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Friday, June 15

The Weekly Shtikle - Korach

This week's parsha covers the tragic story of the rebellion lead by Korach, Dasan and Aviram. Their ultimate demise is well known. The leaders and their families were swallowed up into the ground. However, their 250 followers who had each brought a ketores offering were consumed by fire. Surely, there is a reason why different punishments were doled out to the different participants.

Rabbeinu Bachaya suggests the principal sin of the leaders was that of haughtiness. They put themselves on a high level from which they were, in truth, very far. This arrogance was fittingly punished with the perpetrators falling down to the deepest depths. The 250 followers were punished not as much for their participation in the movement but for having gone through with the confrontation with Moshe and bringing the ketores. The undesired offering was punished much in the way that Nadav and Avihu met their demise - being burned by the mighty fire of HaShem.

Perhaps we may suggest an alternate approach. The leaders were greedy, self centred individuals looking out only for their own benefit. Their campaign may have appeared to be aimed at "fairness and balance" but their true motives were purely selfish. They wanted nothing but to advance their own positions. The 250 followers were merely misled by their apparent leaders and deceived into believing in their cause. The self-serving disregard for truth was a behaviour that was incorrigible. There was no room for the leaders to grow out of this rut they had dug themselves into. Therefore, they were smothered by the earth and disappeared, symbolizing that there is no potential good that could come out of their actions.

The followers, however, were simply misguided loyalists. Their behaviour could easily be channeled for good if pointed in the right direction. This is most clearly illustrated by On ben Peles who, according to the gemara (Sanhedring 109b,) was convinced by his wife to leave the group. They were fittingly punished with fire. Fire, although often a destructive force, can also be constructive. It can take an inedible slab of meat and make supper out of it. It can be used to shape raw metal. The followers being consumed by fire symbolized that there was what to learn from them and that their actions could be channeled for positive causes. It is therefore easily understood that the metal of their pans was put on display to remind B'nei Yisrael of this tragic episode.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Just do it!
Dikdukian: Flee Market
Dikdukian: Vayikach Korach

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