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In this week’s parashah we read about the quarrel which Korach and his cohorts organized against Moshe Rabbeinu. Among their demands was that those who were appointed to serve as Levi’im be permitted to serve as Kohanim too. The following was Moshe’s reaction:
Moshe heard and fell on his face. He spoke to Korach and to his entire assembly, saying, “In the morning, Hashem will make known the one who is His own and the holy one, and He will draw him close to Him, and whomever He will choose, He will draw close to Him. Do this - Take for yourselves fire-pans -- Korach and his entire assembly. And put fire in them and place incense upon them before Hashem tomorrow. Then the man whom Hashem will choose -- he is the holy one. It is too much for you, O offspring of Levi." And Moshe said to Korach, "Hear now, O offspring of Levi. Is it not enough for you that Hashem, the G-d of Israel, has segregated you from the assembly of Israel to draw you near to Him, to perform the service of the Tabernacle of Hashem, and to stand before the assembly to minister to them? And He drew you near, and all your brothers, the offspring of Levi, with you -- yet you seek priesthood, as well. Therefore, you and your entire assembly that are joining together are against Hashem! And as for Aharon -- what is he that you protest against him?" (Bemidbar 16:4-11).
In essence, Moshe was telling them to be happy with their lot; that they were chosen from among the entire Community of Israel to serve Hashem in the Tabernacle in their way, and not to be jealous of the Kohanim, although they were, indeed, superior to them. His argument seems very valid. The perfect Man of G-d was telling mortal men not to be jealous of each other.
However, the Chazal reveal to us in the Midrash (Bemidbar Rabbah 18:18) that Hashem responded negatively and said to Moshe, “You are smiting them with a staff. You will be smitten with that very same staff! You said to them ‘It is too much for you’; tomorrow (when you beg to be allowed to enter into the Land of Israel) you will hear me reply (Devarim 3:26), ‘It is too much for you.’”
What was wrong with Moshe’s reply? Why was Hashem upset with him?
I once heard an explanation from one of my Rebbeim, Harav Shemuel Dovid Varshavchik zt”l. Korach was an evil, jealous and quarrelsome man, who yearned for honor. That is true. However, although his intentions were wrong, the fact of the matter was that he was asking for more ruchaniyus (spirituality). One should never tell another that he has enough ruchaniyus; for there is never enough. Describing the Torah, Iyov said, “Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea” (Iyov 11:9). If someone expresses a desire to attain more and higher levels of spirituality, one must never discourage him by telling him that he has enough. If his goals are unrealistic, he should explain to him why this is so; but not by telling him he has enough already.
Therefore, when Moshe Rabbeinu expressed his desire to add to his own spiritual levels, by going to Eretz Yisrael, Hashem showed him how it feels by telling him that he has attained enough and cannot achieve anymore.
This very important lesson applies not only between one who teaches another. It is just as significant for one who “teaches himself” (see the vort by Reb Ya’akov Kaminetsky zt”l in Parashas Biha’alosecha). No matter how much one has learned and attained, he should never feel that he has done “enough,” for there is no such thing. Chazal say (Bereishis Rabbah 97:3), “Just as fish in the sea thirstily accept every drop of rain which comes down from above as if they never tasted water in their lives, so the People of Israel who live in the sea of Torah thirstily accept every new word of Torah as if they never heard a word of Torah in their lives.”
Recently, a great tzaddik was taken from our midst; Rabbi Avraham Abba Freedman zt”l of Detroit, Michigan. He was a full-fledged disciple of Harav Hatzaddik Reb Shrage Feivel Mendlowitz ztvk”l, in the Yeshiva of Torah VeDa’as in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Many years ago, Reb Shrage Feivel sent him and his friend, Rabbi Goldstein, to Detroit, to do outreach work there. Together, and, after Rabbi Goldstein’s untimely passing, alone, Rabbi Freedman brought Torah-true yiddishkeit to thousands of Jews. He was a modest, humble man, who worked with tremendous self-sacrifice. But one of his most outstanding features was his unquenchable thirst for spirituality. With untiring energy, to his very last day in his eighties, which made it difficult for his offspring and students to keep up with, he would literally run from rabbi to rabbi, any time of day or night, to “drink” another “drop of Torah”; although he, himself, was already swimming in such a great “sea of Torah.”
Just seeing him, was a great inspiration to all who observed his ways and a reminder to us all that, no matter how much spirituality we may have, baruch Hashem, we never have enough.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network