• Rabbi Chaim Richman

Korach - What's Your Agenda?

The Torah portion of Korach presents us with the drama of the man Korach, brilliant, wealthy and well-bred, who claimed to be speaking on behalf of all the people, challenging Moshe and the tribe of Levi. Korach said ‘all the people are holy,’ which indeed is true! But what he really meant was, ‘mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the holiest one of all? I AM!’ He also said to Moshe, ‘Why do you raise yourself above the congregation of Hashem?’


But nothing could be further from the truth. When did Moshe ever raise himself above anyone? Moshe thought nothing of himself….that is precisely why Hashem chose to give the Torah through him. It was Moshe who said, in the aftermath of the sin of the golden calf, ‘erase my name from Your book’ (Ex. 32:32), and it was Hashem Himself who testified ‘and Moshe was the humblest man upon the face of the earth’ (Num. 12:3). There was no ‘raising yourself above’ by Moshe!


In Pirkei Avot (Chapters of the Fathers 5, 17) our sages teach that a controversy which is for the sake of Heaven, will ultimately be clarified and established, as exemplified by the arguments in halacha that take place between the great sages Hillel and Shammai. These two great luminaries were not arguing for the sake of advancing their own opinions or personal agendas, or out of a desire to win the argument; they were not driven by ego and they had no personal gain in mind. The ‘arguments’ that they conducted in Torah reasoning were for Hashem’s sake, because they were trying in all sincerity to clarify the halacha…since the answer to a question of Torah is Hashem’s will. The machloket, the ‘controversy’ of Hillel and Shammai is the classic example of a controversy which is for the sake of Heaven…meaning, for Hashem’s sake.


However, continue the sages in the Chapters of the Fathers, any controversy which is not for the sake of Heaven – will not last. It will be proven which side is completely false and motivated by avarice and self-interest. Our sages state that the controversy of Korach and his group is the classic example of a controversy which is not for the sake of Heaven.


Korach claimed to care only about his people but his behavior proved that he cared only about himself. A true leader takes full responsibility for himself, and guides his people with selflessness and compassion. A true leader is guided by fear of Hashem and nothing else. When somebody claims to be speaking on behalf of all the people and in the name of freedom, remember that if he’s not showing proper reverence for Hashem’s commandments, he is only interested in promoting his own agenda…he is only interested in promoting himself.


May we merit to true fear of Hashem and may we merit to leaders who only fear Hashem and have compassion for their people!

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