Parasha Inspiration – Korach

Who is rich? He who rejoices in his lot, as it is said: “You shall enjoy the fruit of your labors, you shall be happy and you shall prosper”

(Psalms 128:2) – Pirkei Avot 4:1

In this week’s Torah portion, the Kohayns have already been installed (the Miluim) the Levites have been consecrated, and the land of the promise had been reconnoitered. Israel began its forty-year journey before being able to enter the land. What was Israel’s greatest problem at this point? Understanding the authority of Hashem.

The story of Korach is this lack of understanding of authority. This story is not about the authority of Moses and Aaron. This story is about the authority of Hashem. It is the authority of Hashem that establishes roles for different people within the house of Israel. Not not accepting those roles indicates the failure of Israel to accept Hashem’s sovereignty.

This is one of the most Jewish concepts in all of Torah. Moses and Aaron were not given authority. At least not authority in the common understanding of the term. Moses and Aaron were not running around making decrees, rather, they were relating the decrees of Hashem. There is a very large difference between the two concepts.

Korach’s objection was about roles. Why shouldn’t the Levites be able to assume duties in the Mishkan, the same as Kohayns? Were not both consecrated to Hashem? Korach saw the Kohayns more visible duties and desired the notoriety. Korach thought he was challenging the self-imposed authority of Moses and Aaron but the reality was that he was challenging the authority of Hashem.

It was Hashem that established the roles of the Kohayns and the Levites. It was Hashem that ordained that only the Kohayns could bring the Ketoret, the incense offering. Just as with Nadav and Avihu, the fire of the incense offering plays an important role in the understanding of the differences between the Kohayns and all the other children of Israel, including the Levites. Only the Kohayns may offer the Ketoret, and they must offer it properly.

The lesson here is in understanding and accepting our roles. We each have many roles, mine include man, husband, father, Rabbi, son of Israel, teacher in Shuvu, and head of a congregation. I am not a Levi, such as Rav Shapira, and I am not a Kohayn. Why should the things I am not be any cause for distress? As Ben Zoma said, who is rich? He who rejoices in his lot. Our value and self-worth is not tied up in our role, but in how well we accomplish the tasks that Hashem assigns us. Jealousy of others roles is unbecoming and pointless. Rejoicing in the work of Messiah and our small role in it, is everything. This is the day Hashem has made, rejoice and be glad in it. Shabbat shalom.


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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.