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אם כמות כל האדם ימתן אלה ופקודת כל האדם יפקד עליהם

If these die like the death of all men, and the destiny of all men is visited upon them. (16:29)

This was not the first time that someone usurped the authority of Moshe Rabbeinu. His reaction this time was atypical. He asked Hashem that this group be meted with a punishment which was both unusual and stark. It was important for all the people to know that Moshe was Hashem’s chosen leader and that he made every decision under His direction. The heresy expounded by Korach must be put to rest in a manner such that it would be recorded in the hearts and minds of Klal Yisrael that Moshe’s prophecy may not be denied. Chazal (Nedarim 39b) derive from…

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ויקהל עליהם קרח את כל העדה

Korach gathered the entire assembly. (16:19)

Without a doubt, Korach was as powerful as he was charismatic. Nonetheless, he was going up against Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen, Klal Yisrael’s leaders, who certainly were greater than he. He succeeded in gathering a group of distinguished followers, heads of the Sanhedrin, men of erudition and discernment. He did not go to a bar and preach to ne’er-do-wells. He went to the elite of Klal Yisrael and succeeded in swaying them to support him. For this, they paid dearly. How did Korach pull this off? Leitzanus, cynicism, sarcasm, scorn, whatever name we call it; the result is the…

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ואון בן פלת

And Ohn ben Peles. (16:1)

Two women: One catalyzed her husband’s downfall, while the other saved her husband from destruction and eternal infamy. Korach and his henchmen, Dasan, Aviram and Ohn ben Peles, together with the support of the 250 heads of the Sanhedrin, were bent on usurping the leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu. Chazal (Sanhedrin 109b) teach that Ohn was saved by his wife. She asked him, “What difference does it make to you which man (Moshe or Korach) leads the nation? At the end of the day, you will still remain a lackey – not someone who is in charge.” She then gave him…

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ואני הנה נתתי לך את משמרת תרומתי לכל קדשי בני ישראל

And I – behold! I have given you the safeguard of My heave-offer was of all the sanctities of Bnei Yisrael. (18:8)

The offerings Korach controversy had concluded (veritably, it never ends; a new one will unfortunately rear its ugly head to replace the former debacle), and the Torah now lists the twenty-four various gifts, matnos Kehunah, that were allotted to the Kohanim. In Pirkei Avos (6:6), we are taught that the Priesthood is acquired through twenty-four procedures. Horav Shlomo Wolbe, zl, observes that this is no coincidence. A corollary must exist between these two “twenty-fours.” He quotes the Chovos HaLevavos, who teaches that everything which Hashem grants us comes with an obligation for reciprocity. Hashem shows His kindness to us. We…

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כי כל העדה כלם קדשים

For the entire congregation – all of them – are holy. (16:3)

Korach crossed the line when he debated Moshe Rabbeinu. One does not impugn the integrity of the gadol/gedolim, Torah giants, of their generation. His statement, “The entire congregation, all of them, are holy,” is the basic argument of those who reject the Torah leaders, claiming that they are as well-versed in Torah as the gedolim. They do not require a teacher or a leader. Horav Moshe Feinstein, zl (who was the posek ha’dor, undisputed halachic arbiter of his generation), explains that without the mesorah, tradition, of the great men of the generation, one can easily err – just as Korach…

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ויקח קרח בן יצהר בן קהת

Korach ben Yitzhar ben Kehas took (himself). (16:1)

In his commentary (Shaar HaPesukim) to Parashas Korach, the Arizal makes a somewhat cryptic statement. “The gematria, numerical equivalent, of Moshe (Rabbeinu, our quintessential leader) is 345. If one were to deduct the gematria of the name Hevel (son of Adam and Chavah, who was killed by Kayin), which is 37, the sum would equal 308, which is the gematria of Korach.” This implies much more than mere numbers. Ostensibly, removing “Hevel” – or whatever characteristics he has in common with the personality of Moshe – can produce a Korach. Conversely, “Moshe” and “Hevel” together seem to create a cure…

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ויקומו לפני משה ואנשים מבני ישראל חמישים ומאתים נשיאי עדה

They stood before Moshe with two hundred and fifty men from Bnei Yisrael, leaders of the Assembly, those summoned for the meeting, men of renown. (16:2)

Perhaps we do not give enough credit to the average Jew. People are capable of deciding between right and wrong. Those who err do not necessarily lack astuteness; rather, the decision might have been more difficult than we think. Let us take the Korach controversy as an example. I say Korach, rather than Korach/Moshe, because Moshe Rabbeinu was passive. He did not enter the fray. He responded to the vitriol, but did not become a partner with Korach in the dispute. It was Korach against Moshe. It takes two participants to make a full-scale controversy. The Korach dispute had one…

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רב לכם בני לוי

It is too much for you, O offspring of Levi. (16:7)

Korach was no fool (or, at least, that was not his reputation). Chazal say that Korach was a pikeiach, quite astute and wise. Rashi quotes the well-known baffling question: Mah raah l’shtus zeh? “What did he see that possessed him to undertake such a foolish endeavor?” He saw prophetically that among his descendants, would be: the Navi Shmuel, who was as great in his time as Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen combined; and the twenty-four groups of Leviim who would prophesy with Divine Inspiration. Korach rationalized that with such illustrious lineage descending from him, how could he go wrong? The…

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וישלח משה לקרא לדתן ולאבירם בני אליאב ויאמרו לא נעלה

Moshe sent forth to summon Dassan and Aviram, bnei Eliav, but they said, “We shall not go up!” (16:12)

Two words: discord and disagreement, both begin with the same letter – “D,” but the words could otherwise not be further apart. Discord is the result of a disagreement in which one or both factions take it personally. Our parsha presents a classic case in which one side made every attempt to ameliorate a disagreement but did not succeed, since the other side was insistent on taking it to the next level. When Korach rebelled against Moshe Rabbeinu, he was joined by Dassan and Aviram, Moshe’s nemeses. Our leader did everything to appease them to the point that he sent a…

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ויקם משה וילך אל דתן ואבירם

So Moshe stood up and went to Dassan and Aviram. (16:25)

Why did Moshe Rabbeinu denigrate himself to go to such miscreants as Dassan and Aviram? He was the quintessential leader of Klal Yisrael, the Rabban Shel Kol Yisrael, the nation’s Rebbe. They were nothing. Yet, he went to them. Why? Chazal (Sanhedrin 110a) derive from here that one does not sustain a dispute. If he can diffuse a controversy from growing, spreading, he should do everything possible to extinguish the flames of discord. Furthermore, one who supports a machlokes, controversy, transgresses the prohibition’ of V’lo yiheyeh k’Korach v’chaadaso, “that he not be like Korach and his assembly” (Bamidbar 17:5). Simply…

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