The first word in our Parasha is “Vayikach “וַיִּקַּח “ (and he took). We understand from this word that when one “takes” without asking, one should expect to “receive” the consequences. It is always better to give then to receive, and it is always better to ask than to take. We also learn from the word “וַיִּקַּח “ a profound lesson, as it comes from the word “Lekach” (“לקח” – a lesson or a teaching). We should learn from this Musar (a rebuke). The Torah lists Korach (“קרח“) along with his four generational fathers, along with Datan, Aviram (the wicked brothers “דתן ואבירם”), and Onn (“און”) the son of Pelet, the sons of Reuven. Korach, along with two hundred and fifty leaders of Bnei-Yisrael are about to challenge HaShem, Moshe and Aharon. Those 250 leaders were very important, people in charge of maintaining the Jewish calendar and its holidays, meaning they were very powerful and knowledgable men. The first verse lists Korach four generations, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi (“וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח, בֶּן-יִצְהָר בֶּן-קְהָת בֶּן-לֵוִי”). Why didn’t he list the fifth person, Yakov? Our sages explain that Yakov asked HaShem not to include his name in such horrific and sinful event.
The Torah writes “Vayikach Korach, the son of Yitzhar, the son of Kohat, the son of Levi”, and Korach “took” something. The Zohar explains that it comes to teach us that they rose up against Moshe and took his world to the other side (turning it towards evil) , Korach listing his lineage in order to challenge Moshe and HaShem. Our Sages say that the word “Vayikach (“וַיִּקַּח “ – and he took) alludes to that Korach took the Tzitit (who was just mentioned in our last parasha) in his hand and challenged Moshe about the “Techelet” color (blue), the string.
The question was asked, how could 250 holy leaders be encouraged to take part in this mutiny. How did Korach managed to convince all of them to go with him, especially after the sin of the spies? Korach was able to manipulate the 250 leaders in two ways. Korach pointed out to them that they will all be spending the next forty years in the desert, due to the sin of the spies and they really “didn’t have anything to lose but only to gain. Korach also promised each of the 250 leaders a Kehunah (priesthood) and ongoing position in the Tabernacle. Our Sages add that Korach was able to bribe them with gold and wealth. With all these “gifts” they were convinced and agreed to join Korach’s sinful agenda and together suffered the collective punishment. Our first verse says “חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתָיִם, נְשִׂיאֵי עֵדָה קְרִאֵי מוֹעֵד, אַנְשֵׁי-שֵׁם” leaders who new the divine use of HaShem’s name, we learn this from the words אַנְשֵׁי-שֵׁם “Ansh’ie Shem”. The entire Korach episode took place at the same week Miriam was cast-out of the camp, due to her La’Shon Ha’rah (speaking ill) against Moshe.
It is interesting to point out that the name Korach wasn’t a Hebrew name (its one of Eisav’s son name). The name Korach is an acronym to very bad “Midot”, characteristic traits that make up this name. Korach stands for:
- Kuf – “קנאי “ק – Jealousy – he was consumed with jealousy
- Reish – “רתחן “ר – Angry – he would always become enraged
- Chaf – “חמדן – “ח – Greedy – he had excessive desire to have it all
Who was Korach? In order to answer this question we must start at the beginning, at Beresheet. When HaShem created the world, on the second day He distinguished between the two waters, “the water above and the water below” meaning the first and the second. The Torah writes (verses 1:5-6) “Mavdil” (“מבדיל” – distinguishes) between the waters as they are different. The Zohar says that all seconds (alluding to brothers) are “Mavdil”, distinguished from each other, different, and will always act as such.
There are many cases in which the second brother is different, for example:
- Yitzchak and Ishmael
- Yaakov and Eisav
- Rachel and Leah
- Reuven and Gad
- Efraim and Menashe
- Aharon and Korach
The Zohar teaches us that with Reuven. We know that Reuven Yakov’s firstborn, yet the Zohar says that he was considered second. The Zohar teaches us a profound lesson of how HaShem “מבדיל” “Mavdil”, distinguishes between them. We know that Rachel was Yakov’s first choice and Leah was second, and since Reuven came from Leah he is really considered second. So too with Gad who came from Zilpah and not from Rachel, so he too is considered second. We also know that Menashe came from Osnat, the daughter of Dinah and Shechem (who was not Jewish) so too half of Menashe is considered second.
It is very interesting to see that these two and a half tribes are so different from the rest of Bnei-Yisrael, as they willingly requested to live outside of the Promised Land (along with the tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe). These two and half tribes chose to reside in the eastern side of the Jordan River (where Arab live today). It is interesting to note that these two and a half tribes has the acronym of the word “Gerim” (“גרים” – other nations), Gad, Reuvan & Menashe. Their location east of the Jordan River, is where the country Jordan is today. We know from past (and later) history that the Jordanian nation went to war against Israel, and only did so when was forced into by other Arab nations, like in the six days war. They always wanted to be in control of “Temple Mount” Maybe, just maybe they are the two and a half tribes of Reuven, Gad and Menashe. From here we see how HaShem “Mavdil”, distinguishes, them from the rest of Bnei-Yisrael. Here too we see that Korach is also the second one in line after Aharon since he was the son of Yitzhar who came after Amram (Moshe’s father) the first son and Aharon’s father. We see here a clear understandings of the Zohar profound teachings about how different the “second” one is, and how HaShem “מבדיל” “Mavdil” (distinguishes them) them from each other.
The Zohar teaches us that if Bnei-Yisrael would have kept the Torah they would have never been exiled. Those who are occupied with the Torah will have freedom from everything, even from death, as the verse says: “Etz Chaim He La Machazikim Bah” (“עץ חיים היא למחזקים בה”) the Torah will guard the one who holds by it. They will be part of the “Tree of Life”. The Torah is the power of Right and life, and whoever tries to leave the Torah considered as one who exchanges Right for Left and he will be destroying the world. Aharon was the Right and the Levites who left the Torah were the Left and Korach tried to exchange those sides. His desire for higher position caused him to go against HaShem’s will as he wanted to change the Right to Left and was punished for such sin.
Despite all that just occurred to Bnei-Yisrael in the past few Parashot as many of them died and punished due to the sin of the spies, and other sins, we see here another troubling event with Korach. The question was asked, why? How did Korach and hundreds of the leaders of Bnei-Yisrael choose to contest HaShem’s will despite all that they witnessed recently? Haven’t they all learned the lessons from the harsh punishments HaShem placed upon Bnei-Yisrael? There are several “concepts” to try to understand this defiance by Korach and his followers. We notice that the Torah writes “Korach, the son of Yitzhar, the son of Kohat, the son of Levi…” and did not continue to mention the next name of Yakov. The Midrash tells us that Yakov saw this prophecy and asked HaShem not to have his name associated with such wicked men and such sinful event. HaShem agreed and his name was omitted from these writings.
Before we try to explain such a behavior, we need to know who Koarch was and what the name “קורח” Korach truly represents. The name “קורח” Korach in Hebrew has several meanings and hidden messages. By definition the name Korach came from the idea of being “Kor Ruch”, “קור-רוח” – cold personality, who has no problem with deceiving or cheating. While taking something without ones’ permission as he did with “taking” the gold from Egypt. The word Korach, also spells the same word as “Rokeach” (“רוקח”), which in Hebrew means to “concoct”, in other words, to “hatch a plan” speaking of going against Moshe, Aharon and HaShem’s will. The word also has the word “Charak” (“חרק”) from the word “La’Charok” (“לחרוק”), meaning to split, break, chip, fracture, and rupture; speaking of creating a “split” among Bnei-Yisrael. The word Korach also spells the word “Chakar” (“חקר”), meaning to investigate, alluding to his plan of becoming a Kohen. The name “Korach,” which in turn means “baldness” alluding to going against HaShem’s will with defiance. The name also spells the word “Rachok” (“רחוק” – far), alluding to being far from obeying Hashem’s will and laws.
Korach was an influential man who had everything one can wish for. He was so rich that it took three hundreds animals (Mules) to carry just the keys for his chests of gold and silver that he took out of Egypt (that Yosef earned while feeding the world). Korach was Yosef finance minister. He was an outstanding Torah scholar, a wise and well-educated man. He was the descendent of one of the most distinguished families, the sons of Kehat, who were given the special privilege of carrying the covers of the Holy Ark, and were also known for their Torah knowledge and deserved such holy and high privileges. In addition, Korach had a direct access to both Moshe and Aharon, as well as to the leaders of the entire Bnei Yisrael.
We need to point out that Korach truly believed that he was entitled to be the next Kohen since he was from the family of Aharon and Kehat. He said to Moshe and Aharon that he should be the second Kohen, and not Elazer the son of Aharon. He based his argument on the family tree, saying that his father Yitzhar was the second brother after Amram (Moshe and Aharon’s father) and that it was his right to be the next highest Kohen. He even said that his name Korach in Gematria was equal to Elazer’s (“אלעזר”) name which is 308, alluding to the position.
Korach was a very wealthy and powerful leader among Bnei-Yisrael and its leaders. He gathered and convinced the two hundreds and fifty other leaders, with the notion that they all deserve to be part of the “upper” group as Moshe and Aharon. With his wealth he was able to entice them and persuade them to join his fight. The Talmud teaches that Korach become a very rich man in Egypt as he held the position of advisor to Yosef and minster of finance. He found the hidden treasure (gold) that Yosef had collected in Egypt while he was the viceroy and took it out of Egypt. The tragic rebellion of Korach is one of the saddest accounts during the nation’s travels in the desert.