18 Tishrei 5782 / Friday, September 24, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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Korach: Icy Freedom    

Korach: Icy Freedom

And, many of us look on and shake our heads and say things like, “Tsk, tsk. Won’t we ever learn?” And the answer usually is...


Parshat Korach
Once again, there is rebellion amongst the ranks, and once again, G-d will intercede and put everyone in his place. It happens a lot throughout history, including Jewish history as well. You would think people would learn their lesson already, but it does not seem so. The same mistakes keep getting made over and over again. As they say, history repeats.


א וַיִּקַּ֣ח קֹ֔רַח בֶּן־יִצְהָ֥ר בֶּן־קְהָ֖ת בֶּן־לֵוִ֑י וְדָתָ֨ן וַֽאֲבִירָ֜ם בְּנֵ֧י אֱלִיאָ֛ב וְא֥וֹן בֶּן־פֶּ֖לֶת בְּנֵ֥י רְאוּבֵֽן: 

ב וַיָּקֻ֨מוּ֙ לִפְנֵ֣י משֶׁ֔ה וַֽאֲנָשִׁ֥ים  מִבְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל  חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים  וּמָאתָ֑יִם  נְשִׂיאֵ֥י  עֵדָ֛ה   קְרִאֵ֥י  מוֹעֵ֖ד  אַנְשֵׁי־שֵֽׁם:  

ג וַיִּקָּֽהֲל֞וּ עַל־משֶׁ֣ה וְעַל־אַֽהֲרֹ֗ן וַיֹּֽאמְר֣וּ אֲלֵהֶם֘ רַב־לָכֶם֒ כִּ֤י כָל־הָֽעֵדָה֙ כֻּלָּ֣ם  קְדשִׁ֔ים  וּבְתוֹכָ֖ם  יְהֹוָ֑ה  וּמַדּ֥וּעַ תִּתְנַשְּׂא֖וּ עַל־קְהַ֥ל יְהֹוָֽה: 


Korach... began a rebellion against Moshe, along with 250 Israelites who were men of rank and distinction. They assembled against Moshe and Aharon and told them, “You take too much for yourselves. The entire congregation is holy and G-d is with them. Why do you elevate yourselves above the people of G-d?” (Bamidbar 16:1-3)

One of the main reasons, of course, is that, at the time, no one thinks that he or she is making the same mistake that others made before them. On the contrary, they usually feel emboldened by their cause, and backed up by a sense justice, of true right and wrong. Korach certainly felt this way until the ground broke beneath him and swallowed him up.

And, many of us look on and shake our heads and say things like, “Tsk, tsk. Won’t we ever learn?” And the answer usually is, “Some of us yes, most of us, no.” Just take a look at all the times we didn’t learn, and here we go again. The Zohar says that anyone who speaks loshon hara about Eretz Yisroel is considered to be speaking loshon hara about G-d (Shlach 109b). But, does that stop anyone from bad-mouthing Eretz Yisroel these days? Not necessarily. Just as we often err regarding what is permissible to say about someone and what is not, people greatly err about what can and cannot be said with regard to Eretz Yisroel, and when it comes to loshon hara, the general rule is: When in doubt, do without — don’t say it!

No wonder G-d took the episode of the Spies so personally; it WAS personal. He also took the complaint about the lack of meat and the manna personally as well, because it showed a tremendous lack of appreciation for G-d’s Providence. And how much more so when they recalled the “good life” back in Egypt! Were they both masochistic and sadistic, or what?
“No, no, we aren’t talking about the slavery...” Rashi explains they said. “We are talking about how we could eat food without making blessings, and get food without having to do mitzvot...”

In other words, what they enjoyed was the hefkerut — the complete openness of Egyptian society.
“What?” you are saying incredulously. “Egyptian society was anything but open,” you are probably thinking. And you would be right, with respect to the Jewish people, who lived the life of the overworked slave. However, for the Egyptian, it was basically “do-as-you-please”, completely open for everyone except the Jewish people. There were no demands in terms of belief, just as long as you paid the proper homage to the people in power.

A lot of good that did for the Jewish people! What point was there in reminiscing about the freedom of the society you came from if for you it was not free at all? If anything, they should have kept running away from Egypt, not talk about appointing a leader and returning back there. What were they thinking?!

They were thinking about the fact that they would not remain slaves forever. No one ever does, and if they waited long enough, they could join society, either through acceptance or through assimilation, but either way, they’d be free to eat without the need to make blessings or to worry about living a moral life. And now that the worst of Egypt was destroyed through the plagues and again at the sea, the opportunity to rebuild their lives in relative security, was more appealing than ever.

As absurd as it may sound, it is not so absurd. Even for a religious Jew, the looseness of the society he lives within can even work in his favor for a time. For, in a society that says, “To each his own”, and “Do whatever you will, just as long as you don’t impose your set of values upon me,” there is room to be a frum Jew. In such a society that everyone is content to “live and let be,” there is room to set up a sub-culture that maintains traditional Torah values, as long as doing so does not interfere with the lifestyle of others.

Of course, the only trouble with such a society is when it falls apart. For, once a society built up by hekerut goes through difficult times, it begins to look for scapegoats. And, since it was not a society built upon justice, there is no one to make sure that once people start lashing out at others, that there is some kind of mechanism to stop them, to keep them in place. It is usually at that time that the freedom the Jew once depended upon starts to disappear, and dark times arrive, often with devastating effects.


ד  וְהָֽאסַפְסֻף֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּקִרְבּ֔וֹ הִתְאַוּ֖וּ תַּֽאֲוָ֑ה וַיָּשֻׁ֣בוּ וַיִּבְכּ֗וּ גַּ֚ם בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ מִ֥י יַֽאֲכִלֵ֖נוּ בָּשָֽׂר: 

ה  זָכַ֨רְנוּ֙ אֶת־הַדָּגָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־נֹאכַ֥ל בְּמִצְרַ֖יִם חִנָּ֑ם אֵ֣ת הַקִּשֻּׁאִ֗