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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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ויקח קרח

Korach took, (separated himself). (16:1)

Korach had it all, but, it was not enough for him. He wanted more, or he simply did not want Moshe Rabbeinu to have it. Korach was a clever dissident who was able to attract a powerful following of supporters. First, he told the people that he was acting on their behalf. Since he already had it all, he had no need for personal leadership. He was taking a stand for “others.” He felt that the people were being exploited, and he was coming to their rescue. Kol ha’eidah kulam kedoshim, “The entire congregation is holy”; “Hashem is in their…

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ויקח קרח

Korach took (separated himself). (16:1)

Korach was the first prominent demagogue to create a rift in Klal Yisrael when he impugned Moshe Rabbeinu’s leadership, and, by extension, created a mutiny against Hashem. Targum Onkeles defines machlokes, controversy, as: pilug; a split; a breach; a rift. Klal Yisrael is supposed to live in harmony. We must strive to emulate Hashem, Who is Echad, One. Thus, when we live together as one, we give satisfaction to Hashem. Chazal distinguish between a machlokes, which is l’shem Shomayim, for the sake of Heaven, and one which is not. A machlokes l’shem Shomayim is a dispute in which each party…

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ויקח קרח בן יצהר בן קהת בן לוי

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

Noticeably, Yaakov Avinu’s name is omitted from Korach’s lineage. Rashi comments that it was the Patriarch himself who prayed that his name be deleted from anything connected to Korach. Simply, Yaakov wanted no association whatsoever, even by name, with Korach. This, of course, does not deny the fact that everyone knows that Yaakov was Levi’s father, and, in turn, the Patriarch of Korach’s lineage, but the deletion of Yaakov’s name declares that no part of Korach’s nefarious behavior had its source in Yaakov. Yaakov is the epitome of emes, truth. Machlokes, controversy, by its very nature, is founded in sheker,…

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רב לכם בני לו

There is much to you, Bnei Levi. (16:7)

Rashi asks: Korach was a pikeach, clever person. What is it that he saw which led him to this shtus, folly? (What did he think? He obviously knew that what he was undertaking was mutinous. Did he think that he would emerge unscathed?) Eino hitato – His eye led him to error. He saw a great chain of descendants emerging from him (referring to Shmuel HaNavi, the twenty-four mishmaros, watches, which officiated in the Bais Hamikdash. Among them were included Neviim, prophets, who possessed Ruach HaKodesh, Divine inspiration). Korach ruminated to himself, “Is it possible that all of this greatness…

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ויאמר משה בזאת תדעון כי ד' שלחני לעשות את כל המעשים האלה

Moshe said, “Through this, shall you know that Hashem sent me to perform all these acts.” (16:28)

Moshe Rabbeinu took an enormous chance when he implied to Korach that Hashem would back him up (with a miracle). What would have happened if Hashem had not provided Moshe with a miraculous intervention? Moshe was placing his position as shaliach Hashem, the agent of the Almighty, in jeopardy. Why did he do this? Horav Yaakov Kamenetzky, zl, explains that, with Korach’s rebellion, Moshe saw and was compelled to acknowledge that, sadly, there were Jews who still questioned Moshe’s Divine mandate to serve as Klal Yisrael’s leader. If this was the case, then all of the Torah that he had…

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ואש יצאה מאת ד' ותאכל את החמישים ומאתים איש

A flame came forth from Hashem and consumed the two hundred and fifty men. (16:35)

Any believing Jew is acutely aware of the harmful effect of machlokes, controversy. It destroys communities, families, and individuals. It causes people to act in the most offensive and debasing manner. It “allows” them to conjure up a justification for acting with disrespect for individuals who not only deserve our respect, but whom the Torah demands that we respect. All of this is well-known. How many of us “believe” that when we cross the line of respect, regardless of how many reasons we have convinced ourselves we have, when we breach the Torah’s perimeter for derech eretz for a Rav,…

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