Shelach is the parsha of rebellion against Hashem; Korach is the parsha of rebellion against Moshe.
The basic premise of the revolt was false. Kol ha’eida kulam are not kedoshim already; rather, kedoshim tihyu, their calling is to be holy. Their task is to uplift themselves, not confuse their destiny with reality. Holiness should be a goal to which they aspire. To help bnei Yisrael realize this, the Mishkan, which holds the luchos, was erected in their midst. They were divided into kohen, levi, and yisrael, with the Mishkan fenced off in the center, expressing the message: yes, kedoshim tihyu, but not yet “kedoshim atem”! Hazar hakareiv yumas—not everyone was worthy of unrestricted access to the Mishkan. Even Aharon was only allowed to approach at Hashem’s command, and even then only as a messenger of the public.
A true messenger of Hashem, like Moshe and Aharon, would be the first to admit his unworthiness and beg Hashem to choose someone else. But if, despite his protests, Hashem sends him and no other, who would dare to come before the messenger and ask “Madua tisnasu al kehal Hashem?”
Korach accused Moshe and Aharon of the greatest sin against Hashem: abusing His name and authority for their own purposes. According to Korach, Moshe’s entire position was a rebellion against Hashem.
It hurt Moshe deeply that they dared to accuse him of exploiting his position. Hashem’s emissary must be faultless in his middos; G-d does not send those with even a hint of cruelty. Purity of character is His first credential. Had Moshe blemished his with the slightest show of self-interest—riding another man’s donkey—they would have the right to deny the Source of his mission.
The reliability of a messenger can be only confirmed by the one who sent him; so, too, Moshe’s mission could be confirmed only by Hashem Himself. For this reason Moshe did not defend himself against Korach’s accusations. If G-D would not confirm the truth, his mission would come to an end.
There are natural deaths that come as a result of man’s innate mortality, and there are natural deaths that come as result of an act of G-d in accordance with the laws of nature. All so-called natural events occur only by Hashem’s will. However, a “natural” death would demonstrate Hashem’s providence, but would not certify that Moshe’s mission had come from Him. That mission was based on Hashem’s intervention in the natural order.
Through Moshe’s mission, Hashem wished to educate mankind, to bring man back to G-d to attain moral freedom. Through Moshe’s mission, as well as every nevuah, Hashem demonstrates His Personality operating in freedom. Hence, a certification of this mission can only be through a mofes, which attests to this freedom from the laws of nature.
When Korach’s death was brought about by a new creation that proclaimed Hashem as G-d, the One with the power to introduce at any time a new future not dependant on the past, then they understood that people who deny that Hashem had sent Moshe deny the rule of Hashem, and everything else he has done.
Have a wonderful Shabbos, Moshe Pogrow, Director, Ani Maamin Foundation
Please note: The “Gem of the Week,” is based on excerpts from Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l’s commentary on Chumash, with permission from the publisher.