Due to the eighth day of Pesach falling out on Shabbos, Eretz Yisrael and CHU"L will be one parsha off for the next few weeks. I will be following the schedule in Eretz Yisrael. Click here for a Dvar Torah for this week's parsha in CHUL, Parshas Shelach.
Even after the episode of the Meraglim, the trouble for Bnei Yisrael was only just beginning. This week’s parsha, Parshas Korach, discusses another sad affair of our time in the desert. After watching Moshe make his brother the Kohen Gadol, and his cousin the Nasi for the family of Kehas, Korach determined that Moshe was not acting under Hashem’s instructions and was simply handing out appointments to his closest allies. He felt that as a prominent member of the family of Kehas, he deserved to be the Nasi. So he launched an attack against Moshe and Aharon.
After Korach brought Shevet Reuven into the disagreement and spread his false message throughout the entire nation, Moshe was forced to confront him and his followers face to face. We all know the end of the story, Hashem made a miracle and the ground opened up and swallowed Korach, his followers, their entire families, and all their possessions. This put a swift end to what could have been an even more disastrous incident for Bnei Yisrael, where the people could have been swayed to turn against Moshe and subsequently, Hashem.
The Mishna in Avos (5:6) tells us that this hole in the ground was not a new invention; in fact, it was created during the first week of creation! However, the reason why it was used now was not simply because Hashem had prepared it before.
When he faces Korach’s horde, Moshe declares that he has a way to test who is ultimately correct. If Korach and his followers would die normal deaths, then they were correct and Moshe was a faker. However, “וְאִם־בְּרִיאָ֞ה יִבְרָ֣א יְהֹוָ֗ה וּפָֽצְתָ֨ה הָֽאֲדָמָ֤ה אֶת־פִּ֨יהָ֙ וּבָֽלְעָ֤ה אֹתָם֙ וְאֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר לָהֶ֔ם וְיָֽרְד֥וּ חַיִּ֖ים שְׁאֹ֑לָה וִֽידַעְתֶּ֕ם כִּ֧י נִֽאֲצ֛וּ הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה אֶת־יְהֹוָֽה” “But if Hashem creates a creation and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them and all that is theirs, and they descend alive into the grave, you will know that these men have provoked Hashem” (Bamidbar 16:28). Nowhere prior to this declaration do we see Hashem promising Moshe that He would provide him with a miracle, and yet, Moshe promises that one will occur. What chutzpah! The entire future of the Jewish People hangs in the balance of what happens with this argument and Moshe decides he can force Hashem into providing a miracle, something which He usually prefers not to do! What gave Moshe the right to do this?
Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky explains that Moshe was stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Moshe knew that while Korach was only the first to challenge his leadership and his relationship with Hashem, there would eventually be others; and as long as others could challenge him, the Torah would hang in the middle. Since his trustworthiness was unproven, no one would be motivated to keep the Torah since maybe it wasn’t really what they should be following! In order to prevent this from happening, his position had to be determined now. So he promised a miracle.
The advantage of a miracle was simple: Moshe was not proving the truth of the Torah as much as he was proving his right to pass it on to the nation. If he didn’t ask for a miracle, then even if he defeated Korach, there was no proof he was the true leader. If he did ask for one and Hashem didn’t provide it, then even he would admit that he wasn’t the one to lead Bnei Yisrael and teach them the Torah. However, if Hashem did provide a miracle, that would show beyond a shadow of a doubt that Moshe was the true leader and mouthpiece of Hashem; something that no one could doubt for all time. Therefore, in order to make sure Bnei Yisrael would fully accept him as their leader, and trust that the Torah he had brought them was exactly what Hashem desires, he acted with chutzpah and demanded a miracle.
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