3 Tammuz  5776  פרשת קֹרַח, ג’ תמוז, תשע”ו

This parashah is a very crucial and holds the name of a very controversial person. Why would our elders give Korach so much importance by naming a portion after him?  Our Creator clearly shows us that our heroes are shown for whom they really are— human beings with our highs and lows, successes and failures. We are not super human beings rather we are simple human beings who are dedicated to the Creator. Anytime we take away the humanity of our heroes we rob them of how He has used them.  If we cannot apply the Torah to our lives today and it becomes simply a book of rules and regulations, we lose the essence of it being a way of life. We call ourselves Shomer Torah, keepers of the Torah. We do not necessarily have to take it literally rather to learn from it the principles which our Creator gave us to live a better life in all aspects.  The basics of the Torah are the Ten Commandments which are all we need to live by; the rest is pure commentary.  If you simply follow these Ten I can assure you that you are above everyone else.

Our sages have compiled all the regulations of the Torah into 613 called the Teriyag –”גתרי. In order to protect us they built a fence, Seyag סייג –   around the 613 and tell us that if we remain within this fence, we won’t fail Him.  However when you make a fence around people, you put them in a prison.  Religions in general impose what they think you have to do without giving reasons.  This takes away His gift of Free Will given to us by our Creator who wants to have a relationship with us.  Would our Creator expect us to have a relationship with Him based on fear of what would happen if we didn’t obey Him?  It is not a self-serving relationship.  He has given us a soul that resounds to His Presence.

The Midrashim in Rabah Bamidbar explain that Korach had been a very wealthy man in Egypt. He had a very high position as a slave trader. He had been very comfortable there and reluctant to leave. Now he had lost all his status and discovered that his lowly relatives were now in a higher position than he was. This was more than he could bear. In a way we might think that he was right. Wasn’t he a first born son of Israel called to be part of the priesthood and to receive the right to serve in the Mishkan? Wasn’t he also chosen by God?  However he forgot that everything had changed with the sin of the golden calf and now this position would go to the Levites. They would now take on the position of the first born and the people would now have to pay to redeem the first born.  They had lost their place in the Mishkan and this fact created some unrest.  For the sin of one, the entire community would have to pay. This seemed very unfair but here the Torah teaches us about personal responsibility and that our actions affect the whole. 

When the scouts returned from the Land with their reports, their stories were valid, however it was their attitudes were wrong. They were sent by Moshe, Aaron and the elders to whom they needed to bring back their reports. Instead by bringing their negative report to all the people they cast doubt about the Creator to everyone. This is called lashon harah – evil tongue.  They had seen the fortified cities and the giant men and didn’t think that they were ready to conquer them in spite of everything our Creator had done up to that point. When our human nature tells us that we cannot do something, where can we go after that? We leave no room for our Creator to do what He does best—miracles.       

Korach, as first born of Izhar, second son of Kohath, thought that he should have been selected to lead the group of the Kohatites, because Moshe and Aaron, children of Amram, first born of Kohath, were chosen for the positions of Leader and priest, but instead Elzaphan was designated for this position, who was the son of Uzziel, the youngest son of Kohath. They had skipped over Korach. Didn‘t he have a right to be incensed? However he didn’t take into consideration that the rights of first born had been replaced by the Almighty who would not choose those whom He felt were fitted for the tasks. We humans love to complain and are pretty good at it.  The Creator can take our complaints. The problem is not the complaints; it’s that we hold on to them in our hearts and act out upon them. That is what happened with Korach.

The Torah can be applied today. We worship democracy in which the majority rules however in my experience I have never found this to be true.  Majority imposes itself upon others even when it is wrong.  In the religious world, small groups are destroyed because they go against the status quo.  We give so much power to democracy that we become slaves to it. Our Creator has a different type of government which is never mentioned today—Theocracy. In His system, our Creator chooses the people for their roles. Today we laugh at this and ask people to prove that they were chosen for the task. At the time of Moshe, it was obvious. They witnessed him parting the Red Sea; he interceded on their behalf time and again; we saw the miracle of bringing water from the rock. The people were able to witness firsthand the relationship that Moshe had with the Creator. In this case, in the challenge of the 250 men who brought their fire-pans before God, the only one who remained was Aaron. We also saw the rods brought by the chieftains and Aaron’s rod being the one that blossomed into almonds. This demonstrated that the Creator was truly with him. This is not the case today. However there are other tests we can rely on today. Some people are true and honest while others are demagogues.  Korach was a type of demagogue. The multitudes listened to him. The scouts were ready to return to Egypt which they described as the land of milk and honey. Korach joined them and other disgruntled people, the Reubenites, Datan and Abiram.  They had one thing in common with Korach — they were also first born whose positions were disregarded.  Our intentions are very important.  Our Creator measures our hearts. Jeremiah 17:9-10; spoke of how deceitful our hearts are and that He measures our intentions, our thoughts, and our will.  Korach and the others allowed their hearts to rule them and they suffered the consequences.  We need to be careful to allow our Creator to guide us and that we are in the right calling.  We must not think of ourselves as better than others but to look at where our God is asking us to serve. Moshe is the greatest example of this. He and Aaron were very humble even though Korach accused them of nepotism. Moshe Rabeinu fell on his face saying that he had not taken even one donkey from anyone. We read in the haphtarah portion I Sam. 12:3 where our prophet Samuel uses these exact same words. Do you know that Samuel is a direct descendant of Korach!  This shows us that our God is a God of forgiveness and beginning again. 

Each of us is responsible for our actions and they in turn permeate throughout the community. We cannot play innocent. Whatever we do affects all. Our Creator calls us as individuals to serve the community, not vice versa. When we expect the community to serve us, we destroy what our Creator has done. Strength lies within community. Korach, Datan and Abiram were looking for position on their own. When God calls us let us be ready and available to serve Him. Don’t do it because you are looking for fame or to serve your own ego. Instead be humble as you serve. Our Messiah Yeshua was the greatest example of this. He was a simple man, living to serve right up the end. He was my rabbi, a wonderful prophet and the anointed one. When I remove his humanity, I remove his true identity. He never intended to be Korach; to take the position of our Creator. He told us to humble ourselves before the Creator. He never said that he replaced God. Sadly the two major religions today have a totally wrong idea about who Yeshua really was. He came to bring his people back to the Torah.