Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Korach) Entitlement
The Torah relates that Korach led a rebellious group against our leader Moshe, casting doubt on his Divinely appointed leadership. After various attempts were made by Moshe to calmly diffuse the claims, Korach together with his family and congregation received a spectacular reprimand from G-d. They and their belongings were miraculously swallowed up into the ground, thus proving Moshe’s appointment by G-d.
Korach also smooth talked 250 leaders to join the rebellion. These 250 leaders were instructed to gather in front of the Temple to offer Ketores – an incense offering reserved for Aaron and his sons, the appointees for the Priesthood.
As the group presented their offerings, a fire came down from Heaven consuming the offerings including the 250 men. Aaron also brought an incense offering which was consumed, yet he was spared, thus confirming his appointment to the Priesthood by G-d.
What brought Korach to make such absurd claims against Moshe? After all, Korach and his cohorts witnessed Moshe ascending from Mount Sinai to the Heavens and descending with the Ten Commandments as well as other great feats that Moshe performed in Egypt, at the Red Sea and during their journey in the desert.
Our Sages tell us that the underlying force behind Korach’s ludicrous claims was that he felt slighted when his younger cousin was appointed to a prestigious position. Instead of accepting it as a decision of G-d and moving on, Korach held onto his feelings of entitlement acting on them to the point of the ridiculous and attacked Moshe’s Divine credibility.
True, a feeling of entitlement can take a person quite far, but what made Korach feel so snug and confident that his assertion was correct that he blatantly disregarded Moshe’s appeals and warning of his demise?
Korach knew that Samuel the prophet would eventually descend from him. He banked on this assurance that he would live.
Korach, blinded by his ego and feelings of entitlement, did not take into account that his children would repent and be spared. This is what exactly happened. As his children were being sucked into the ground, they repented and were spared and through them, Samuel was born.
Moshe told Korach the following: “If these men would die through a miracle of the ground opening up it would prove that Moshe was indeed sent by G-d. However, if these men were to die a normal death, it is proof that G-d did not send me.”
A question is raised: Had Korach repented (as his sons did), he would not have died through the ground opening up. This would have refuted Moshe’s Divine appointment. How was Moshe so sure that Korach would not repent?
An answer offered is that Maimonides explains that when one sincerely repents a transition occurs –he basically takes on a whole new identity. A repentant person is not the same person who committed the sin.
Take notice of Moshe’s warning to Korach. He says, “If these people die a normal death, it is proof that G-d did not send me.” Moshe said “these people” – the way they are now in a sinful state. However, if they repent then they will no longer be, ‘these people,’ since they would have assumed a new identity. Thus, Moshe’s Divine appointment was not on the line.
Although Korach was the worst of the worst, challenging the basic fiber of our belief in Moshe’s Divine appointment as leader, Moshe still gave Korach the opportunity to repent until the last moment. While Korach and his wife did not take advantage of the power of remorse, his sons did, and they survived.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks