IMREI SHEFER BY RABBI SHLOMO KLUGER
Korach
Imrei Shefer - Parshas Korach
   

Against whom did Korach rise up?

(16,1) “And Korach the son of Yitzhar the son of Kehas the son of Levi took, and Doson and Avirom the sons of Eliov, and On the son of Peles the sons of Reuven. And they rose up before Moshe, and two hundred and fifty men of the Children of Yisrael, princes of the congregation, elect men of the assembly, men of name. And they assembled against Moshe and Aharon…”

Notice that first it says “and they rose up before Moshe” and afterwards it repeats “and two hundred and fifty men…assembled against Moshe and Aharon”. But we can explain that there was a difference between the quarrel of Korach and that his company. Because even though Korach said that he was only challenging Moshe, in his heart he was really quarreling with Hashem, But his company even in their hearts only meant to quarrel with Moshe. Later on we will speak more about this.

This is what the Torah is hinting to here, because with Korach it says “and Korach took”, and Rashi explained that it means that he took himself to one side, to teach us that we should not think that Moshe and Aharon were on one side, and that Korach and all his company were all against them on the other side. Because in truth, Korach was not included even in his group since they were not all of one mind - he took himself to one side completely, to completely deny the whole Torah.

This is what the posukim are saying: “And Korach took” - he took himself completely to one side, and quarreled also with Hashem. Even though it says “they rose up before Moshe” - as if their uprising was only before Moshe and they were only challenging Moshe, their main quarrel was with Hashem. But the “two hundred and fifty men of the Children of Yisrael” had a different intention, “and they assembled against Moshe and Aharon”, because their intention was indeed only to challenge Moshe and Aharon, and not to contend with Hashem and the Torah. Therefore, they did not separate themselves from the main body of Klal Yisrael but rather they remained included within it, and so it does not say in reference to them that they took themselves to one side.

Why were the 250 princes of the congregation called men of name?

(16,2) “And they rose up before Moshe, and two hundred and fifty men of the Children of Yisrael, princes of the congregation, elect men of the assembly, men of name.”

It is not clear what the Torah means to say when it writes that they were “men of name”. But we can explain it according to the Zohar which calls Torah sages and tzaddikim by the name of Shabbos. This can be explained according to the teaching of Chazal that the sanctity of the festivals is contingent on Beis Din, but the sanctity of Shabbos is permanent and does not require Beis Din to sanctify it. Therefore the true Tzaddik, one who is a Tzaddik in and of himself and not because others say that he is a Tzaddik, is called Shabbos - just as the sanctity of Shabbos is fixed by itself, so too is the righteousness of a true Tzaddik. But one who is not a true Tzaddik but who is mistakenly deemed to be so by other men, he is like the festivals whose sanctity is dependent on others.

This is what the posuk is saying here, that these people were not really tzaddikim - on the contrary, we see that they were quarreling with Moshe and Aharon - but in the eyes of the world they were deemed to be tzaddikim. Therefore, the posuk says that they were “princes of the congregation, קריאי מועד” - they were called by the name festival whose sanctity is contingent on others, and they were “men of name” - they had a good name and were known as tzaddikim. But in truth they were not tzaddikim.

What was the calculation of the rebels that caused them to rebel?

(16,2) “And they rose up before Moshe, and two hundred and fifty men of the Children of Yisrael, princes of the congregation, elect men of the assembly, men of name.”

A different explanation of why it writes that they were “men of name” can be learned from Rashi, who writes that they were all heads of a Sanhedrin. From where does Rashi know this?

Chazal commented on the posuk “these are the festivals of Hashem, which you shall declare them” - the extra word ‘them’ teaches that they are them, that is, festivals, even if you are mistaken about the day, or even if you intentionally declare a different day. If so, it is evident that the sanctity of the festival and its declaration is completely contingent on Beis Din. Therefore, these princes are called קריאי מועד, because they are called to determine the festivals. And so that you shouldn’t think that they can only do so if the festival is at the correct time, and thus is would be fitting to be made a festival even by itself, for this it says that they are ‘men of name’ - even if it is a festival in name alone, that is, not at the right time, and was not at all fitting to be a Yom Tov, but they named it as a festival, still it is a festival because of the above rule, that their declaration is effective even if it is wrong, both intentionally and unintentionally.

But why does it mention here this praise that they were those who determine the festivals, and what difference does it make to us? Also, how could it have entered their minds to contend with Aharon - did they not know that Aharon was chosen to be a Kohen by Hashem?

But behold, they thought that the festivals are more beloved to Hashem than the sacrifices, as it says in the Midrash. And the reason it seems, is according to the Midrash, which is brought in the Ramban, on parshas Beha’alosecha, that Hashem said to Aharon: You are destined for something greater than this - the sacrifices are only carried out whilst the Beis Hamikdash exists, but your lamps will exist always. Here too, the reason why the festivals are considered more important than the sacrifices are because the festivals exist forever, whereas the sacrifices are only as long as the Beis Hamikdash exists.

Therefore, the festivals are more beloved than the sacrifices. Form this they made a mistake and thought that if Hashem has tasked them with fixing the festivals, and they have the power to change them as they wish, if so, all the more so they can choose any Kohen who they wished, since his task is to offer sacrifices which is certainly less important than the festivals. Therefore, even though it was Hashem’s will to choose Aharon, they have the ability to choose someone else. Thus what Rashi said, that they were all heads of a Sanhedrin, he learned from the fact that they were called those who fix the date of the festival, men of name. And from this came their mistake to dispute the priesthood.

With this we can explain the Midrash on this parsha, which says: Korach who was very clever, and was among those who carried the Holy Ark, what did he perceive to make him do this foolish thing. His prophetic eye caused him to err - he saw a great chain of descendants emerging from him, etc. All the commentaries have already asked, what is the relevance of the fact that he carried the Holy Ark to the question of the Midrash?

It says in the gemora: These stupid Babylonians, who stand up before a sefer Torah, but don’t stand up before a Torah sage. We see from this that a Torah sage is more important than the Torah, that even though his importance comes from the Torah, nevertheless the sage is superior because he observes the Torah, and explains it clearly to us. To allude to this, Hashem commanded that the Holy Ark be carried on the shoulder. That even though, as Chazal said, the Ark carried those who carried it, nevertheless, Hashem commanded that they should carry it, to allude that they are more paramount than it, and that when they carry it, it is able to carry them, because they are superior. But if they do not begin to carry it, it cannot carry them, because they are not then superior. Through this Hashem shows the superiority and importance of the Torah sage over the Torah.

According to this, even though the festivals are more beloved than the sacrifices, that is only the sacrifices themselves, but the Kohanim who offer the sacrifices are superior to the festivals, since the Kohanim are also Torah sages, and thus greater than the festivals. (And therefore Chazal said in the gemora Moed Koton: There is no festival before a Torah sage - because he is greater than them.) Therefore, even though these heads of Sanhedrin were able to decree concerning the festivals according to their mind and their will, they had no permission to decree concerning the Kohanim.

This is the intention of the Midrash - granted the congregation of Korach and the heads of the Sanhedrins erred in this, and learned that if they have the power to change the festivals according to their will, all the more so can they choose any Kohen that they wish, even against Hashem’s will, since they did not know that a Torah sage is superior to the Torah. But Korach was very clever, and was amongst those who carried the Holy Ark, which carried those who carried it, and so knew that a Torah sage was superior to a sefer Torah, and thus that a Kohen was superior to the sacrifices and the festivals. If so, what did he perceive to make him do this foolish thing, to annul the will of Hashem who had chosen Aharon to be a Kohen. Therefore it answered well, that his prophetic eye caused him to err, because he saw a chain of great descendants emerging from him, Shmuel the prophet, etc. See also what I wrote later on about the posuk “In the morning, Hashem will make known who is His”.

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