Friday, June 11, 2010

Korach's Money

The following Dvar Torah is by Rav Yosef HaLevi Soloveichik

פרשת קרח

יש רעה חולה ראיתי תחת השמש, עשר שמור לבעליו לרעתו. - קהלת ה' י"ב
עושר שמור לבעליו לרעתו אמר ר"ל זה עושרו של קרח. - סנהדרין ק"י

The example of wealth that caused a person all his trouble is the wealth of Korach.

The character in focus in this week's parsha is Korach. Korach is notorious for his attempted mutiny against Moshe Rabbainu. He and his group met their bitter end when the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with all their belongings. In the whole story of Korach in the Torah, and also in the commentaries, we find no mention of Korach with his money! How do Chazal place all the blame on Korach's wealth?


The parsha starts out telling of how Korach , together with דתן ואבירם and און בן פלת and two hundred and fifty princes gathered before Moshe and Aharon. They challenged their leadership, saying,

רב לכם, כי כל העדה כלם קדשים ובתוכם ה' ומדוע תתנשאו על קהל ה'!

רב לכם - Korach went much further, says the Megalah Amukos. He blamed all the mistakes and the troubles of Klal Yisrael on Moshe and Aharon. The Chet HaEgel was done by the Erev Rav, Moshe's Erev Rav, as Hashem said to Moshe, כי שחת עמך , and constructed by Aharon, אשר עשה אהרן. And the meraglim were sent with Moshe 's approval, "ויטב הדבר בעיני..". Korach accusingly demanded, why did Moshe not stop them?!

דתן ואבירם audaciously expanded on Korach's words. They also blamed Moshe and Aharon for Churban Bayis Rishon and Churban Bayis Sheni. Both the destructions and exiles that followed were results of the sins of the egel and meraglim.

Moshe and Aharon were blamed in a malicious, deceitful and conniving way for all of Am Yisrael's troubles..

The fact that such ludicrous and wild accusations could be have been concocted and were able to take a hold, as some sort of hallucinated reality, is a testimony to the extent of the evil power of jealousy and ayin ra’ah.

אמר ר' שמעון בן ינאי נמנו ישראל במדבר למנות דתן במקום משה ואבירם במקום אהרן - מדרש שוחר טוב

And even after the frightening and miraculous retribution was meted out to Korach and his followers before the eyes of Am Yisrael, the sign of פרח מטה אהרן was still necessary to negate the continued powerful effect of the ayin ra’ah.
Rashi asks, how did Korach, who was highly intellegent, come to such a idiotic and reckless mistake?

? וקרח שפקח היה מה ראה לשטות זה

עינו הטעתו, ראה שלשלת גדולה יוצאה ממנו, שמואל ששקול כנגד משה ואהרן. אמר בשבילו אני נמלט! וכ"ד משמרות עומדות לבני בניו כולם מתנבאים ברוח הקודש שנא' (ד"ה א כח) כל אלה בנים להימן. אמר, אפשר כל הגדולה הזאת עתידה לעמוד ממני ואני אדום?! לכך נשתתף לבוא לאותה חזקה ששמע מפי משה שכולם אובדים ואחד נמלט, אשר יבחר ה' הוא הקדוש טעה ותלה בעצמו ולא ראה יפה לפי שבניו עשו תשובה. ומשה היה רואה.

Korach foresaw a great dynasty emanating from him, Shmuel HaNavi included. He therefore thought that he was infallible.

Rashi also asks, what had sparked Korach off to stand up to Moshe in rebellion?

?ומה ראה קרח לחלוק עם משה

נתקנא על נשיאותו של אליצפן בן עוזיאל, שמינהו משה נשיא על בני קהת על פי הדבור. אמר קרח, אחי אבא ארבעה היו
שנא' (שמות ו) ובני קהת וגו'. עמרם הבכור נטלו שני בניו גדולה – אחד מלך ואחד כהן גדול. מי ראוי ליטול את השניה, לא אני?! שאני בן יצהר שהוא שני לעמרם. והוא מנה נשיא את בן אחיו הקטן מכולם! הריני חולק עליו ומבטל את דבריו..

Korach harbored jealousy in his heart. He was able to garner support from members of Shevet Reuvain, and from all of his other followers, for he knew that they, too, had their jealousies. Shevet Reuvain had been rejected by Yaakov Avinu from full capacity of the בכורה. And the whole nation still were hurting from the replacement of the בכורות by Shevet Levi.

Thus, Rashi, in the parsha, gives us much insight into what was going on beneath the surface. Rashi teaches of Korach's unspoken jealousies. Rashi tells us of Korach's being distracted by visions of future glory, instead staying focused on his realistic status and obligations.

But where does Korach's money come into the picture?

Rashi, in his commentary on Koheles, slightly expands on the words of the Gemara:

עושר שמור לבעליו לרעתו - כעשרו של קרח שעל ידי כן נתגאה וירד לשאול.

Korach's wealth was the cause of his arrogance. Korach's wealth was the prism through which he saw his distorted view of life. His money fuelled and inspired his hallucinated conceit and enabled him to act out his jealousies and his detachment from reality.


וישלח משה לקרא לדתן ואבירם בני אליאב, ויאמרו לא נעלה.

Moshe Rabbainu was not interested in fighting. He sent a message to call the perpetrators, דתן ואבירם, in order to talk things out, in order to put an end to the rebellion and make peace.
What was their response?

לא נעלה.

There is nothing to discuss.

Their response is a classic one. A classic response of ba’alei machlokes, a classic response of malicious arrogance. Their tactic is to refrain, at all costs, from acknowledging anyone who threatens their imagined greatness. They delegitimize others by simply ignoring the fact that the others exist.

This past generation has been blessed with a great proliferation of Yeshivos, of Mosdei Torah, and of those who have devoted themselves to full-time Torah learning. Communities with strictly insulated frum lifestyles abound.

At the same time, it is obvious that there are issues that cannot be ignored. If everything is so ideal, and the garden is so beautiful, where did the weeds come from? Why is anyone who veers slightly from the cut alienated? Why are baalei teshuva alienated? Why are girls and their parents so abused by a large percentage of the yeshiva bochrim and their roshei yeshiva in shidduchim?

Why are lavish and extravagant lifestyles highlighted in the communities? Why are jealous people and jealous in-laws allowed to deliberately break up families and cause mental illness to children? Why are permissive lifestyles tolerated? Why is there acquiescence in face of promiscuous and adulterous relationships?

At a certain point in time, a great amount of money began to be poured into the Litvish yeshivah communities. Supporting the litvish-yeshivish empire became a very attractive investment for gevirim, from a social and even financial standpoint. They could put a gold-framed picture of Rav Shach on their office wall, and feel like they were great tzaddikim and great visionaries, Hashem yerachem. In some extreme cases, they could even imagine that they were roshei yeshiva.

In the Toronto community, a central gvir actually wanted to become a rosh yeshiva, but was talked out of his plan by the gedolim, for obvious reasons. In many communities, poskim of mediocre status, promoted by this system, bulldozed their way aggressively into communities, and were heralded as world class leaders. Talmidei chachamim of greater status, from a past generation, were aggressively pushed aside and ignored.

True to Korach's crew, one very important feature of this artificial system, propped up by money, is the "לא נעלה" tactic. Anyone who does not tow the line is ignored. They categorically refuse to establish healthy, honest and productive communication with others, saying that the others are not worthy, kosher and authentic.

But the truth is that they themselves are actually dripping with malevolence, cynicism and conceit to cover over their own deficiencies. And they, therefore, isolate and delegitimize anyone who threatens their self-aggrandizing hallucinations. They target Sefardim, those who have secular education, Rabbonim who are greater than they, working people, Baalai Teshuvah, those who express Ahavas Eretz Yisrael, etc.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Orbach zt”l once remarked that the situation had become so crazy that even saying ולירושלים עירך ברחמים תשוב with too much conviction is viewed as being problematic.. The exceptions to these strict limitations are fancy people, such as movie stars or high-profile and wealthy professionals, but only on condition that they loyally chant, "Yechi adonainu haLitvish-Yeshivish le’olam vo’ed."

What must be realized, however, is that money cannot be a substitute for content. Perhaps it makes a good temporary filler, but eventually the holes that were always there start showing through. Money that is used as fuel for self-aggrandizing hallucinations is very dangerous.


עליהם [על קרח ועדתו] אמר הכתוב, "ה' ממית ומחיה , מוריד שאול ויעל" - סנהדרין ק"ט

The Shelah HaKadosh says that in the future, Korach will yet rise up from his place in שאול, cleansed from his sin. However ,כי לא יקומו רשעים במשפט .. He will arise without his money (יקום= money see Rashi דברים י"א ו') that was used for destructive purposes.

And thus, Korach’s dangerous way will be destroyed.

ודרך רשעים תאבד..

Chodesh tov umevorach,
A gutten Erev Shabbos,
from Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh

לעלוי נשמת הגאון הר"ר אהרן בן הר"ר משה הלוי סאלאווייציק זצ"ל