Parshas Korach - Play Your Role
וַיִּקַּ֣ח קֹ֔רַח בֶּן־יִצְהָ֥ר בֶּן־קְהָ֖ת בֶּן־לֵוִ֑י וְדָתָ֨ן וַֽאֲבִירָ֜ם בְּנֵ֧י אֱלִיאָ֛ב וְא֥וֹן בֶּן־פֶּ֖לֶת בְּנֵ֥י רְאוּבֵֽן: וַיָּקֻ֨מוּ֙ לִפְנֵ֣י משֶׁ֔ה וַֽאֲנָשִׁ֥ים מִבְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים וּמָאתָ֑יִם נְשִׂיאֵ֥י עֵדָ֛ה קְרִאֵ֥י מוֹעֵ֖ד אַנְשֵׁי־שֵֽׁם: וַיִּקָּֽהֲל֞וּ עַל־משֶׁ֣ה וְעַל־אַֽהֲרֹ֗ן וַיֹּֽאמְר֣וּ אֲלֵהֶם֘ רַב־לָכֶם֒ כִּ֤י כָל־הָֽעֵדָה֙ כֻּלָּ֣ם קְדשִׁ֔ים וּבְתוֹכָ֖ם יְהֹוָ֑ה וּמַדּ֥וּעַ תִּתְנַשְּׂא֖וּ עַל־קְהַ֥ל יְהֹוָֽה: וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע משֶׁ֔ה וַיִּפֹּ֖ל עַל־פָּנָֽיו:
"Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi took [himself to one side] along with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, descendants of Reuben. They confronted Moses together with two hundred and fifty men from the children of Israel, chieftains of the congregation, representatives of the assembly, men of repute. They assembled against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, "You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire congregation are all holy, and the Lord is in their midst. So why do you raise yourselves above the Lord's assembly?" Moses heard and fell on his face." (Bamidbar 16:1-4)
Klal Yisrael, still reeling from the sin of the Meraglim, march through the desert knowing that they will not leave the wilderness alive. Onto this hopeless scene Korach emerges as charismatic leader with a populist message who challenges the authority of Moshe and Aaron HaKohen. He quickly musters a coalition of other leaders in Klal Yisrael and creates a revolution unlike any other Moshe will face in his lifetime. Ultimately, the revolution will claim the lives of the 253 people who rebelled against Moshe as well as another 14,700 who die in the aftermath.
As we examine this story several questions arise:
What is the meaning of וַיִּקַּ֣ח קֹ֔רַח, and Korach took? What did Korach take?
Korach is no simple man. A descendant of Yitzhor, Kehos and Levi (a first cousin to Moshe Rabbeinu), he hails from an illustrious family. The Medrash in Bamidbar Rabbah (18:3) tells us that Korach was exceedingly wise and was among those responsible for carrying the Aron while the Mishkan was traveling. The Gemara in Pesachim (119a) tells us that Korach was fabulously wealthy. What makes such a man rebel against Moshe? Did he not have everything one could ask for?
The 250 men who joined Korach were no simple folk either. The Torah calls them נְשִׂיאֵ֥י עֵדָ֛ה קְרִאֵ֥י מוֹעֵ֖ד אַנְשֵׁי־שֵֽׁם, chieftains of the congregation, representatives of the assembly, men of repute. Why would such men join such a terrible rebellion?
Chazal (Sanhedrin 110a) goes so far as to say that anyone who engages in divisiveness transgresses a divine prohibition, as it is written: "And he shall not be as Korach and his company." Why does Korach become the symbol for every petty Machlokes in Klal Yisrael?
Ultimately Korach is swallowed up by the ground beneath. Why such an unusual punishment? How does the punishment fit the crime?
The Origins of Machlokes
In order to answer these questions let us journey back to the origins of Machlokes.
The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 4:6) notes that after each day of creation the Torah says "it wad good" except for after the first day of creation. Rav Yochanan says in the name of Rav Yose ben Chalafta explains the omission by teaching that on the second day of creation Gehhenom was created. Rav Chanina explains that on the second day of creation Machlokes was created as the passuk says, וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים יְהִ֥י רָקִ֖יעַ בְּת֣וֹךְ הַמָּ֑יִם וִיהִ֣י מַבְדִּ֔יל בֵּ֥ין מַ֖יִם לָמָֽיִם, And God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the water, and let it be a separation between water and water."
The problem with this explanation is that already on the first day of creation we already find the notion of separation as the passuk says, וַיַּ֧רְא אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶת־הָא֖וֹר כִּי־ט֑וֹב וַיַּבְדֵּ֣ל אֱלֹהִ֔ים בֵּ֥ין הָא֖וֹר וּבֵ֥ין הַחֽשֶׁךְ, And God saw the light that it was good, and God separated between the light and between the darkness. Why then was Machlokes not created on the first day?
Clearly the implication is that light and darkness are fundamentally different from each other. Their separation does not leave room for dissent. They share nothing in common so there is no room for argument. If a stranger says something hurtful to us it has no impact because we have no relationship with them.On the second day of creation God separates water from water. Fundamentally they are the same. This type of separation leads to Machlokes. When a husband and a wife say hurtful words to each other the pain is so deep because they share a common essence. Thus the Medrash teaches that it was only on the second day of creation that Machlokes was created which explains why the Torah omits the phrase "it was good." A day in which dissent is created cannot be called a good day.
Now that we have discovered the day on which Machlokes was created, let us analyse the first Machlokes in the Torah, the story of Kayin and Hevel.
In order to understand the story of Kayin and Hevel we must first analyse the way the Torah describes their birth.
וְהָ֣אָדָ֔ם יָדַ֖ע אֶת־חַוָּ֣ה אִשְׁתּ֑וֹ וַתַּ֨הַר֙ וַתֵּ֣לֶד אֶת־קַ֔יִן וַתֹּ֕אמֶר קָנִ֥יתִי אִ֖ישׁ אֶת־יְהֹוָֽה:
"Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, and she said, "I have acquired a man with the Lord." (Bereishis 4:1)
וַתֹּ֣סֶף לָלֶ֔דֶת אֶת־אָחִ֖יו אֶת־הָ֑בֶל וַֽיְהִי־הֶ֨בֶל֙ רֹ֣עֵה צֹ֔אן וְקַ֕יִן הָיָ֖ה עֹבֵ֥ד אֲדָמָֽה:
"And she continued to bear his brother Abel, and Abel was a shepherd of flocks, and Cain was a tiller of the soil." (Bereishis 4:2)
If we just read these two pesukim and did not know the rest of the story what message would we take away about Kayin and Hevel? It seems to me that Kayin is the main character and Hevel is the afterthought. After all, the Torah describes the union that produces Kayin and tells us why he is given his name (and it is quite a name!). Regarding Hevel the Torah merely says וַתֹּ֣סֶף לָלֶ֔דֶת, and Chava continued to bear... and it does not mention any reason given for his name (aside from the fact that Hevel means vanity - not exactly a name of great distinction). Kayin, in keeping with God's punishment that we are going to have to work the land by the sweat of our brow, becomes a farmer. Hevel seems to retreat from God's punishment and becomes a shepherd, continuing the idyllic lifestyle of Gan Eden. In fact, Rashi explains that since the ground was cursed, Hevel specifically refrained from working it.
The Torah continues and tells us:
וַיְהִ֖י מִקֵּ֣ץ יָמִ֑ים וַיָּבֵ֨א קַ֜יִן מִפְּרִ֧י הָֽאֲדָמָ֛ה מִנְחָ֖ה לַֽיהֹוָֽה:
"Now it came to pass at the end of days, that Cain brought of the fruit of the soil an offering to the Lord." (Bereishis 4:3)
וְהֶ֨בֶל הֵבִ֥יא גַם־ה֛וּא מִבְּכֹר֥וֹת צֹאנ֖וֹ וּמֵֽחֶלְבֵהֶ֑ן וַיִּ֣שַׁע יְהֹוָ֔ה אֶל־הֶ֖בֶל וְאֶל־מִנְחָתֽוֹ:
"And Abel he too brought of the firstborn of his flocks and of their fattest, and the Lord turned to Abel and to his offering." (Bereishis 4:4)
It is Kayin who takes the initiative and brings the world's first korban (setting the groundwork for future religion) not Hevel. Hevel, like the story of his birth, is merely an afterthought, copying the sacrifice of his older brother. And yet it is Hevel's korban that seems to be more pleasing to God. If Kayin, as the firstborn, is the one who is the expression of Chava's partnership with Hashem, if it his initiative to make a sacrifice to God, why does God turn towards Hevel and his offering?
Naturally Kayin is bothered by the fact that Hashem seems not to favor his korban as the passuk says, וְאֶל־קַ֥יִן וְאֶל־מִנְחָת֖וֹ לֹ֣א שָׁעָ֑ה וַיִּ֤חַר לְקַ֨יִן֙ מְאֹ֔ד וַיִּפְּל֖וּ פָּנָֽיו, But to Cain and to his offering He did not turn, and it annoyed Cain exceedingly, and his countenance fell. In contrast, Hashem's reaction to Kayin is quite perplexing:
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־קָ֑יִן לָ֚מָּה חָ֣רָה לָ֔ךְ וְלָ֖מָּה נָֽפְל֥וּ פָנֶֽיךָ:
"And the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you annoyed, and why has your countenance fallen?" (Bereishis 4:6)
הֲל֤וֹא אִם־תֵּיטִיב֙ שְׂאֵ֔ת וְאִם֙ לֹ֣א תֵיטִ֔יב לַפֶּ֖תַח חַטָּ֣את רֹבֵ֑ץ וְאֵלֶ֨יךָ֙ תְּשׁ֣וּקָת֔וֹ וְאַתָּ֖ה תִּמְשָׁל־בּֽוֹ:
"Is it not so that if you improve, it will be forgiven you? If you do not improve, however, at the entrance, sin is lying, and to you is its longing, but you can rule over it." (Bereishis 4:7)
Does God not understand why Kayin is bothered? Kayin is the creative brother who took the initiative to bring a Korban. Hevel, as always, is merely tagging along. Of course Kayin is bothered by what he perceives to be an injustice. What exactly is Hashem asking Kayin?
The theme of Hevel receiving more than Kayin is also found in the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 22:2) which tells us that while Kayin was born with one twin sister, Hevel was born with two twin sisters. Why does Hevel, the afterthought, seem to be receiving more than Kayin? We would expect God to treat Kayin and Hevel equally, but if God was to favor one over the other we would assume that it should be Kayin, as the firstborn, who should receive the double portion.
And what is the meaning of this enigmatic speech that Hashem gives Kayin? Why is he speaking to Kayin about sin lying at the entrance of the door?
This perplexing story continues with the world's first murder:
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר קַ֖יִן אֶל־הֶ֣בֶל אָחִ֑יו וַֽיְהִי֙ בִּֽהְיוֹתָ֣ם בַּשָּׂדֶ֔ה וַיָּ֥קָם קַ֛יִן אֶל־הֶ֥בֶל אָחִ֖יו וַיַּֽהַרְגֵֽהוּ:
"And Cain spoke to Abel his brother, and it came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him." (Bereishis 4:8)
We are all familiar with this Hevel's murder but many don't pay attention to the conversation that Kayin and Hevel had immediately beforehand. Strangely, the Torah neglects to tell us what was said. If the conversation is not important why bother to tell us that they spoke at all? If it is important, why not tell us the nature of the conversation? Furthermore, the Torah tells us that Kayin spoke but does not mention that Hevel ever responds. Was this a one sided conversation?
And why does Kayin kill Hevel? Just moments ago we saw Kayin as the one who creatively serves God and now he is committing fratricide?
As we continue analyzing this very strange story, we come to across another detail that does not seem to fit with the narrative. Kayin has killed Hevel. Hashem punishes Kayin with exile.
וַיֹּ֖אמֶר מֶ֣ה עָשִׂ֑יתָ ק֚וֹל דְּמֵ֣י אָחִ֔יךָ צֹֽעֲקִ֥ים אֵלַ֖י מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה: וְעַתָּ֖ה אָר֣וּר אָ֑תָּה מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר פָּֽצְתָ֣ה אֶת־פִּ֔יהָ לָקַ֛חַת אֶת־דְּמֵ֥י אָחִ֖יךָ מִיָּדֶֽךָ: כִּ֤י תַֽעֲבֹד֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה לֹֽא־תֹסֵ֥ף תֵּֽת־כֹּחָ֖הּ לָ֑ךְ נָ֥ע וָנָ֖ד תִּֽהְיֶ֥ה בָאָֽרֶץ:
"And He said, "What have you done? Hark! Your brother's blood cries out to Me from the earth. And now, you are cursed even more than the ground, which opened its mouth to take your brother's blood from your hand. When you till the soil, it will not continue to give its strength to you; you shall be a wanderer and an exile in the land." (Bereishis 4:10-12)
Several questions arise as we consider these pesukim.
Hashem tells Kayin that he is more cursed than the ground which opened its mouth... The connection between the ground and Kayin seems to be a tenuous one. We would expect the focus to be on the murder, not on the blood that has seeped into the ground. Furthermore, the phrase אֲשֶׁ֣ר פָּֽצְתָ֣ה אֶת־פִּ֔יהָ, which opened its mouth, is a strange was to express the idea that Hevel's blood went into the land. Most glaringly, the punishment for Hevel's murder is not death (though that would happen seven generations later) but exile. How does the punishment fit the crime? Why is Kayin not punished with death? In fact we see that the exact opposite is true.
הֵן֩ גֵּרַ֨שְׁתָּ אֹתִ֜י הַיּ֗וֹם מֵעַל֙ פְּנֵ֣י הָֽאֲדָמָ֔ה וּמִפָּנֶ֖יךָ אֶסָּתֵ֑ר וְהָיִ֜יתִי נָ֤ע וָנָד֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ וְהָיָ֥ה כָל־מֹֽצְאִ֖י יַֽהַרְגֵֽנִי: וַיֹּ֧אמֶר ל֣וֹ יְהֹוָ֗ה לָכֵן֙ כָּל־הֹרֵ֣ג קַ֔יִן שִׁבְעָתַ֖יִם יֻקָּ֑ם וַיָּ֨שֶׂם יְהֹוָ֤ה לְקַ֨יִן֙ א֔וֹת לְבִלְתִּ֥י הַכּֽוֹת־אֹת֖וֹ כָּל־מֹֽצְאֽוֹ:
"Behold You have driven me today off the face of the earth, and I shall be hidden from before You, and I will be a wanderer and an exile in the land, and it will be that whoever finds me will kill me. And the Lord said to him, "Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be wrought upon him sevenfold," and the Lord placed a mark on Cain that no one who find him slay him." (Bereishis 4:14,15)
Not only does God not kill Kayin but we find that Kayin complains to Hashem that he will be slain! And instead of Hashem allowing for Kayin to be killed, we find that God protects Kayin. Where is the justice?
In order to answer these questions we must understand that the Kayin and Hevel narrative is not about murder. In fact Chazal explain (Radak 4:12) that Kayin did not know how to kill because no person had ever been murdered before. Kayin may have meant to injure Hevel but not knowing that an injury would prove fatal means that we can consider his murder inadvertent. Seen from this lens it is certainly understandable why Kayin is punished with exile as that is the punishment for those who cause someone's death accidentally. It is also clear why Kayin deems it appropriate to argue that he will be slain in exile and why God protects him. An accidental death is not punished with death and to allow Kayin to be slain would be unjust. So if murder is not the central theme of the story, what is?
Perhaps we can suggest that the central theme of the story is the root of Machlokes. Just as with the waters on the second day of creation, Machlokes only occurs when there is division from two things that equal. Kayin and Hevel appeared to be exactly the same. If anything Kayin seems to be superior. What bothers Kayin is that he does not seem to be treated equally. From the outset it is Hevel that was born with two twin sisters. Why does Hevel receive more?
But in truth Kayin and Hevel are quite different from one another. Kayin works the land while Hevel is a shepherd. Kayin engages the world while Hevel transcends. Kayin takes the initiative and brings the world's first sacrifice but there are various opinions as to the quality of the Korban. Rashi brings two opinions, one that the fruits Kayin brought were inferior and another that says that he took whatever came into his hand. In contrast Hevel brings from the choicest of his flock. So while Kayin may have brought the first korban it is Hevel who brings the best korban. Kayin and Hevel, with their different personalities and ways of being, each bring something meaningful to the table.
With this in mind we can now understand why Hashem asks Kayin why he is frustrated. Kayin's korban has not been rejected. In offering his choicest sheep Hevel was worthy of special attention from Hashem but Kayin's was still a meaningful korban. And it could very well be that Kayin understood that but the true source of his frustration was that he and Hevel were not being treated equally.
This can be seen in the non conversation that occurs between Kayin and Hevel. The Medrash offer various opinions as to the nature of their conversation (they were fighting over how the world was to be divided, in whose territory would the Beis HaMidash be located, and who should be able to marry the extra sister) but on a textual level there is no indication of any particular topic. And that's exactly the point. There was no conversation. Kayin was merely pouring out his frustration on his brother. And appropriately Hevel does not respond. When someone is being verbally abusive the correct response is not to respond at all. Their emotions belongs to them. There is no reason to respond. Perhaps we can suggest that Hevel's silence was infuriating to Kayin. When we are angry at another and the other party simply looks at us without responding it can sometime cause our anger to be heightened. Ultimately, Kayin's emotions get the better of him and he murders Hevel.
Notice that the Torah says that Kayin murders his brother Hevel. He murders him precisely because Hevel is his brother. The contrast of the two brother being treated differently is too much to bare. And while the murder may be accidental and was punished with exile, the conversation between Kayin and Hevel is certainly not. The Torah calls our attention to Kayin's tirade against his brother in Kayin's punishment. And now, you are cursed even more than the ground, which opened its mouth to take your brother's blood from your hand. Why the phrase אֲשֶׁ֣ר פָּֽצְתָ֣ה אֶת־פִּ֔יהָ, which opened its mouth? Kayin is held responsible for opening his mouth and quarreling with his brother. Had he been able to recognize that they were not the same, that God gives everyone exactly what they need and what they are deserving of, then Kayin would have not have been jealous. There would have been no "conversation." Ultimately Hevel would still be alive. Just as Kayin opened his mouth, so too the earth opened its mouth to swallow Hevel's blood.
We can now understand what Hashem means when he refers to sin lying at the entrance of the door. Sin is the result of an inner paradigm. In this case Hashem was telling Kayin that his focus on his brother was going to lead to sin. Hashem was trying to tell Kayin to focus on his own avodah, improve his own weaknesses. Jealousy will lead to sin but you can conquer your desires. Had Kayin heeded Hashem's advice he would not have entered into a conversation with Hevel. He would have looked at himself and taken stock of his own avodah recognizing that he did not bring the best of his fruits but merely whatever came to his hand (or worse). He would have valued the unique role that he was meant to play and the role that Hevel played. Far from murdering Hevel he would have understood that each one of them makes an important contribution that the other simply cannot make. Their differences would have united them. Sadly, Kayin did not heed Hashem's advice. The result was Machlokes and death.
History Repeats Itself
Understanding the story of Kayin and Hevel will allow us to gain important insights into the story of Korach and Moshe. The parallels between Kayin and Korach are striking. The Arizal teaches that Korach was a gilgul of Kayin and Moshe was a gilgul of Hevel (Shaar Hagiligulim Hakdama 33).
Like Kayin, Korach was the firstborn of his family (Shemos 6:21). In fact the Rabbeinu Bachya (16:1) explains that all 250 men that joined in Korach's rebbelion were first borns who hailed from the tribe of Reuven, the first born of Yaakov Avinu. Just as Kayin felt that he was not being treated fairly as the firstborn, the firstborns of Reuven felt that it was a grave injustice that the birthright was transferred to Yosef. (In fact, they suspected that it was Moshe (and not Yaakov) who transferred the firstborn to Yosef so that Yehoshua, as the descendant of Ephraim, would be justified in his leadership position). The Rabbeinu Bachya explains that these members of the tribe of Reuven were specifically incensed that the tribe of Yosef flew under the banner of two flags which is reminiscent of Kayin's jealousy of Hevel's two sisters.
(Perhaps we can explain that this is the inner meaning of the Gemara in Pesachim (119a - see also Bamidbar Rabbah 18:15 and Bereishis Rabbah 50:11) which teaches that Korach became exceedingly wealthy when he discovered the hidden treasures of Yosef HaTzaddik in Mitzrayim. As the person who argues for the rights of the firstborn, Yosef HaTzaddik, the usurper of the firstborn from Reuven, would have been his natural target. Knowing that Korach took the wealth of Yosef HaTzaddik may have endeared Korach to the 250 firstborns of Reuven which allowed for Korach to become their leader.)
The Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 18:6) explains that Korach's dispute with Moshe stemmed from his understanding of his father's name, Yitzhar, which means oil. Just as when one pours oil into another fluid the oil rises to the top, so too Korach, as the son of oil, was meant to be in an elevated position (ie. the Kohen Gadol). Korach did not need to be anointed with oil, he is the very essence of oil! Similarly, Kayin assumed that since he is the eldest of Adam and Chava, his name reflects the expression of Chava's partnership with God, he assumes he automatically entitled to an elevated position.
Another fascinating parallel between Kayin and Korach can be found in Korach's slanderous accusation against Moshe Rabbeinu. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (110a) asks, what does the passuk mean when it says that Moshe "heard and fell upon his face" (Bamidbar 16:4)? What report did Moshe hear? The Gemara answers that Moshe heard that Korach and his followers had spread a rumor that Moshe had commited adultery with a married woman. Every man in Klal Yisrael warned their wives that they should distance themselves from Moshe Rabbeinu and as a result Moshe Rabbeinu withdrew from the camp (Shemos 33:7). Of all of the lies that Korach could have concocted, why specifically this one? Just as Kayin felt that Hevel's second wife ought to have belonged to him as the firstborn child (a form of adultery) so too Moshe, as the gilgul of Hevel, is accused of committing adultery.
In order to develop this idea further let us examine Korach's motivation for attacking Moshe.
The Medrash Tanchuma (Korach 1) explains that Amram was the oldest son of of Kehas. Naturally, his children, Aaron and Moshe became Kohen Gadol and a Melech. Korach reasoned that since Yitzhar was the second son of Amram, and Korach was the eldest of that family, the next position of honor should be bestowed upon him. Instead, Elitzafan the son Uziel, the youngest of Amram's children, was made into the prince of Shevet Levi. Korach argued that it was wrong that the youngest of his father's brothers should have a position of honor before me and as a result he disputed all of Moshe's appointments.
Just as Kayin could not handle his younger brother's superiority, so too Korach could not handle the superior position of Elitzfan, the progeny of Amram's youngest son. In fact, one could argue that Hashem specifically gave this honor to Elitzafan so that Korach was given the opportunity to recognize the unique position that he held and to remain quiet. By conquering his jealousy Korach would have been able to bring a tikkun to the soul of Kayin.
In truth, the Arizal (Shaar HaPesukim - Yechezkel 20) explains that it would have been inappropriate for Korach to become the Kohen Gadol. Kayin represents the middah of gevurah and Hevel represents middah of chesed. The position of the Kehuna was meant to be given to the middah of gevura but when Kayin killed Hevel he damaged the middah of gevurah and it was no longer fitting for the Kehuna. This is what Hashem meant when he told Kayin that he could have beenn forgiven (Bereishis 4:7). Had Kayin overcome his jealousy and not killed his brother his progeny would have become the Kohanim while the progeny of Hevel would have been the Leviim. Because of Kayin's sin their roles were reversed and therefore it was appropriate for Korach to be a Levi and not a Kohen.
Furthermore, the Gemara in Sanhedrin (110a) teaches that Korach's wife incited him to rebellion by pointing out that Moshe shaved Korach's hair to indicate that he was as insignificant as excrement. (Leviim purify themselves by shaving off all of the hair on their body.) Korach argued that Moshe himself as a Levi had shaved off his hair. Clearly this was not meant as an attack of me. Korach's wife responded that Moshe was willing to humiliate himself in order to humiliate Korach. The Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 18:4) explains that after Korach had his hair shaved he was unrecognizable as he wandered through the camps of Klal Yisrael. When finally recognized Korach told the people that while Moshe dressed Aaron in the priestly garments, he himself was denigrated which incited the people against Moshe. (In fact the name Korach means bald one.)
The connection between Kayin and Korach is obvious. Kayin felt awful that his Korban was not favored by Hashem in the way that Hevel merited. One can imagine that he felt completely worthless as Hashem paid more attention to Hevel's sacrifice. This is exactly the argument that Korach's wife makes to Korach. By shaving your hair, Moshe is attempting to make you feel like nothing more than a piece of excrement. In the account of the Medrash Korach must have felt worthless as he is totally unrecognized by Klal Yisrael. As a man of distinction one assumes he was accustomed to being accorded with honor wherever he went. Not being recognized must have been humiliating, especially when compared to the honor that Aaron was receiving. Still, according to the version of the Gemara, Korach responds to his wife that he was ok with being bald as long as Moshe was bald as well. Recall that Kayin wanted to be treated equally. What bothered Kayin was that Hevel was being favored above him. As long as Korach and Moshe were on the same level Korach had no issue with Moshe. To this Korach's wife responds that Moshe is in fact humiliating Korach and he has only shaved himself for the purpose of humiliating you. When Korach accepts her rationale and experiences the pain that Kayin felt he chooses to rebel against Moshe just as Kayin rose up against Hevel.
The claim of Korach against Moshe also dovetails beautifully with the Kayin and Hevel story.
They assembled against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire congregation are all holy, and God is in their midst. So why do you raise yourselves above God’s assembly?” (Bamidbar 16:2,3)
Everyone is equally holy. No one should stand above the rest. Just as Kayin felt that he ought to be treated equally to Hevel, Korach feels that no one person in Klal Yisrael should be treated differently than any other. In truth however, there is a greater connection between these two stories. As we explained above, Kayin did not want to be treated equally with Hevel. He felt that as the firstborn, he ought to have been gifted with a second wife. Similarly with Korach we find that while he argued that everyone is equally holy, it is not as if he wanted to abolish the concept of an elevated position. Quite the contrary, he wanted the Kohen Gadol status for himself! Thus while Korach's argument may initially seem to be one that returns power to the people, in truth it is just a political power play like any other.
We can now understand why Korach's wife specifically takes issue with the Mitzvah of Techeiles (see Sanhedrin 110a and Medrash HaGadol Bamidar 18:1). She argues with Korach that a garment made entirely of techeiles should not be obligated in the Mitzvah of Tzitzis. After all, if the entire beged serves the functionality of one string, why should we be obligated to attach a mere string? In other words, the beged is the mundane and the Tzitzis are what brings Kedusha to that which is mundane. Korach's wife rejected the notion of the mundane. Everything is Kadosh. If the garment is made of the color of Techeiles then there is no need to attach kedusha to it because it already projects God's throne. Just as Korach argues that every Jew is inherently holy, Korach's wife argues that every object in this world is already Kadosh and does not benefit from the bringing an external Kedusha to it. Rather we should strive to reveal its inner sanctity. In this vein she made begadim of Techeiles for all the students of Korach and did not attach Tzitzis to them.
Of course while Korach's wife was indeed correct that everything in this world has the capacity to be sanctified it does not mean that it is inherently Kadosh. A garment without Tzitzis is not Kadosh no matter how blue it is. There is a difference between that which is mundane and has the capacity to be elevated through a Mitzvah and that which is inhernetly Kadosh. Not all things are created equal.
With this in mind we can now return to the concept that Korach's baldness was an impetus for his rebellion. Not only did shaving his hair represent a separation of the Leviim from the rest of Klal Yisrael (which is against Korach's shita that everyone in Klal Yisrael is equal) but the Abrbanel explains that it also represents the separation from the material desires of this world. Hair is extraneous to the body and shaving it off is symbolic of separating oneself from that which is unnecessary in this world. Korach's worldview is that everything in this world is inherently holy and there ought to be no reason for one to separate from the material world. And while it is indeed true that everything in this world can be elevated (indeed Rav Yehuda HaNasi was exceptionally wealthy and only used his wealth in the service of Hashem) there is also a place for abstaining from the material world and living on only that which is necessary. In this fashion the Leviim sanctified the material world by separating themselves. To Korach this was a fundamental mistake in how to approach the material world. There is already Kedusha in all things. Abstaining does not add Kedusha.
Knowing that Korach sought to make everything holy, to remove all distinctions between kodesh and chol between one man and another, gives us an insight into why the Ketores was the litmus test to determine of God favored Moshe or Korach and his rebellion. The Torah does not indicate that Hashem told Moshe to perform this test. In fact we find that Moshe davened to Hashem that their sacrifice should not be accepted (Bamidbar 16:15). Why does Moshe choose this test above any other? Recall that earlier Nadav and Avihu had died when they inappropriately brought the Ketores in the Mishkan. Moshe hoped to remind this mutinous lot that although Nadav and Avihu were Kohanim they brought the incense without license to do so and the result was death. Moshe hoped to remind Klal Yisrael that there are natural boundaries and borders. Deny them at your own peril.
Furthermore, in the aftermath of Korach's rebellion a plague broke out in Klal Yisrael. The antidote was the Ketores. The very same Ketores that claimed the lives of those who rebelled against Moshe would now be used to save Klal Yisrael. Pay careful attention to how the Torah describes the process.
וַיֹּ֨אמֶר משֶׁ֜ה אֶל־אַֽהֲרֹ֗ן קַ֣ח אֶת־הַ֠מַּחְתָּ֠ה וְתֶן־עָלֶ֨יהָ אֵ֜שׁ מֵעַ֤ל הַמִּזְבֵּ֨חַ֙ וְשִׂ֣ים קְטֹ֔רֶת וְהוֹלֵ֧ךְ מְהֵרָ֛ה אֶל־הָֽעֵדָ֖ה וְכַפֵּ֣ר עֲלֵיהֶ֑ם כִּֽי־יָצָ֥א הַקֶּ֛צֶף מִלִּפְנֵ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה הֵחֵ֥ל הַנָּֽגֶף: וַיִּקַּ֨ח אַֽהֲרֹ֜ן כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֣ר | דִּבֶּ֣ר משֶׁ֗ה וַיָּ֨רָץ֙ אֶל־תּ֣וֹךְ הַקָּהָ֔ל וְהִנֵּ֛ה הֵחֵ֥ל הַנֶּ֖גֶף בָּעָ֑ם וַיִּתֵּן֙ אֶת־הַקְּטֹ֔רֶת וַיְכַפֵּ֖ר עַל־הָעָֽם: וַיַּֽעֲמֹ֥ד בֵּֽין־הַמֵּתִ֖ים וּבֵ֣ין הַֽחַיִּ֑ים וַתֵּֽעָצַ֖ר הַמַּגֵּפָֽה:
Moses said to Aaron, "Take the censer and put fire from the altar top into it and put incense. Then take it quickly to the congregation and atone for them, for wrath has gone forth from the Lord, and the plague has begun." Aaron took [it], just as Moses had said, and he ran into the midst of the assembly, and behold, the plague had begun among the people. He placed the incense on it and atoned for the people. He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague ceased. (Bamidbar 17:11-13)
Why must Aaron stand between the dead and the living in order for the Ketores in order to stop the plague? The entire theme of our story is the necessity of distinctions. Chol is not Kodesh. Leviim are not Kohanim. Korach seeks for everyone to lose their identity to the larger community but there is dignity in difference. The Ketores proved fatal to those who rebelled against the notion of difference. Not everyone can bring the Ketores and not at all times. But when Aaron used the Ketores he did so in order to create a distinction between the dead and the living. He stood between them and in this way indicated that not everything is meant to be the same. As Klal Yisrael understood this message the plague was brought to a halt. (Incidentally, as per the Gemara in Shabbos (89a) Moshe learned the antidote to death from the Malach HaMaves himself after he argued that man was worthy of receiving the Torah because we can suffuse our finite world with Kedusha. Precisely because Moshe showed that there is a difference between Kodesh and Chol is what allowed Moshe to learn this secret to begin with!)
Returning to the theme of Korach as Kayin and Moshe as Hevel, let us return to the "conversation" between Kayin and Hevel. Earlier we noted that the Torah does not tell us what Kayin said to Hevel. The Torah is teaching us that the content of his speech was unimportant because the nature of the conversation was one in which Kayin poured out his jealousy upon Hevel. Here too, while the Torah does tell us the nature of the argument that Korach makes, it is clear that his "logical points" are only there to serve his underlying jealousy. The content of his speech is largely irrelevant because it is just a mask for Korach's feelings of inadequacy. And, just as we noted above that Kayin speaks to Hevel but Hevel never responds, so too Moshe does not seem to be involved in this conversation as the Mishna in Avos describes this scenario as a Machlokes of Korach and his followers and not as a Machlokes between Korach and Moshe. Moshe, like Hevel, is simply not present.
We are now ready to understand the unique nature of Korach's punishment. Why is he swallowed up by the ground? There is a linguistic parallel between the punishment of Kayin and Korach. Regarding Kayin the Torah tells us that the ground "opened its mouth" (Bereishis 4:11) and regarding Korach the ground swallows Korach and his men (Devarim 11:6). Kayin is held responsible for opening his mouth and quarreling with his brother. His punishment is that he now has no resting place in the ground which swallowed the blood of Hevel. Similarly, Korach, as the gilgul of Kayin, is punished for the sin of his mouth as he enters into a Machlokes with Moshe Rabbeinu. Being swallowed by the ground is once again a fitting punishment.
And just as the blood of Hevel cried out from the earth so too we find that Korach cried out from the earth after he was swallowed. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (110a) tells us that Rabbah bar bar Chana said that he was once walking down a path and an Arab offered to show him the spot where Korach was swallowed. They went to a particular place and there were two fissures in the ground from which smoke was emerging. In that place Rabbah bar bar Chana was able to hear voices that emerged from the ground and the voices proclaimed Moshe and his Torah are true and we are liars.
Does Kayin ever have a rectification? Does the story of Kayin and Hevel always repeat itself throughout Tanach (Yishmael and Yitzchak, Eisav and Yaakov, Yosef and his brothers)? As we mentioned earlier, had Kayin held back from quarreling with Hevel he would have merited the Kehuna. Aaron HaKohen holds the position that Kayin was meant to hold and therefore it is Aaron HaKohen who ultimately brings a tikkun to Kayin. (Perhaps this explains why Korach, as the gilgul of Kayin, wanted the position of Kohen Gadol and not the position of Melech that Moshe Rabbeinu held.) The passuk in Shemos (4:27) tells us that Aaron went out into the wilderness to greet Moshe as he returned to Mitzrayim and he kissed him. The Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 5:10) tells us that Aaron rejoiced in the greatness of Moshe. Far from being the jealous older brother who covets Moshe's position, Aaron HaKohen celebrates the fact that his younger brother has achieved such an exalted level. In this way Aaron HaKohen is able to bring a tikkun to the story of Kayin and Hevel.
Korach And Kayin Finally Rectified
In the Haftorah of Parshas Korach, Shmuel HaNavi rebukes Klal Yisrael for requesting the appointment of a King to replace Shmuel as the leader of Klal Yisrael.
What is the connection between this particular story and Parshas Korach?
Rashi (16:7) points out that Shmuel (who was equal to Moshe and Aaron) is a descendant of Korach. As we will soon see, Shmuel HaNavi is destined to bring a tikkun to the soul of Korach (and by extension Kayin - see the Arizal quoted in Mishbetzos Zahav, Shmuel I 1:20 who explains that when Billam says א֕וֹי מִ֥י יִֽחְיֶ֖ה מִשֻּׂמ֥וֹ אֵֽל, Alas! Who can survive these things from God? (Bamidbar 24:26) the words מִשֻּׂמ֥וֹ אֵֽל should be read as משמואל, from Shmuel. In other words, Bilaam was expressing that while Korach would have his tikkun through Shmuel, Bilaam himself would have no tikkun.).
In order to understand the relationship between Shmuel and Korach let us first journey back in time time to when Shmuel was two years old and his mother Chanah brought him to the Mishkan so that she could fulfill her promise that Shmuel's life would be dedicated towards serving God. The passuk says:
וַֽיִּשְׁחֲט֖וּ אֶת־הַפָּ֑ר וַיָּבִ֥אוּ אֶת־הַנַּ֖עַר אֶל־עֵלִֽי:
And they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. (Shmuel I 1:25)
אֶל־הַנַּ֥עַר הַזֶּ֖ה הִתְפַּלָּ֑לְתִּי וַיִּתֵּ֨ן יְהֹוָ֥ה לִי֙ אֶת־שְׁאֵ֣לָתִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר שָׁאַ֖לְתִּי מֵעִמּֽוֹ:
For this child did I pray, and the Lord granted me my request, which I asked of Him. (Shmuel I 1:27)
The Gemara in Berachos (31b) asks, what is the connection between the slaughtering of the bull and bringing Shmuel to Eli? Secondly, why did Chanah say that is specifically for this child that she prayed?
To answer these questions the Gemara provides us with a fascinating backstory that we don't find in the pesukim themselves (but which is alluded to in these pesukim). It seems that Chanah brought a bull to be sacrificed and when Eli called for a Kohen to slaughter the animal, the precocious two year old Shmuel challenged this decision and said that anyone may perform the slaughter. When Eli asked Shmuel what led him to this conclusion Shmuel responded, Does the Torah say "And the Kohen shall slaughter" indicating that the offering may only be slaughtered by a priest? No. Rather it is written: “And the Kohen shall offer,” only from the stage of receiving the blood in the bowls and onward is it a mitzvah incumbent upon Kohanim alone. From here the halacha is derived that slaughter by a non-priest is acceptable.
While Shmuel's reasoning was indeed flawless, Eli told Shmuel that he had acted inappropriately by paskening in front of his Rebbe and therefore he was chayav misah. Upon hearing this Chanah shouted to Eli “I am the woman who stood here with you to pray to the Lord;” do not punish the child who was born of my prayers. Eli responded that he would daven that Hashem should bless Chanah with another child, one who would be even greater than this one. To this Chana replied that it for this child that she davened and she would accept no other.
But how can a two year old be punished by death? Only after a child is Bar Mitzvah are they subject to liability!
The Maadanei Shmuel answers that Eli understood that Shmuel was a desendant of Korach. In paskening in front of his Rebbe he was exhibiting the same power play tendencies as Korach. Rather than allow another Korach to foment rebellion in Klal Yisrael Eli reasoned that it would be better to kill Shmuel now while he was still young and harmless.
Why then does Eli listen to Chanah? If Eli sees that Shmuel is going to be a future Korach why do the cries of a desperate mother sway his decision? The Maadanei Shmuel explains that Chanah had vowed that if she were granted a son no morah would come upon his. The word morah means both razor and fear. Thus Shmuel was a Nazir but he also had no fear of others. Chanah persuaded Eli that Shmuel was not displaying the sympoms of Korach and his power grabbing ways but rather showed no fear just as she had davened for. Shmuel's psak, while inappropriate, was not a symptom of his heritage.
Nevertheless, in spite of the Maadanei Shmuel's answer perhaps we can suggest that as a tikkun for Korach, Shmuel did in fact display Korach like tendencies. In order to rectify Korach and Kayin it would have to mean that Shmuel had the very same middah but overcame his natural disposition so he could bring a rectification to their souls. At a young age Shmuel showed that he had the capacity to stand up against the leadership of Klal Yisrael and act inappropriately. His life however would be led much differently.
In order to understand how Shmuel brought a tikkun to Korach and Kayin let us return to our parsha and its connection to the haftorah.
When Moshe Rabbeinu davened that Hashem should not accept the Ketores of Korach and his men the passuk says:
וַיִּ֤חַר לְמשֶׁה֙ מְאֹ֔ד וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ אֶל־יְהֹוָ֔ה אַל־תֵּ֖פֶן אֶל־מִנְחָתָ֑ם לֹ֠א חֲמ֨וֹר אֶחָ֤ד מֵהֶם֙ נָשָׂ֔אתִי וְלֹ֥א הֲרֵעֹ֖תִי אֶת־אַחַ֥ד מֵהֶֽם:
"Moses was exceedingly distressed, and he said to the Lord, "Do not accept their offering. I have not taken a donkey from a single one of them, and I have not harmed a single one of them." (Bamidbar 16:7)
What is the meaning of Moshe's statement that he has not taken a donkey from a single one of them?
Fascinatingly, in our Haftorah we find that Shmuel uses almost the exact same language!
הִנְנִ֣י עֲנ֣וּ בִי֩ נֶ֨גֶד יְהֹוָ֜ה וְנֶ֣גֶד מְשִׁיח֗וֹ אֶת־שׁוֹר֩ | מִ֨י לָקַ֜חְתִּי וַחֲמ֧וֹר מִ֣י לָקַ֗חְתִּי וְאֶת־מִ֚י עָשַׁ֙קְתִּי֙ אֶת־מִ֣י רַצּ֔וֹתִי וּמִיַּד־מִי֙ לָקַ֣חְתִּי כֹ֔פֶר וְאַעְלִ֥ים עֵינַ֖י בּ֑וֹ וְאָשִׁ֖יב לָכֶֽם:
"Here I am; bear witness against me before the Lord and before His anointed; whose ox did I take, or whose donkey did I take, or whom did I rob; or whom did I oppress, or from whose hand did I take a ransom, that I hide my eyes therewith, and I shall restore to you." (Shmuel I 12:3)
Rashi (Bamidbar 16:7) explains that Moshe was expressing that although Moshe would have been entitled to take a donkey he always paid for his own transportation. In other words, in contrast to Korach who sought to take for himself (וַיִּקַּ֣ח קֹ֔רַח, and Korach took) Moshe Rabbeinu was completely selfless.
Shmuel was similarly totally selfless. Shmuel was the shofet for Klal Yisrael before Klal Yisrael requested a Melech to replace Shmuel. Only after Klal Yisrael accepts Shaul as their king does Shmuel rebuke them for asking for a king. This is where our Haftorah begins. Why didn't Shmuel rebuke Klal Yisrael right away when they requested to have a Melech? Why wait until after the king is appointed and accepted?
The Metzudas Dovid (Shmeul I 12:1) explains that had Shmuel rebuked Klal Yisrael before a king was appointed they would assume that Shmuel was acting out of self interest so that he could retain his own power. In fact, the Gemara in Berachos (10b) tells us that Shmuel never accepted favors from others and traveled with all of his own provisions. Like Moshe, Shmuel was completely selfless, concerned only with the needs of the Klal. Like Moshe he never took a donkey from Klal Yisrael. In this fashion, by rising above his natural tendency for power and serving Klal Yisrael with no thought of his own benefit Shmuel succesfully brings a tikkun to the souls of Kayin and Korach.
No wonder that after pointing out that he had take nothing from Klal Yisrael, Shmuel says:
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵ֖ל אֶל־הָעָ֑ם יְהֹוָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֚ר עָשָׂה֙ אֶת־משֶׁ֣ה וְאֶֽת־אַהֲרֹ֔ן וַאֲשֶׁ֧ר הֶעֱלָ֛ה אֶת־אֲבֹתֵיכֶ֖ם מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם:
And Samuel said to the people, "(It is) the Lord Who made Moses and Aaron, and Who brought your forefathers up from the land of Egypt. (Shmuel I 12:6)
As the ultimate tikkun for Korach, Shmuel counters Korach's claim and recognizes that it is Hashem who appointed Moshe and Aaron.
The Gemara in Moed Katan (28a) tells us that Shmuel died at the very young age of 52. The Gemara in Taanis (5b) explains that Shmuel was meant to live longer but he died earlier so that he would not see the death of Shaul. The Arzial explains that in fact Shmuel was meant to live until the age of seventy and he lost eighteen years of his life which could have been used to further rectify the neshoma of Korach/Kayin. As a result Shmuel was reincarnated in Rav Elazar ben Azaryah who would complete the rectification. At eighteen years old Rav Elazar ben Azaryah said, הרי אני כבן שבעים שנה, I am like a seventy year old man (Berachos 12b). In other words, when you add the eighteen years of his life plus the fifty two years of Shmuel HaNavi you get seventy years. This is the inner meaning of the word כבן. The word בן is the gematria of fifty two, the age of Shmuel. When you add the בן to his eighteen years you get seventy שנה which stands for נשמת שמואל הנביא. To further underscore the connection between Korach and Rav Elazar ben Azaryah you may notice that the the name Korach and Elazar both share the same gematria of 308. (see Megadim Chadashim Berachos 28a)
There are many parallels between the lives of Rav Elazar ben Azaryah and Korach in which we see that the former brings a rectification to the latter. Both Korach and Rav Elazar ben Azarayah were exceptionally wealthy (Berachos 27b) but Rav Elazar ben Azaryah did not let his wealth go to his head. Both were bald (Bechoros 58a Tosafos chutz) but Rav Elazar ben Azaryah did not see this as a disgrace.
Once there was a dispute over a halachic issue between Rabbi Yehoshua and the Nasi, Rabban Gamliel. The Chachamim were upset with the way Rabban Gamliel handled matters and decided to demote him and appoint Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah as Nasi. In contrast to Korach who sought to take power for himself, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah was hesitant to accept the position because he was only 18 years old and his beard was black. As opposed to Korach's wife who instigated him to rebel against Moshe Rabbeinu, when given the opportunity to become Nasi of Klal Yisrael, Rav Elazar ben Azaryah's wife discouraged him from taking the position (Brachos 27b, 28a).
The Gemara in Berachos (12b) tells us that Rav Elazar ben Azaryah said, הרי אני כבן שבעים שנה ולא זכיתי שתאמר יציאת מצרים בלילות, I am like a seventy-year old man, yet I did not succeed in proving that the Exodus from Egypt must be mentioned at night. Why was Rav Elazar ben Azaryah so interested in proving that the Exodus of Egypt should be mentioned at night? The issue in dispute between Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah and the Chachamim was whether the parsha of the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, which also mentions Yetzias Mitzrayim, should be said in the nighttime Kerias Shema. As we pointed out above, the parsha of Tzitzis is immediately followed by Korach's rebellion to indicate that Korach mocked the Mitzvah of Tzitzis. As the tikkun for Korach, Rav Elazar ben Azaryah sought to rectify Korach’s attack on the Mitzvah of Tzitzis by including it in Kerias Shema at night.
Rav Elazar ben Azaryah was not successful in his attempt to have the parsha of Tzitzis included until Ben Zoma derived the obligation to do so. What assistance did Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah receive from Ben Zoma’s explanation? The Mishna in Avos (1:4) teaches: Ben Zoma says, “Who is wise? He who learns from every person.” Since Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah was only eighteen he attributed his lack of success to the fact that he was very young. When Ben Zoma’s teachings became popular and accepted, the Sages changed their attitude towards Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, and regardless of his age, they listened attentively to what he had to say. One can imagine the feelings of indequacy that Korach would have felt in such a situation knowing that he understood the correct interpretation but ignored because of his youth. In contrast Rav Elazar ben Azaryah accepts his position and expresses his gratitude to Ben Zoma for helping him achieve his mission of having the parsha of Tzitzis included in the nighttime Kerias Shema.
Change the Dance
וַתִּפְתַּ֨ח הָאָ֜רֶץ אֶת־פִּ֗יהָ וַתִּבְלַ֥ע אֹתָ֛ם וְאֶת־קֹ֖רַח בְּמ֣וֹת הָֽעֵדָ֑ה בַּֽאֲכֹ֣ל הָאֵ֗שׁ אֵ֣ת חֲמִשִּׁ֤ים וּמָאתַ֨יִם֙ אִ֔ישׁ וַיִּֽהְי֖וּ לְנֵֽס: וּבְנֵי־קֹ֖רַח לֹא־מֵֽתוּ:
And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and Korah, when that assembly died, and when fire destroyed two hundred and fifty men, and they became a sign. Korah's sons, however, did not die.
The Torah goes out of its way to tell us that the children of Korach (Assir, Elkanah, and Abiasaf) did not die. Chazal explain that while they were initially involved in the rebellion ultimately they did Teshuva and survived. Many perakim of Tehillim are attributed to the children of Korach. According to the Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 18:15) As we pointed out, Shmuel HaNavi is a descendant of Korach.
The passuk in Tehillim says, צַדִּיק כַּתָּמָ֣ר יִפְרָ֑ח, the righteous flower like a date palm. The last letters spell out the name Korach which indicates that in the end, through his progeny, Korach is finally rectified.
What is the takeaway message for us?
Sibling rivalry is a fundamental narrative that exists in the Torah. It began with Kayin and Hevel and continues all the way to Korach and Moshe. Sometimes we wonder if things ever really change. Is there any hope? Will we come to a point in time where people can value the unique role that this is theirs to play and appreciate the role of another? Will power struggles and entitlement always be a part of our society?
I would like to suggest that while history repeats itself, the cycles can be altered. We can choose to be like Kayin and Hevel or like Aaron and Moshe. The children of Korach and Shmuel could have easily followed in their father's footsteps. They could have rationalized that it is in their DNA to behave as their father did. After all, Korach wanted a world where we are all more or less the same with no meaningful distinctions. In such a world there is no difference between parents and child. Their behavior is a function of their DNA and change is impossible. Instead Korach's children fought his ideology and chose to change the dance. They composed some of the most beautiful prose in Tehilim. Shmuel appointed others to be King without grabbing honor for himself. In so doing Korach's children brought a tikkun to their father.
Often in our own lives we fall into the false belief that we cannot change the dance of who we are. Our parents behaved in a particular way and so did their parents. What chance do we have to create meaningful changes when so many generations before us could not do so? Knowing that we are individuals, that we are not all the same, allows us to choose our future. Hope is the belief that life will certainly change. A very wise woman once said to me that hope is everything. Let us all be blessed with the hope that our lives will certainly change. We are not slaves to the past. We are on an amazing adventure to build a brighter future.