Rav Brazil On Parshas Korach


rav-shmuel-brazil-1By Rabbi Shmuel Brazil
Upon the incredible spectacle of Korach and his entourage being miraculously swallowed up into the ground, the passuk says that the people surrounding them נסו לקולם which literally means ran to their voices, presumably, the shrieking cries of Korach and his Chassidim. If so, the passuk should have rather said נסו מקולם they ran from and away from their cries. Secondly, Chazal tell us that every possession of all those who met their tragic end was swallowed up together with them. Even a needle that was borrowed from one of them miraculously was swept out from the borrower’s possession and was swallowed up together with the rebellious group. We must ask why such stress on the possessions? It is not like the din we find with wiping out any memory of Amalek which includes even their possessions. Why then was Hashem so makpid even on the mere needle?

Chazal ask if Korach was such a smart person, from where did he get the audacity to argue against Moshe Rabbeinu? On one hand he says כל העדה כולם קדושים of which Rashi comments we all heard אנכי ה’ אלקיך at Har Sinai. Well, if he was there at Har Sinai he also realized beyond any doubt that the nevooah of Moshe Rabeinu was uncontestable [Shmos 19,9] . From where then came all this shear chutzpah of his?

The passuk says עשיר יענה עזות [Mishlei 18,23] that a rich person speaks with brazenness. Due to his wealth he comfortably feels that everything and everyone is subservient under his power, manipulation and control. There is a famous story which happened to Rav Chaim Brisker where a presumably poor person came to him and asked for a nedava to which Rav Chaim graciously gave. However, it wasn’t enough for the poor person and he began speaking with brazenness and insult. Whereupon, Rav Chaim responded with the accusation that you cannot be a poor person because only a rich man can speak your type of language. It was later discovered the emes of Rav Chaim’s words that this collector was truly a wealthy man but possessed a sick mentality that made him nevertheless into a schnorer. It reminds me of the story of two shcnorrers who met and one prided himself to the other by saying if I had Rothchild’s money I would be richer than him. The other one asked how could that be possible? He responded “I would shcnorrer on the side.” Some people just cannot change!

Korach was incredibly wealthy. Chazal say that he had 300 donkeys that carried his treasures. One’s richness and possessions can intoxicate him to the point of fantasy that everything is coming to him. It’s very interesting that the word for possessions is רכוש אותיות שכור which also spell the word which means one who is intoxicated. When one is drunk one loses focus and conducts himself in a world created by his distortion. Wealth has that very dangerous potential. Just examine the lives of the lottery winners after their instant opulence. They are either in jail, divorced, drugged, gamblers, or broke without a penny to their name. That doesn’t say too much for instant winners. Hashem also was afraid of such an instant lottery winner and he told the Yidden to “borrow” from Mitzrayim. For if they would suddenly become the owners of treasures, there would be a great chance that it would go to their heads and they would become shikuurim who lose boundaries and would have the chutzpah to think they own the world and its inhabitants. This is what happened to Korach. His instant wealth made him speak of Moshe and Aron with azus brazenness which brought him and hundreds of others to their horrific demises.

Our Chazal say עינו הטעתו his eye deceived and misled him. The gemarrah in Tamid 32b relates the story of Alexander the Great who followed a stream untill he reached the gates of Gan Eden through which they did not allow him to enter. However, he was given as a present an eye of someone who was never satisfied with what he had. Alexander took the eye and put in on a scale and began weighing money against it. No matter how much gold and silver he piled on the eye still weighed more. He then approached the chachamim and asked for their interpretation of this unnatural phenomenon upon which they answered an eye that seeks materialistic possessions will never become satisfied no matter how much gold and silver it has. If one puts a little dirt on the other side you will see how that immediately tips the scale in favor of the earth.

The Maharal in his chidushei agados explains this enigmatic gemarrah as follows: that Alexander had an insatiable eye to conquer the entire world. The nature of the eye and earth have two differing characteristics. The eye reveals while the earth covers. The more the eye reveals the more the earth which symbolizes death has the possibility to cover one up by premature death. For the greater the desire for physical objects and pleasures occupies one’s life, the more he wants and consequently the greater is the degree of severity and pain experienced by never ever fulfilling his cravings. For our Chazal teach us that if a person has a hundred he wants two hundred, two – four, four – eight etc. [our breakfronts always have mirrors because inwardly whatever we have we want double]. If he has a billion he feels the craving for two billion. Can one imagine such an anguishing lack by craving for a billion dollars that you must have in your hands. That is not called living at all. By bringing oneself to this point of void and emptiness one opens oneself to the element of earth, premature death, a state which is also a lack and void of life. This is meant by the words of Chazal that a little earth stops the desire for materialistic acquisitions. This was hinted to Alexander who died at a young age

Chazal say on Korach that his ayin misled him. Ayin is gematria ממון [money] including the four letters of the word. His possessions made him shikkur and he stepped over the boundaries. This distortion of his is hinted in his claim against Moshe that a tallis that is all blue does not need a blue string of techailis . A tallis that is all blue has no boundaries and differentiations. Korach’s claim was that of a drunkard who feels he has no limitations and he has the power, license and capability to do anything his heart desires. However the Torah commands that the blue stirng of tzitis should be placed on the corner and specifically at the boundary of the garment to teach the Yid about boundaries so that he should not step over the line and be brazen. For this is the inner meaning of the word chutzpah chutz poh – outside here, meaning stepping outside of the boundary.

As a child I remember my mother a’h’ admonishing me that my eyes are bigger than my stomach on the occasion that I would pile on my plate more food than I could possibly eat. The letters after עין is כסף. they seem to be neighbors. If you let the ayin go unbridled it will chase after money with an unrelenting passion and from the non gratification of an endless driven yearning for satisfaction you will not attain happiness and fulfillment. “Hollowood” as I call it, the place of fame, power, money, Oscars, celebrities, lights and action is the most hollow unhappiest place on earth.. Hollow is the result of the pursuit of money for money sake but hallow with the change of just one letter which means to sanctify, fills all hollowness that permeates this world.

The Baal Haturim brings that in the dream of Yaakov he had a vision of a סולם a ladder which is gematriaממון . True it was סולם מוצב ארצה standing on the earth for money is physical in nature, yet at the same time ראשו מגיע השמימה it can be elevated through tzedaka, chesed, building mosdos hatorah, supporting kollelim, to the level of shamayim. For the word רכוש also spells כושר which translates as a means to something not an end. Korach let his eye and money distort him to the point of making a rebellion against Hashem and Moshe ‘Rabbeinu. For this reason every possession of his received the exact fate and that is to be swallowed up in the ground with him. Again we repeat the words of the Maharal that the proportion of the craving of the eye for materialistic acquisitions parallels the same degree to which the earth has the ability to cover you over. Korach as Alexander the Great met his premature death through the eye עינו הטעתו.

When the people standing around them realized and understood what had befallen Korach and why, they ran to their voices. Whose voices is the passuk talking about? We can answrer and say to the voices of הקול קול יעקב. For it is now after being witness to this phenomenon of justice that they fully grasped and understood the dangers of being swallowed by the pursuit of earthliness as it happened to Korach. They realized that a focus on amassing great wealth for the purpose of wielding power and kavod is a very dangerous and intoxicating endeavor that could destroy you and your family ch’v. As the passuk says that they were afraid “lest the earth will swallow them up”. They ran back to the true voices of a yid, the voice of Torah and tefillah, the voice of the Daf Yomi, a Rashi on the parsha, a kind word and shalom aleichem said to a stranger etc. In old days when yidden would meet, even the wagon drivers, this would be the topic of discussion and not so how are your investments doing in this volatile market. Look what happened only a few months ago – a Korach.Repeat. People and their monies were swallowed up and disappeared mamesh overnight whether from the market or from swindlers. Could it be that our affluence has made us slightly brazen and we began stepping over some boundaries such as tzenius, dibbur, lavish affairs just to outdo one’s neighbor etc. Look at the brazenness of Iran and North Korea where they openly state they will destroy our country and the entire West. Make no mistake. It is not about them but rather it is about us and our relationship with Hashem. They are only a mirror reflection of our brazenness of stepping over Hashem’s boundaries and limitations. Let Am Yisrael run to our kol of Torah tefillah and gemillas chasadim to the security of Hashem Yisbarach so that the nations that threaten our survival will only have threatened us but because of our willingness to change were never able to carry those threats into reality.{Matzav.com Newscenter}