Perashat Korah 5777
Perashat Korah 5777Friday, June 23, 2017
In this week's perasha, we read the story of the rebellion of Korah and his assembly. Korah persuaded 250 fellow Levites to join him in opposing the leadership of Moshe and Aharon by attempting to overthrow them. Korah was a great man. Our sages tell us he had "Ruah HaKodesh", Divine inspiration. Korah was one of the bearers of the Holy Ark. Only the holiest of men were allowed to carry the Ark due to its holiness. How then did such a worthy man cause dissension and undermine the leadership of Moshe and Aharon that was Divinely assigned? Rashi was puzzled by this and answered that jealousy was the cause of this sin. When his cousin, Elissaphan, son of Uzziel, was placed in charge of the Kehatite family, Korah in effect became his inferior. Korah thought this to be unfair since he was the son of Yisshar who was older than Uzziel. We learn from this that even the righteous are not immune from the bad trait of envy and jealousy.
The Mishna in Pirke Abot (4:21) says: "Envy, lust and honor drive a man from the world." What does this mean? We see so many people who display envy, who chase after honor, and who dedicate their lives to lusting after their desires, and yet they are still here in this world! How then can the Mishna say that these bad character traits "drive a man from the world"?
We understand that the purpose of Creation was to benefit mankind, and in turn, the purpose of the creation of man was in order for him to learn how to become the ultimate giver. In contrast, these three traits listed in the Mishna, envy, lust and honor, are expressions of taking. An envious person is constantly comparing himself to the people around him and wants to takefrom their good fortune. One who lusts after his desires is looking to draw pleasures from others, and he who runs after honor is being dependent on the approval of society. In all three cases one is not in the mode of giving, and if one is not giving, man is not fulfilling his purpose in this world. In addition, when one is envious, he is living with a constant feeling of deprivation. One who is envious feels that he is not living his own life but is stuck in someone else's reality. This is what the Mishna means when it says that, "he drives himself from the world".
A study conducted in 2005 by a group of economists at the University of Zurich and Nottingham found something astounding: People are happier earning a lower income when their coworkers are making less than them, rather than earning a higher income when their coworkers are making more than them. Jealousy, therefore, is something that is inborn within one's self, and one must work to exorcise it from within himself. If jealousy is already an intrinsic part of the human condition, how do we get rid of it?
First, we have to identify the jealousy that we harbor. We should not allow our jealousy to hide behind just causes, such as social justice and equal distribution. This is exactly what Korah hid behind, as seen by his own words: "For the entire assembly, all of them are holy...why do you exalt yourself over the congregation of Hashem." (Bemidbar 16:3) He was speaking about the lofty concepts of social justice and equality, when in reality it was his own personal envy and hunger for power that was causing him to do this.
Let us draw strength from the story of Korah and constantly be on the lookout for any signs of envy within us and eradicate them while at the same time strengthening the quality of "Ayin HaTob", the positive outlook within us.
May 31 2020
Sivan 8 5780