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Torah Attitude: Parashas Korach: The difference between Aaron and Korach

Summary

The Torah relates how Korach started an uprising against Moses. Aaron felt bad that he had not participated in the inaugural offerings brought by the leaders of the other tribes. Korach's revolt was not for the sake of Heaven. Aaron was genuinely happy with Moses' appointment and did not feel any jealousy at all. Korach, on the other hand, suffered from jealousy. There are people who act like Zimri and expect a reward like Pinchas. Those who are not utilizing every opportunity available to serve G'd and get close to Him obviously have another improper motivation pushing them to pursue their course of conduct. We should be happy with our lot in life and utilize the opportunities that are available to us to serve G'd and express our love for Him.

Korach's uprising

In the beginning of this week's Parasha the Torah relates how Korach, a first cousin of Moses and Aaron, started an uprising against Moses. He was extremely wealthy and a most prominent member of the Tribe of Levi. But despite his prominence he still was not happy. It appeared that he wanted to get closer to G'd and be able to serve Him in more ways. Rashi (Bamidbar 16:1) explains that Korach wanted to be a kohein so that he could participate in the service in the Tabernacle. He wanted to show that he was not only concerned about himself but stood up for everyone. He therefore complained and said (ibid 3): "For the whole assembly are holy so why do you [Moses and Aaron] raise yourself above the congregation of G'd?"

Aaron felt bad

This was not the first time that someone got upset and wanted more opportunities to serve G'd. In the beginning of Parashas Beha'aloscha (Bamidbar 8:2) Rashi describes how Aaron felt bad that he had not participated in the inaugural offerings brought by the leaders of the other tribes. But he did not complain and for sure did not challenge Moses. If Aaron and Korach both wanted similar things, what caused them to be so different?

Korach's personal agenda

We can answer this with a quotation from the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (5:20). The Mishnah describes Korach's revolt as not being for the sake of Heaven. To the uninitiated observer it seemed that Aaron and Korach both wanted the same. But our sages were able to see beyond the surface and revealed that whereas Aaron only wanted to honour G'd and serve Him in every way possible, Korach had a personal agenda.

Aaron not jealous

Aaron had a record of accepting the appointment of other people to positions of leadership and greatness without getting jealous. When G'd appointed Moses and told him to go to Egypt and lead the Jewish people, Moses asked that his older brother Aaron should be the leader. G'd put Moses at ease and said to him (Shemos 4:14): "Is not Aaron your brother and he will see you and be happy in his heart." Aaron was genuinely happy with Moses' appointment and did not feel any jealousy at all.

Korach's jealousy

Korach, on the other hand, became jealous when he saw that his younger cousin Elitzaphan was chosen to be the leader of their family. It is very likely that Korach was not aware of his jealousy. He thus fooled himself to believe that he was no different than Aaron and was motivated only for the sake of Heaven.

Zimri vs. Pinchas

This is not an uncommon phenomenon. We often find groups and individuals who fool themselves and believe they are acting with a positive agenda. But if they would scrutinize what their real motives are, they would find that they have a personal reason that is pushing them (see Talmud Eruvin 13a). The Talmud (Sotah 22b) teaches to which extreme this can go. There are people, says the Talmud, who act like Zimri (who took a Midianite woman and sinned with her in public - see Bamidbar 25:6) and expect a reward like Pinchas (who stood up for the honour of G'd and killed them).

Improper motivation

There are groups of people who want to pray on the Temple mount, where we are prohibited from entering, as we do not have the ability to purify ourselves from our impurity. Similarly, we find women's groups who want to fulfill commandments that only apply to men. These groups may feel that they act for the sake of Heaven to get closer to G'd and have more opportunities to serve Him. But if they are honest with themselves and scrutinize their actions, they must ask themselves are they utilizing every opportunity available to them to serve G'd and get close to Him? If this is not the case, there is obviously another improper motivation pushing them to pursue their course of conduct.

Happy with lot in life

My late father used to point out that it says in the first paragraph of Shema (Devarim 6:5): "And you shall love HASHEM your G'd with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources." This teaches us, said my father, that we have to be who we are and utilize the opportunities we have to express our love for G'd. We all have plenty of ways to serve G'd without longing and trying to do what is not our job. Just like it was wrong of Korach the Levite to try and do the service of a kohein, it is wrong of us to go and pray on the Temple mount or for women to try and fulfill the commandments that only men are obligated to do. Both as groups and individuals, we should be happy with our lot in life and utilize the opportunities that are available to us to serve G'd and express our love for Him.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

Shalom. Michael Deverett

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