Thursday, June 14, 2007

Parshas Korach 5767

Korach's punishment was something that the world had not previously seen. Essentially, Hashem created a punishment for him, the likes of which hadn't been put upon anyone else. The sin of Korach, thus, needs explanation as to what made it so serious to arouse Hashem's anger to the point that he created a new phenomenon in the world. Not only were Korach and his followers swallowed up, but the Torah tells us that this punishment was exacted "K'rega/immediately." Furthermore, the Torah warns us about even touching or coming close to these evil people; a warning yet to be seen in the Torah. Finally, we learn in the Parsha that not only were Korach and his followers swallowed up, but even their little children were, as well. All of these anomalies surrounding Korach's sin are no coincidence, and deserve further explanation (with the help of the Nesivos Shalom).

We all know that the basic sin of Korach and his followers was their opposition to Moshe and Aharon's being heralded as the leaders of the Jewish people. The Medrash on this Parsha and the Gemara in Sanhedrin (110a) tells us that, "Anyone that argues on his Rabbi is like he is arguing on the Presence of Hashem (Shechinah); whoever expresses resentment against his teacher, it is as if he expressed it against the Shechinah; whoever imputes evil to his teacher, it is as though he imputed it to the Shechinah." Seemingly, this is an astonishing concept; can it really be than anyone who argues with his teacher is likened to one who argues with the Shechinah?

We are told in Devarim (10:20), that we are supposed to cleave to Hashem ("U'vo Tidbak). This is a tough concept to understand, however, being that the Shechinah is likened to an all-consuming fire that would do just that, if we were to get too close. Rather, Chazal tell us that the way that we cleave to Hashem is through cleaving and coming close to Talmidei Chachamim or our Rabbis. Thus, the advice given by Chazal to one who wants to become closer to Hashem is to become closer to his Chachamim. We can now understand the aforementioned Gemara likening arguing with your Rabbi to the Shechina: it isn't that they are equal, rather, by arguing with your Rabbi, you are damaging one of the key tools to "cleaving" to Hashem.

Unfortunately, the same claims made by Korach are hinted at by many today. There are blogs that exist to defame the the rabbinate is a whole, and certain rabbanim, specifically. But even more widespread than that is the belief that one can lead a good, frum lifestyle without any rabbinic direction. IMHO, living a life without any rabbinic direction is like living on a deserted island; you may last for a while, but you're bound to run out of resources eventually. And even worse yet is the fact that this attitude is being passed on to future generations. This is why we find the anomalies in this parsha of being punished "K'rega", and the warning against touching or coming near Korach and his followers: this mindset of contempt for rabbanus is a highly contagious one. When a child grows up in a household with this mindset, he/she will inevitably foster the same mindset. And this is precisely why the children of Korach and his followers were swallowed up as well; they were doomed by fact that their parents had the mindset.

We should realize, as Chazal advise, that Rabbis and Talmidei Chachamim are a vehicle to our cleaving to Hashem. While they may not all be perfect (as some would like to claim), they are a tool that should be utilized, not a group that we should be quick to disparage.

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