Korach: Getting Needed Help

I think I’m going to be a huge talmid chacham by the time my kids are married.  One of the most important, and challenging things, with schools is that you need to keep up with their learning, because, in the end, YOU are the one who has to learn with them.


Six years ago I took some time to go through Navi (Prophets), including Yehoshua, Shoftim, Shmuel, and Malachim.  I did it in English with commentaries, and it took me two years.  Since both boys and girls learn it, I knew I needed to have a basic idea of what’s going on before they get to it.  I recently started going through it again in Hebrew, so when my second daughter starts it, I’ll be ready.  My nine-year-old son is another issue.  He’s been going through mishnayos over the past two years.  So, even though I have my own mishnayos to learn, I’ve been learning his as well (which is forcing me to learn it better).  Now, this week, he came home because they are starting an extracurricular mishnayos throughout the country for kids his age.  They are learning one Mishna a day, the laws of agriculture (which I haven’t learned).  And they must learn it first with a parent to get credit (they must review with friends).  On top of that, the smartest kid in his class asked if he can learn with us (he’s one of 10 kids).  So now, I’m working on three "sessions" in mishnayos, and I have to know it well enough to explain to this kid whose IQ is double that of mine.  On top of that, they start Gemara next year, and that’s where I’m the weakest . . .


“They [Korach and his assembly] demonstrated against Moshe and Aaron, and declared to them, ‘You have gone too far!  All the people in the community are holy, and G-d is with them.  Why are you setting yourselves above G-d’s congregation?’” (Bamidbar 16:3).


As I was typing that pasuk, the Women at the Wall/Reform Movement came to mind.  It’s something they say against the Jewish law all the time.  Interesting.


I believe it’s a medresh that states that Korach had prophecy and knew that some of his offspring would grow to be great Jewish leaders.  One such person was Shmuel HaNavi.  With that in mind, he assumed that he was clearly in the right, and Moshe and Aaron were clearly in the wrong.  He didn’t even think of the idea that he was in the wrong, would die from it, and some of his children would survive, because he was so focused on his own success.


Rav Asher Rubenstein would point out, using this as an example, how a person can push himself in one direction, one mission, and always have special "glasses" that filter out all the "red lights," but keep the "green lights" in full view.  It has nothing to do with being good or bad, it’s human nature to do so.  That is why, he says, a person should follow the advice that Mesillas Yesharim says: always have somebody who is on a higher spiritual level to turn to.  The Mesillas Yesharim gives an example of a person who is in a giant maze.  Yes, he could try it out all by himself, but a wise person would ask directions from a person who’s gone through it already and knows his way around.


That’s where Korach failed.  He was a person on a high spiritual level, but he did not have a rav to go to.  He didn’t have that person in his life who can see things a bit more clearly.  And as a result, he, and several thousand people, died early.


I was thinking about some of the "go-getters" who have been in the religious world, who have changed things around or attempted to.  Take Sarah Schenirer, for example.  She was the one who started the Bais Yaakov girls' school movement.  Before her, there was no organized schooling for religious girls.  She went to big rabbeim with her idea, including the Chofetz Chaim and the Gerrer Rebbe, and received their support.  And while there were those who did not lend their support to her venture, she still moved forward with the support that she had.  She shook up the Jewish world, and today, Jewish girls are receiving an education on a level they probably haven’t had since the Bais HaMikdash was standing. 


Then I started thinking of some people who, today, also want to be movers and shakers.  They honestly believe in their mission in life, like Sarah Schenirer did with hers.  One is an internet celebrity, one is an American who joined one of the most anti-religious political parties in Israel (he’s their token "rabbi").  Both of these people have public forums (who doesn’t nowadays?), and both believe they have a mission in life.  But both seem to lack support from those above them.  All they have succeeded in doing is using their forum for loshon horah or causing trouble for the religious community.


The need for each person and each family to have at least one rav (not some "rabbi," but a real rav) cannot be stressed.  How many families have suffered from fights between husband and wife that could have been extinguished if they went for advice?  How many neighborhood fights could have been averted if "zealots" asked and followed advice (of course, then they wouldn’t be "zealots" any more)?  How many people, who have tremendous strength, could have been using it for good rather than for misguided ideologies?  Korach wasn’t a one-time person.  Korach is alive and well in each one of us, and it’s important to have rabbeim and rebbetzins in our life to help us keep Korah under control.


Have a great Shabbos!


Michael Winner