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Time to Act

By: Rabbi Dr Zvi Ron

In this week's parsha we read of the disastrous consequences of Korach's rebellion against the leadership of Moshe and Aharon. Korach and his followers were swallowed by the earth (16:31-33) or burned alive (16:35). Remarkably, Korach's own family was not destroyed. The Torah specifically states that the sons of Korach did not die (26:11). How is it that Korach's own children did not join him in his rebellion?

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 110a) tells an interesting story about the sons of Korach. One time Rabbah bar Bar Chana was travelling with an Arab guide. The guide offered to show him the spot in the desert where Korach and his followers were swallowed up. He showed him two holes in the ground where smoke was coming out. The guide put some wet cotton on a spear, stuck it in the hole, and it came out charred. Rabbah listened at the holes and he heard people saying "Moshe and his Torah are true, and they (the rebels) are fakers." The Gemara explains that these are the sons of Korach, who have a high ledge in Gehinom that they stand on and pray. This is how Rav Saadya Gaon explains that the sons of Korach did not die, they were swallowed by the earth, but not killed like the other rebels.

So were the sons of Korach rebels or not? Clearly they are not completely innocent, they were swallowed by the earth. Yet they were not punished as harshly as the other rebels.

Rashi (26:11) explains that at first Korach's sons were part of the rebellion, but during the conflict they "thought about doing teshuva in their hearts" so they were not punished like the others. If they would have acted on their thoughts, they would have been saved from punishment, but since they only thought about it and did not act, the sons of Korach were sentenced to a limbo like state, somewhere between life and death, Gehinom and this world.

The fate of the sons of Korach teaches us the idea that we must be courageous and follow what we know to be correct. It is not enough to feel something in our hearts or know something in our brains. We have to act on our convictions, and live according to the concepts that we believe in. If we do not, we will find ourselves in the situation of the sons of Korach, in a state of limbo forever.


Shabbat Shalom





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