Parashat Korah- Don’t BE Right, MAKE Things Right
32. The earth beneath them opened its mouth and swallowed them and their houses, and all the men who were with Korah and all the property.
לב. וַתִּפְתַּח הָאָרֶץ אֶת פִּיהָ וַתִּבְלַע אֹתָם וְאֶת בָּתֵּיהֶם וְאֵת כָּל הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר לְקֹרַח וְאֵת כָּל הָרֲכוּשׁ:
Rabba Bar Bar Chana was once traveling on the road when a certain Arab said to him, ‘Come, let me show you where Korah and his party were swallowed up.’ The Arab pointed out two cracks in the ground giving out smoke….He said to Rabba Bar Bar Chana, ‘Listen to what you are about to hear!’ He heard that they were saying, ‘Moshe and his Torah are true, and we are liars!’ (Sanhedrin 110b)
Leave aside the meaning of this Midrash is for a moment. What was Korah doing down there in the first place?
In Parashat Korah, none other than Korah himself and his personal group of men approach Moshe Rabbenu and Aharon HaKohen and ask why they have taken for themselves the most desirable positions in Kelal Yisrael. While Moshe Rabbenu was, well, Moshe Rabbenu, and Aharon HaKohen was the Kohen Gadol, the rest of the Leviim, including Korah, felt a certain inequality since they have not received as prestigious positions among Kelal Yisrael. As a punishment for this, the earth opens up and ‘swallows’ them and their families, even their children, and ALL their possessions (the Midrash tells us that even a needle that someone had borrowed from them flew right into the earth’s opening) so that their legacy would be completely obliterated.
But was this really so wrong a request that they would receive such a harsh punishment? I would understand if Benei Yisrael would complain about food one more time and were punished in such a way, but finally, someone here is asking to elevate himself spiritually, to move upward! What did the poor guy do? Even his family was sent off the face of this earth! He must have done something really wrong here to deserve such a punishment. But what?
Haza’’l tell us that three things ‘take a person out of this world’: anger, jealousy, and arrogance. Eh, when Korah asks for a position upgrade, his hands were not exactly clean of any of these three. He didn’t really have the right intentions when he was asking. His anger is apparent in his willingness to cause a mahloket (division) among Kelal Yisrael when he gathered a group of over 250 men to accuse Moshe and Aharon of nepotism. His jealousy is evident too, when he requests a higher status; his ‘Levi level’ just isn’t enough, he needs to be ruler of the nation. But on top of these, was his arrogance. Why shouldn’t HE be Kohen Gadol? This is why he was deserving to be ‘taken out of this world’. Literally.
When Korah asks for Kehunah, it wasn’t really about gaining the Kehunah; he was on a personal vendetta. Korah was the wealthiest man that ever lived, number one on the Forbes 500 list, he had it all. But there was one thing that he didn’t have, and it bothered him until no end. While he was able to provide his wife with every jewel possible, Korah could not give his wife what Moshe Rabbenu was able to give his wife Sipporah: a magnificent stone carved from the stone of the Luhot HaBerit (the ‘Tablets’) themselves. Why does Moshe deserve of such a thing and not me? I am the wealthiest in the world, I deserve such a gem as well! Who is Moshe over me?? I am also important! Because of his inflated ego, Korah felt he had to be the top. He was ready to take Moshe Rabbenu down.
An arrogant person only sees themselves. They value their own opinion over anybody else’s. They think that their own thinking is best and are less inclined to take anyone else’s opinion into consideration. This inflexibility can only cause argument since by not giving in, by not compromising, they only escalate the division between themselves and their counterpart.
We learn that the only argument in the world where one side was one hundred percent right and the other side was completely not was the dispute between Korah and Moshe Rabbenu, otherwise, in any other dispute, each side of the argument has to be partially right in some way. A person doesn’t argue for no reason; they argue because they genuinely believe that they are correct. Anytime that you may find yourself caught in a dispute (which is one hundred percent normal) try to see the places where your counterpart may be right. Be flexible. Try to work it out together. Don’t argue, discuss. Try to reach a compromise.
If the dispute continues, give in, try to appease the other side. After all, who is to say that you are right anyways? If it still goes on, DROP IT. There is nothing worse than an argument that is dragged out. Ooof.
You want to know how important it is to avoid mahloket (division) and argument as much as possible? Look at the difference between the relationship between Aharon HaKohen and his wife and Korah and his wife.
When Korah returns from a ritual done for Leviim, all his body hair shaven off, his wife looks at him and mocks him, she discourages him. ‘You baldy, you fell for their tricks! Aharon and Moshe are also Leviim, I don’t see them with shaved heads!’ All that did was buy her a piece of prime Real Estate for her husband and kids in Gehenom. Storage Included.
But look at the understanding and willingness to work things out between Aharon HaKohen (who was Ohev Shalom and Rodef Shalom) and his wife, Elisheva. When their baby was born, Elisheva approaches Aharon HaKohen and asks ‘My dear Aharon, my father’s name is Aminadav. Would it be okay to name our son after him and call him Nadav?’ Aharon HaKohen has no objection, Of course we can. Little did Aharon HaKohen know, but his own father, Amram, was somewhat offended. When he finds out, he rushes to make amends. ‘I’m sorry Abba, our next son we will name after you’. And so they named their son Avihu-‘He is my father‘. Even then, these two sons end up perishing tragically. Why? Says Maran HaRav Ovadia Yosef shelit’’a, because they came into the world with the undertones of a mahloket. And just look at all the things we argue about today….
Know one thing:
Life isn’t about being right; it’s about making things right.
There is a saying that goes ‘Al Teheh Sodek, Teheh Hakham’; Don’t be right, Be wise. When you see a situation arising, put down your ego for a second. What will being right achieve for you anyways? Just focus on making this turn out positively, as best as possible, this way, everyone ends up content-especially you. This takes true intellect. When you are driving down a street and the light is green, you have every right to continue driving along the road, correct? But if you see a car speeding down the cross-street on your right, are you going to continue driving? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But I had the right of way! But you would have severely harmed yourself otherwise. What’s the point of being right if the earth is going to swallow you up anyways?
Being right is so overrated.
Be’Ezrat HaShem may we all be a source of Shalom, peace, in this world and not the opposite. May we develop the koah to put our egos on the side in order to do Rasson HaShem, HaShem’s will. Anytime we feel a dispute coming, let’s remember to take it easy! May we bring Kelal Yisrael closer to each other this way, and in that zekhout may we build the Beit HaMikdah BeKarov TOGETHER, Amen!
Wishing everyone a peaceful Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!
Based on the beautiful teachings of HaRabbanit Yemima Mizrahi
Based on the beautiful teachings of HaRabbanit Yemima Mizrahi