Parashat Korach

By Rabbi David Cohen:

Parashat Korach stands alone as the parsha which is yafeh nidreshet, expounded well, presenting many details. In his Teivas Gome, the author of the Pri MeGadim explains Rashi’s statement rationally.

Most halachos of the Torah are time-sensitive, applicable during specific times. For instance, one does not lecture about Pesach during the Three Weeks, or about Chanukah during the month of Shevat. Parashat Korach, in which much of its theme touches on the deleterious effects of machloket, controversy, sadly applies constantly. We are aware of no geographic or chronologic limitations to machloket. It happens more often than we care to acknowledge, and is not restricted to a specific group of people.

Horav Yeruchem Levovitz, zl, teaches that studying the parsha superficially is a grave error, because one can lose sight of the real issues. Korach was no fool. He may have acted foolishly, but he was far from a fool. We must look at what provoked him to act inanely. Otherwise, we might think, “It could not happen to me. I am not a fool.” Indeed, Korach’s original desire to be Kohen Gadol or to be Nasi had its roots in a desire to elevate himself spiritually. This situation quickly soured when he saw that it was not happening. This, in and of itself, is an indication that the roots of his desire were murky.

The Mashgiach sums it up with the well-known Chazal (Yalkut Shimoni97b): Ein bein Gehinom l’Gan Eden ela k’chut ha’saarah; “The divide between purgatory and paradise is a hairsbreadth.” Ambition – regardless of its lofty goals — requires purity. Korach’s ambition had that slight flaw which caused him to plummet to Gehinom. One drop of negiut, self-centeredness, despite his desire to come closer to Hashem, can take a person down to the depths of infamy.