A Drash for Korach 5768
by Marc Mangel
We know that WHAT Korach did was problematic, but WHY was it so and what do we learn from this? Why did we name a Parsha after Korach – a person considered evil by the Torah? In Ch 16, V 3, Korach asks “Why do you raise yourselves above the congregration of God?”
The Midrash teaches that Korach said “Everyone heard the Sinai commandment “I am the Lord your God”, not just you Moses. If you had heard it alone, then you could have claimed superiority but we all heard you so you cannot raise yourself”.
The Midrash and Rashi then go on that Moses responds “We have one God, one Torah, one law, one Kohen Gadol and you — 250 men – all desire the high priesthood. I desire it too!”
The last Lubavitcher Rebbe said that Moses’s response was not a debating tactic — that Moses truly desired the position of Kohen Gadol for himself. Why? Because Kohen Gadol was the highest spiritual state attainable by man.
This is the POSITIVE aspect of Korach’s rebellion – a lofty goal and a desire and yearning for the highest ideals. And this is why we remember Korach – because it teaches us that we should desire and yearn for the highest ideals.
At the same time, there is a second message — the NEGATIVE aspect of Korach’s rebellion – that we are not to act on even the most lofty ambitions if such are contrary to the will of God. Our challenge then – and today because the Torah is always unfolding – is to know which is which.
There is a third message, which we learn from Ch 17, V 2-3: “Lift up…the offering pans of these mortal sinners, and beat them into sheets with which to plate the altar; for they have been offered to God and have become sanctificed”
These are the same pans that were used in a sinful and severely punished act (although motivated by holy desire of coming close to God). Even so, God tells Moses that these sheets of metal have been sanctified.
From this, the Rebbe teaches that every human being is redeemable – no matter how deleterious his or her deeds, they hide a striving and desire – intrinsic to every creature of God – for the goodness and perfection of the Divine.
The Mittler Rebbe taught that each one of us is a lamp. The apparently irredeemable have a wick which is not lit, but we all know that if an unlit lamp gets close enough to a lit one, it can light. The message of Korach is that we can help in lighting lamps of other souls through our behavior that brings their desire for goodness to the surface.