After the whole story of the spies and the subsequent punishment for the entire nation in last week’s parshah, you would figure that Bnei Yisrael would stay away from a little controversy. Not so. Parshas Korach follows this week with the story of Korach’s direct challenge that Moshe was not really a Navi of Hashem and thus undeserving of leading the nation. The result is the well-known story of Korach and his followers being swallowed up into the ground. As far as tragedies go, this was one of the worst. Before this episode, Korach was one of the greatest and most respected men in the entire nation. In fact, Shmuel Hanavi, who was on the same level of Moshe and Aharon, was one of his descendants. For him to fall this far and to have this ending must have had a hugh impact on Bnei Yisrael at the time.
I would like to focus on the later part of the parshah where after the whole fiasco is settled, Hashem tells Moshe to warn Bnei Yisrael not to follow in Korach’s path. “וְלֹא יִהְיֶה כְקֹרַח וְכַעֲדָתוֹ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְ־הֹוָ־ה בְּיַד מֹשֶׁה לוֹ” “…and he shall not be like Korach and his followers, as Hashem spoke about him through Moshe” (17:5). Rashi asks why the pasuk uses the word “בְּיַד”, literally meaning “in the hand” to refer to Hashem’s talking to Moshe instead of simply writing the word “אל”, meaning “to (Moshe)”? He brings down a midrash to explain. In Parshas Shemos, Hashem punishes Moshe temporarily with tzara’as (leprosy) on his hand because he claims Bnei Yisrael will not believe that he is a messenger from Hashem (See Shemos 4:6). Korach’s main claim against Moshe was that Aharon and his sons should not be the only Kohanim, after all, the entire nation was holy! Through this, he claimed that Moshe did not really receive the instructions to make Aharon a Kohain from Hashem, he just wanted his brother to be an important person. The midrash explains that the reference to a hand in the pasuk refers to the hand of Moshe and that anyone who disputes to right of Aharon and his descendants to be Kohanim will also be punished with tzara’as like Moshe.
The Kli Yakar here asks the simple question of what is the connection between disputing the Kehunah and Moshe not trusting the Bnei Yisrael in Shemos that they both deserve the same punishment. And why is tzara’as, the punishment for speaking lashon hara, the punishment for these sins?
He starts his explanation with a gemarah is Shabbos (97a) which says that someone who accuses an innocent person of doing an aveirah is punished with a physical ailment. Our story of Moshe in Shemos is used as a proof for this. Now we know that Hashem works מידה כנגד מידה, whatever you do to someone else will be paid back in kind to you. So whatever the accuser is punished with is the punishment that he was trying to give the accused. Moshe accused Bnei Yisrael of not believing in his prophecy, as it says in the pasuk, “וְהֵן לֹא יַאֲמִינוּ לִי וְלֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ בְּקֹלִי כִּי יֹאמְרוּ לֹא נִרְאָה אֵלֶיךָ יְ־הֹוָ־ה” “…they will not believe me…they will say, ‘Hashem has not appeared to you’” (Shemos 4:1). Korach denied the prophecy of Moshe as we see Moshe defending himself in the pasuk, “וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה בְּזֹאת תֵּדְעוּן כִּי יְ־הֹוָ־ה שְׁלָחַנִי לַעֲשׂוֹת אֵת כָּל הַמַּעֲשִׂים הָאֵלֶּה כִּי לֹא מִלִּבִּי” “Moshe said, ‘Through this shall you know that Hashem sent me to perform all these acts, for it was not from my heart (my own idea)” (Bamidbar 16:28). The fact that family of Aharon was the sole Kohain line was a Nevuah (prophecy) of Moshe, therefore, anyone who disputed that would be denying that Moshe was a Navi of Hashem. So both Moshe and Korach were doing the same Aveirah of denying prophecy! (Though in Moshe’s case, he was accusing someone else of it, not performing it himself.) Furthermore, from the fact that Moshe was given tzara’as, we see that if his accusation had been true and Bnei Yisrael would not have believed him, they would have received tzara’as as punishment. Therefore, someone who denies Aharon’s right to the Kehunah will also receive tzara’as. The punishment was tzara’as because in both of these cases, Moshe and Korach were saying lashon hara that Hashem did not really speak to Moshe.
Over history, we have had many people try to make believe that they are messengers of Hashem and we should listen to what they say. Most of the time they have been complete fakers and have been in it for their own honor and egos. But one thing is for certain, Moshe was real. He was the greatest Navi of all time and the Torah tells us there will never be another Navi like him ever. Whatever we have from Moshe is true and told over with only the best intentions, that it comes from straight from Hashem. Even more importantly, we must be careful to always assume the best of all Jews. All Jews regardless of background and knowledge have that Jewish spark inside of them which knows what truth is. We must trust them that when they hear the call, they will respond.
P.s.It's great to be back after a few weeks break! Hope you continue to enjoy!