Korach –

Going Cold Turkey Vs. A Slow Weaning
There is a well-known debate in the substance abuse community as to whether it is better to go cold-turkey or slowly wean your way off of an addictive substance or behavior. Although there are two different schools of thought, the latter, weaning, seems to be more prevalent. However, one might think that in a situation of clear and imminent danger, or under immediate threat, it is best to go cold-turkey and stop things at once.

The opposite, if possible, is taught in this week’s Torah portion of Korach, where there was an immediate threat of a rebellion and action had to be taken quickly. But as the Ralbag explains, there was a process put in place in order to win over the rebels. The Torah states, “They assembled against Moshe and Aharon, and said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire congregation are all holy, and Hashem is in their midst. So why do you raise yourselves above Hashem’s assembly?’ Moshe heard and fell on his face. He spoke to Korach and to all his company, saying, ‘In the morning, Hashem will make known who is His, and who is holy, and He will draw [them] near to Him, and the one He chooses, He will draw near to Him. Do this, Korach and his company: Take for yourselves pans. Place fire into them and put incense upon them before Hashem tomorrow, and the man whom Hashem chooses he is the holy one; you have taken too much upon yourselves, sons of Levi’” (Bamidbar 16:4-7).

The Ralbag in his Toaliyos learns a lesson that “it’s befitting for a person, when he sees people who want to do the wrong thing, that he should steer them from the bad little by little. If he would try to change them in one shot, they would not listen to him because of their steadfast will in their mission. For this reason, we find that when Moshe wanted to steer Korach and his followers from the bad, they had chosen, he began by addressing the goal they were trying to achieve. He said that Hashem chooses who is fit to be a kohen. This was considered a wise statement because he showed them that this whole matter came from Hashem, and their claim in the position was useless. This was also considered one of the great attributes and wisdom of Moshe that he began appeasing them with this statement because they were not giving up on their request. He then went on to explain to them in a fashion which would really appeal to them, which would have completely changed them from the bad they were engrossed in. And for this reason, Moshe fell on his face before Korach to beseech him to not continue in this manner.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

The obvious question is: what did Moshe Rabbeinu do that was so incredible? He just told the truth, that all these appointments to leadership roles were appointed by Hashem? And it didn’t even work! In the end there was a whole process that had to be played out, and after several attempts and thousands of people dying miraculous deaths, the nation conceded that Aharon and his family deserved the priesthood, and the rebellion was squelched. But why take so much time; why not act forcibly, immediately to get rid of the problem?

It must be that if Moshe would have forcibly gotten rid of the problem instead of strategically going through the whole process that he did, then the acceptance of his actions would not have been as well met as it was in the end. For in the end no one ever questioned the rights of the priesthood ever again. What was so incredibly smart was the strategy he took to first try to appease them, to state the obvious, before employing more extreme tactics to prove his point and them wrong. This resulted in a more lasting impact, even though in the short-term people weren’t getting the message so quickly.

This is the philosophy of why weaning usually works better than going cold-turkey.