Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Korach - 5773

My friends,

The last chapter in last week's parasha dealt with the mitzvah of Tzizit, the fringes at the four corners of the Tallit. The purpose of the Tzizit is to remind us to observe the Mitzvot in order to be holy. This Shabbat we read about Korach, a descendant from the tribe of Levi, who recruits Datan and Abiram from the tribe of Reuben, and another 250 men from the other tribes, all recognized as leaders of the community. They rise up against Moses and Aaron and make the following statement:

"You have gone too far! For all the community, all of them, are holy, and the L-rd is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the L-rd's congregation?"

Moses, who a couple of weeks ago we were told, was the most humble of all men in the all the world, is very hurt. He tries to reason with them saying that Korach and the tribe of Levi already serve in an important position, as keepers of the Tabernacle. Now you also want the position of priest?!

Moses' words do not calm the rebellious mob. When he tries to speak to the descendants of Reuben, they refuse to meet with him, and complain that he did not fulfill his mission of bringing them to the Promised Land. As far as they are concerned, Moses is a failure.

We are all familiar with how this rebellion ends. The earth opens up from under Korach and his family and they are swallowed alive. A fire descends form heaven and kills the 250 men.

I would like share with you two important points from this story:

  1. While Moses emphasized that one becomes holy by observing the Mitzvot, Korach feels that the entire congregation is holy by the mere fact that they are part of the Children of Israel. Throughout our history there have been individuals who claimed that just by being Jewish, one is part of an Am Kadosh, a Holy Nation. The portion of the Tzizit teaches us that one becomes Kadosh, holy, only by fulfilling the Mitzvot.
  2. Korach and the 250 men had their own agenda. There was no unity in what it is exactly they were rebelling against. They were fighting amongst themselves on what would be the outcome of the rebellion. The only thing that united them was being against Moses and Aaron. Such a rebellion has no chance of succeeding.

This Mahloket (fight, controversy) can easily be applied to what we see today in Syria and other countries.

Shabbat Shalom,