Rav Eldad Zamir
Former shaliach TMT Cape Town 1997 -1998,
Senior Instructor at the Nativ ’Giyur” program in the IDF
A burden or a pleasure?
This week’s Parasha, Parashat Korach, tells the story of a group lead by Korach (Moshe and Aharon’s first cousin) who questioned & challenged the Children of Israel’s leaders.
The Midrash tells us that when Korach was trying to form his group and gain popularity, he did so by attempting to prove that the Torah that Moshe brought is illogical and is definitely not from G-d, but rather Moshe made it up.
Korach used his charisma and demagogy to prove that there is a contradiction between the laws of the Torah and correct justice. And so Korach made up the following story:
In my neighbourhood there is this poor widow who lives with her 2 young daughters and all they had was a small field that they made a living from. (Notice the classic demagogy, the subject is a woman, not a man, a woman who is a widow and very poor etc. Who would not have mercy for a lady like this?)
The widow started ploughing her field and Moshe came & told her to be careful, and not to plough with an ox and a donkey together. When she came to plant, Moshe told her not to plant kilayim (two different kinds of plants too close to one another).
When she wanted to harvest Moshe told her to remember to leave the corner of her field for the poor. As she was about to put her produce in the storage room Moshe told her to give terumot and ma’asrot (different presents for the Cohanim and the poor).
Up until now the poor widow suffered the decrees quietly but upon hearing the last command she said to herself: “Why should I keep a field if I have all this burden on me?”
And so she sold her field and bought 2 lambs for herself. Eventually the lambs grew into sheep and when they gave birth, Aharon, the High Priest, came to her and said that G-d commanded that the first-born must be given to the Cohen. When she came to shear the sheep’s wool, Aharon came again and told her that the first sheared wool must be for the Cohen.
The widow couldn’t take it any longer and out of anger she said to herself: “Whatever I try to do they always find me and take a lot of my hard work away.” So she got up and said: “All of this is cherem, no one must touch it!”
When Aharon heard this he came to her and quoted the Torah: “Kol cherem b’Yisrael lecha yiheyeh.” Every cherem in Israel is for the Cohanim.
Aharon took everything and left the widow and her 2 daughters crying.
And then Korach concluded his story by pointing out how cruel Moshe and Aharon were and how their excuse is always that it’s all from Hashem.
This is a typical example of demagogy. The story is very convincing and yet far from being the truth. Many of the laws mentioned above, that Hashem commanded us to do, are there to protect the widow and the poor, and here Korach managed to make them look like an obligation and a burden for the poor woman. Korach was deliberately inciting the people against Moshe and Aharon.
The obvious question is: How did anyone really fall for it? The people that recently came out from Egypt, from darkness to big light, from slavery to freedom, who saw the miraculous 10 plagues, who experienced the splitting of the Red Sea, the people who stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and received the Torah directly from G-d, how could they believe Korach’s stories?
How could the Israelites believe Korach when they heard for themselves from G-d who told them to follow the leadership of Moshe and Aharon, the G-d who gave them food from heaven every day, the G-d who walked and protected them with a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night?
The answer is: this is the nature of man. History has proven that man is a very strange creature. There is no light that man, in his stupidity, cannot darken. This is us!
It is important to recognize this danger because once we have, we can be careful to avoid it and we will not stray from Hashem’s Torah!