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Parshat Korach

By: Mrs. Neima Novetsky

Neima Novetsky

Our parsha deals almost entirely with the rebellion of Korah and his followers. After detailing the rebels' complaints, the parsha turns to Hashem's response. Hashem appears to Moshe and Aharon and tells them "Separate yourselves from the congregation (edah) and I shall destroy them." Moshe defends the people, questioning God's decision: "If only one person sinned, how can you get angry at the whole congregation?!"

Ramban wonders at our pesukim. If Moshe is correct and the nation as a whole did not sin, then, really, how is it that God would want to destroy the innocent?? On the other hand, if others did sin, how is it that Moshe can "lie" and say that only "one" has sinned??

Rabbenu Chananel raises an interesting solution to these questions. He suggests that Moshe misunderstood Hashem's words. When Hashem said to "separate from the congregation," He meant the congregation of sinners, those that had joined the rebellion - "adat Korah." Moshe, though, had understood instead that Hashem was referring to "adat Yisrael," and thus mistakenly thought that Hashem wanted to destroy the whole nation. Hashem explains to him his error, pointing out that He meant for them to separate and "Go up from the residence of Korah, Datan and Aviram" - just the sinners were to die.

Many find this solution problematic for it suggests that a prophet can make a mistake, something about which not all agree. Thus, they suggest instead that Moshe knew all along that Hashem was referring just to adat Korah, but nonetheless Moshe wanted to point out to Hashem that not all were equally culpable, for without Korah the others would never have sinned. Without him the others were simply individual complainers, not a threat to Moshe or Aharon. Korah's leadership lay in his ability to take a group of disgruntled individuals, each with his own personal interests and gripes (one was jealous of Aharon, another was jealous of Moshe etc) and to unite them, to make them into an "edah;" only together did they have the strength to stand and rebel.

Moshe's words reflect a recognition of two important lessons - 1) the profound impact one individual can make 2) the necessity of a community/group to really make a difference.

This week, we ended a wonderful year of learning at Midreshet, a year in which a lot of very different individuals came together to form a beautiful "edah." Both as individuals and together as a group you were able to accomplish great things. I wish that you all maintain our "edah" but that as you go your separate ways, you also be the individuals who garner others into new "edot," who together impact the world for good!

Shabbat Shalom!




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