Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

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“Korach gathered [people] … against Moshe and Aharon and said…you have taken too much for yourselves…everyone is holy….why should you rule over Hashem’s community.”[1]

Korach isn’t just criticizing Moshe’s leadership.

Korach, by claiming that “everyone being holy,” is hinting that other people - like Korach himself - can lead as effectively as Moshe.

Korach’s critique of Moshe, then, is really an expression of his leadership dreams.

Korach certainly had a basis for those dreams.

Why? Because he was blessed with so many leadership qualities.

Firstly, Korach was a: “very wise man.”[2]

Secondly, he had great communal standing. This is seen is the fact that it was Korach who “transported the ark”[3] - our mishkan’s holiest object – during our desert travels.

In addition, Korach, who was a first cousin to Moshe and Aharon, came from a distinguished family.

Yes, Korah had good reason to hope for leadership.

Those leadership dreams, though, were never realized.

Korach dreamt other dreams as well, including ones about entering Eretz Yisrael.

Those dreams also became will-o'-wisps when all members of Korach’s generation - Korach included – were banned from entering Eretz Yisrael.[4]

Korach was, then, weighed down by these unrealized dreams.

Not that there weren’t realized dreams and achievements.

There were.

Those included the just-mentioned achievement of carrying the aron which signified that: “Korach was the greatest of all the Leviim.”[5]

Those included Korach’s vast wealth about which we read: “The weight of three hundred mules …was the weight of just the keys to Korach’s treasure houses.”[6]

Yes, Korach’s glass was half-full. He could have looked at all the good things that his glass held and find contentment in that.

He, instead, saw the glass half-empty and found discontent in that.

Korach is then an exemplar of tragic glass half-empty living.

Another such exemplar is Adam’s son, Kayin, who lived many generations before Korach.

Kayin, like Korach, benefited from many gifts.

Kayin lived before the Great Flood damaged the Earth. That pre-flood world’s exceptional soil, weather and food allowed people – Kayin included - to live for many hundreds of years.[7]

Kayin was also born into a still unpopulated world of endless opportunity.

All these blessings made Kayin a “child of Hashem”[8] who merited realizing so many dreams.

But Kayin, like Korach, didn’t realize all of his dreams.

One unrealized dream was his hope of bringing a gift to Hashem: “Kayin brought ….a gift to Hashem.”[9]

That gift, though, was rejected, as we read: “to Kayin and to Kayin’s gift, Hashem didn’t turn.”[10]

Another unrealized dream was Kayin’s hope of living in an ideal, idyllic Gan Eden.

This dream also shattered when Kayin’s parents’ sin barred humanity – Kayin included - from Gan Eden.

Despite these shattered dreams, Kayin could still have focused on - and found contentment - in the dreams, like pre-flood riches, that were at his beck and call.

But Kayin, like Korach, didn’t focus on what he had. He, instead, was discontent because he focused on unrealized dreams and on dashed expectations.

And Kayin’s, like Korach’s, discontents welled up in terrible outbursts.

Korach’s discontents, as we saw before, caused him to attack his cousins, Moshe and Aharon.

Kayin’s discontents caused him to attack his brother: “Kayin stood up against his brother… and killed him…and the earth opened its mouth to take …. his brother’s blood.”[11]

Kayin’s and Korach’s discontents hurt their victims.

Kayin’s and Korach’s discontents also hurt themselves.

Kayin was hurt by an earth that was sickened by needing to “open its mouth to take …his brother’s blood.” [12] That earth turned around and punished Kayin by turning him into a “wanderer on this earth.”[13]

Korach was also hurt by the earth punishing him for his sin. It punished him by, once again, “opening its mouth” – this time to “swallow… every man with Korach.”[14]

Korach and Kayin stand there, in mute testimony.

They warn us about glass half-empty attitudes that that eat away at families, friendships, yiddishkeit and inner selves.

They beseech us to adopt glass half-full mentalities that see joy in what we have.

They remind us that while we can’t control our glasses’ contents, we can control how we view those contents.

Let’s remember that the next time life deals us a half-full glass.

Rabbi Weber is founder of Ohr Tzvi Montebello-Monsey. Please visit his website, ohrtzvi.org, to sign up for his weekly email message or for information on his live or zoom shiurim.

[1] Bamidbar 16:1-3

[2] Bamidbar Rabba 18:3

[3] Bamidbar Rabba, 18:3

[4] Ramban, Bamidbar 16:1

[5] Zohar 3:49

[6] Pesachim, 119a

[7] Sforno, Bereishis 6:13

[8] Zohar 1:7

[9] Bereishis 4:4

[10] Bereishis 4:5

[11] Bereishis 4:11-12

[12] ibid.

[13] ibid.

[14] ibid.


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