This week’s Sedra opens very dramatically. The Torah tells the story of Korach’s infamous uprising against Moshe. Korach and his assembly challenge Moshe Rabeinu’s Divinely given power to govern Am-Yisroel. Korach asks Moshe Rabeinu rhetorically: since the entire nation is holy, what gave Moshe Rabeinu the right to place himself above them as their leader?
Moshe Rabeinu answers Korach’s challenge by offering a duel of a sort. Moshe Rabeinu tells Korach and his following that they (each one individually) and Aharon should all present an incense offering to Hashem and whoever’s Korban is accepted by Hashem he is the one Hashem has sanctified to be the High Priest. Moshe Rabeinu ends off with his famous words “Rav Lachem Bnei Levi”, an expression generally interpreted as his telling them that they have gone too far. Chazal understand Moshe Rabeinu’s formulation – that the ONE whose Korban is accepted is the one chosen by Hashem – as indicating that only one person would survive the test. This leaves us with the obvious question: why does the selection of only one person as the leader mean that all the other challengers will die?
The source for this Chazal is a Midrash Tanchuma. Rashi, however, uses this Midrash Tanchuma in another context – to explain what Moshe Rabeinu was communicating by telling them רב לכם בני לוי. Rashi asks (and these words appear in the Midrash as well): if Korach was such a wise a man [a Torah Scholar] how could he make such a big mistake by challenging Moshe and Aharon? The Midrash continues by answering that he messed up because of how he interpreted a prophecy. Korach saw that Shmuel Hanavi was going to descend from him. Thus Korach concluded that if Shmuel Hanavi was going to come from him it must be that he deserves to be the leader. Rashi adds in that Korach felt he shouldn’t pass up taking the position of Cohen Gadol for himself. The Midrash explains that Korach didn’t realize that he would die, that his children would be Chozer Betshuva, and that Shmuel would descend from his son.
Perhaps Rashi understood the Midrash differently. Rashi understood that whoever was challenging Moshe and Aharon would, if not selected as new leader, in fact be Mored Bemalchus (rebelling against legitimate authority) and thus deserving to die (see previous Rashi). This whole story with Shmuel was why Korach made the initial mistake of starting up with Moshe and Aharon. Korach saw unbelievable greatness coming out from him – he saw Shmuel Hanavi. Korach thus viewed himself as indispensable. Moshe Rabeinu commented on this point when he said רב לכם. He was in effect telling them ‘you are placing too much importance on yourselves by viewing yourselves as indispensable’. Korach’s mistake was to think it was necessary for him to exist and that he deserved to exist because Shmuel would come from him. In truth it was sufficient for his sons to do Teshuva in order for Shmuel Hanavi to come into existence.
There are many lessons we must learn from Korach’s uprising, but one very important lesson is that we should never feel we are irreplaceable.
A very warm Good Shabbos, Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski