith the generation had to accept
that they would not be that fulfillment. Instead, they would be the
generation that would raise the generation that would realize the promise.
Their loss of faith could only be atoned for by living the remainder of
their lives with unquestioning faith in a future they would not live to
see. The proof of their Tikun (repentance and rehabilitation) could only
be proven in how well they would raise that next generation. If they
themselves believed in G-d and His ability to do everything He had
promised, they would successfully transmit that faith to their children.
If they themselves still questioned G-d’s ability to deliver on His
promises the lack of faith would be magnified in their children.
As an extraordinary intellect with Yichus (ancestry) akin to Moshe and
Aharon, Korach questioned the divinity of their appointment and in doing
so questioned the entire foundation of the nation’s faith. The nation’s
faith was a product of Moshe’s leadership and presence, “…And they
believed in G-d and His servant Moshe;” therefore, he attacked Moshe with
an accusation of nepotism, and then attacked Moshe’s assumption as the
sole teacher of G-d’s commandments. In both instances Korach’s rebellion
challenged the faith of the nation.
Korach’s downfall was his arrogance. Bolstered by his desire for
recognition and power, Korach enticed the support of otherwise great men
in confronting Moshe. A true seeker of truth would have challenged Moshe
in private; however, Korach was seeking personal power and not the truth.
Falsehood always requires others to support and sustain it.
On the other hand, Moshe was the product of pure humility. His response
was to place the confrontation in G-d’s court. “Let G-d decide. It is not
for me to defend G-d. He can do that much better than I.” “Moshe fell upon
his face.” (See Rav Hirsch)
Moshe then threw down the gauntlet. “Go for it! You want Aharon’s job? You
question my ability to explain G-d’s law? Take fire pans and offer the
exclusive Ketores (incense) offering of the Kohain Gadol. (The same
offering that resulted in the deaths of Nadav and Avihu.) If you are
right, if everyone is equally holy as Korach claims, if my teaching of G-
d’s commandments is not 100% accurate and authentic and you trust your own
intellect to ascertain the truth more so than trusting me, go for it and
let’s see what will happen!”
Moshe then turned his attention to Datan and Aviram. Despite their many
years of distrust for Moshe, Moshe still attempted to reach their better
side. “Why now? Why engage in a conflict that has nothing to do with you?
Until now you have approached our differences and your lack of trust in me
as seekers of truth. Until now the conflict has been private. Why do you
wish to go public and chance the possibility of undermining the faith of
the nation?” Datan and Aviram rebuffed Moshe’s attempt at saving their
lives from inevitable disaster; instead, they denied all the good that G-d
had done for the Jews.
Had they agreed to leave Korach’s rebellion and continue their private
questioning of Moshe’s leadership, they and their families would have
lived to realize the fulfillment of G-d’s promises and the proof of
Moshe’s own Divine appointment. Their personal compromise in remaining
private would have been for the sake of maintaining the faith of the
nation and keeping peace within the nation. Their personal animosity
toward Moshe could have continued along with their lack of trust in him.
Unfortunately, their response was to deny G-d’s goodness and not just
Moshe could not live with that kind of compromise within the hierarchy of
the nation. It was a position that had to be challenged and disproved no
matter what the outcome. Had he elected to “let it go” it would have ben
perceived as a personal fear of Datan and Avirum rather than as an act of
compassion and mercy. It would have been tantamount to denying his
absolute trust in G-d. Moshe had no cause to accept such a fundamental
compromise. He feared no one except G-d, and faith and recognition of G-
d’s ever-present benevolence are absolutes that cannot be negotiated.
Instead, Moshe humbly and fearlessly opened his integrity to the scrutiny
of G-d’s absolute justice. “G-d, You know that I have done nothing for
myself. Everything I have done has been at Your command and for the sake
of the nation. Do what You have to do to establish Your sovereignty before
the eyes of the nation. ”
G-d accepted Moshe’s offer to judge him against the others. The others
were found wanting.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Torah.org
The author is the Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley
Village, CA, and Assistant Principal of YULA.