Korach – Famous or Infamous

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 One of the first lessons the Ralbag learns from this week’s Torah portion of Korach is that “one should not get into fights with the gedolim, the leading rabbis of the generation. See what happened to Korach because of his argument with Moshe Rabbeinu a”h, the master of all prophets. “
 This seems to be an obvious life lesson but what was the reason Korach got into this argument? He was within the top 5 of hierarchy behind Moshe and Aharon, and he Chaza”l say he had the fortune but his downfall was that he let jealousy get the better of him. We know how powerful jealousy is, that even someone as great as Korach was, jealousy was still able to rot his heart and create this debacle which swept up many leaders with him. But if jealousy is so strong, how can it be stopped?
 This can be answered through a second lesson the Ralbag learns from this episode. “It’s not worthwhile to be jealous of someone else’s honor and position he has over you. But it is befitting to be satisfied with what the Exalted Hashem has graciously endowed you from this. With this we see that for Korach, because of his jealousy for the position and honor that Hashem gave Aharon, this was reason for him to convince many Jews to rise up with him in a fight that caused him to lose his life and all of them in this world and the next.” (Click here for Hebrew text.
We learn from here 3 approaches that should help a person avoid being swept up by the attribute of jealousy:

  1.  The first obvious reason that one should not let jealousy get the better of him and therefore he should at all costs stay away from jealousy is the results, i.e. punishment that results from this attribute. You might want other people’s stuff, position or honor, but you wind up with nothing. Korach wanted to be famous and he got the fame; Hashem made him infamous (he actually ended up being very famous)! Korach could have been a well-respected Tzadik, doing his role as a levitecarrying parts of the Mishkan, specifically the important position of carring the Holy Ark, since he came from the family of Kehas, which Hashem gave him. He would not necessarily have had the same mentioning as Aharon had throughout the Torah, but Hashem would have given him a very high seat next to His throne in the World to Come for fulfilling his destiny and potential in this world. But instead he made it into the Torah for all eternity with a whole parsha all to himself to remind us of his evil and destructive behavior. Is infamy what Korach really wanted? But that’s the result of jealousy!
  2. This leads us to the next reason to stop a person from becoming jealous, which is definitely more important, that is, the fact that one’s position and honor comes from Hashem. Hashem decides who gets and who doesn’t, so being jealous of what others have won’t help one iota, and it’s not even worth it.  Hashem has a reason for why a certain person gets this position and another gets a different position.
  3. Lastly, a position comes with responsibilities, not just honor. Who says you can live up to the responsibility that the other person’s position has, and on the contrary, you might gain more through the help of the person who is in that position? For example, in this case with Aharon, he might have been the high priest, the number 1 Levite, but the pressure to ensure everything was being done correctly in the mishkan was immense, and if done wrong is punishable by death. Wrong means even with improper intent. Why would Korach want this responsibility for himself; Hashem gave it to Aharon for a reason, because He knew Aharon earned that position, and automatically the honor comes with it. The honor just doesn’t come out of the blue for any random reason. It is earned and Divinely given. Be thankful that the pressures and responsibilities that come with that position is not on your shoulders. Appreciate what you do have, the position you are in, and the fact that people in higher positions can help you with your needs without you needing to do it yourself.

If Korach only looked at what he had and figured out the most of what he can do to fulfill his role in life which was destined by Hashem and understand that we are all in it together to help each other than this infamous episode in history would never have happened and the Jews would have had many more leaders in their own right guiding them on the right path.