June 22-23, í01
One who carefully studies the Torah Portion of Korach, analyzing its commentaries, assimilating its lessons, cannot help but be struck by one fact: Korach was one bad dude.
Korach was the first Jewish revolutionary, and I don't mean that in a good way. Korach instigated a popular rebellion against none other than Moshe and Aharon. How could Korach drum up support for toppling Israel's two greatest leaders? Korach had it all planned out. He bid his time until after the sin of the spies, when the Jewish People were sentenced to sojourn forty years in the desert. Jewish morale was at an all-time low. There was a feeling of hopelessness. It was at this time that Korach, the astute instigator, made his move.
Korach wanted to be the leader of the Jewish People, but he understood that his own egotistical desires would not be an inspiring motivation for others to revolt. So Korach drafted a different platform. Korach campaigned as the champion of the people, the fighter for the common man. It was time for a change! Korach, of course, would become president of this new democracy, but his ostensive goal was benefiting the little guy. (History has seen many Korachs. Students of history-especially of recent history-should easily recognize his many recent incarnations.)
So Korach comes to Moshe and Aharon with his accusations. "You've taken too much power and glory for yourselves, for the entire nation is all holy people and G-d is among them. Why do you raise yourselves up over G-d's people?" (Numbers 16:3).
What a chutzpa! How do Moshe and Aharon respond?
"Moshe heard and fell on his face" (Numbers 16:4). This was too much already. Moshe then pulls himself together and responds forcefully to Korach's challenge (see v. 5 and onwards in the parsha for the juicy details).
But what was Aharon's response? Aharon was being accused also. Yet we don't seem to find a record of Aharon's response in the verses of the Torah here. Why doesn't the Torah record Aharon's response? Knowing how Aharon responded to such a challenge would certainly be an important lesson for the Torah to pass down to us.
So what did Aharon do? Perhaps the Torah is recording Aharon's responseÖ Nachmonides, in his commentary, discerns a great message in the Torah's silence. How did Aharon respond to Korach's criticism? If the verses are silent, then that must be the Torah's lesson. Aharon was silent. Aharon did not respond to Korach's accusations.
Aharon saw that there was no constructive way to answer Korach's divisive accusations without aggravating the dispute further. So Aharon was simply silent. Aharon would not be party to deepening an already devastating conflict in the community, even if it meant bearing the harsh accusations of others, even appearing unable to deny them. This is the lofty level of Aharon HaKohen, the lover and pursuer of peace (Shalom).
Moshe also tried to pursue peace. After his confrontation and challenge to Korach, Moshe summoned Korach's two main henchmen, Dasan and Aviram, to see if he could work out a plan for reconciliation with them. Rashi tells us that from here we learn the critical lesson: "Don't hold on to an argument". Dasan and Aviram had been the two most insidious forces of contention in the entire Jewish People. They were the ones responsible for Moshe having to flee Egypt as a young prince, long before the Exodus. Dasan and Aviram repeatedly instigated trouble throughout the Exodus and subsequent travels in the desert. Yet Moshe did not hesitate from trying to make peace with them to avoid a more disastrous confrontation.
This superhuman dedication to pursuing peace on the part of Moshe and Aharon is a lesson whose significance reverberates throughout all of Jewish history. Always trying to duck away from causing or maintaining conflicts in the community, even when this demands personal sacrifice or even humiliation-this is the precious legacy that Moshe and Aharon have bequeathed us. You learn this lesson first in our Torah. (You won't learn it by observing the world around us. But you can learn the consequences of denying this lesson by observing the world around us.)
Good Shabbos and Mazal Tov!
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