At the beginning of this week’s parsha, Korach leads his followers against Moshe and Aaron. He makes the claim that since the entire nation is holy, why should leadership be relegated to just two people?(Num 16:3). As we know, HaShem doesn’t agree, and causes the earth to swallow the followers of Korach(Num 16:31-33). What exactly did they do wrong?
On Bava Batra 74a, Rabba bar bar Chana is traveling through the desert and comes across the fiery rift from where the followers of Korach can still be heard chanting. They say “Moshe and his Torah are true and we are liars.” It sounds like they admit their faults. If so, why are they still being punished thousands of years later?
The followers of Korach haven’t learned the correct lesson. The problem wasn’t that Moshe was right and they were wrong. The problem was that they came in aggressively: “rav lachem – it is too much for you!” (Num. 16:3). They were concerned with delegitimizing the current leadership and coming into power themselves. This is in contrast to Yitro who told Moshe “kaved mimecha – it is too heavy for you”(Ex. 18:18) but then proceeded to help Moshe by creating new systems.
There are plenty of things that we can confront our leaders about, but we must do so with respect, and with the intention of making our communities better, not raising ourselves up. Argument for the sake of the community is welcome, as long we remember all of our Jewish values throughout the confrontation.
This essay is part of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah’s weekly parsha wisdom. Each week, graduates and students of YCT share their thoughts on the parsha, refracted through the lens of their rabbinates and the people they are serving, with all of us.