Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What Was Korach's Charge?

A popular question with a number of answers. I do some of my thinking while going through other sources, so I will start this week off by explaining Shadal's take on the nature of Korach complaint. Rather than a peirush on a particular pasuk, this can help us frame the entire parsha as we read it.

He writes:

א]ויקח קרח : מקנא היה קרח במשה, ועכשו לקח השעה שהיו ישראל מצטערים על גזרת המרגלים והחרמה, והוציא עצתו לפועל.
קרח ועדתו שראו כל המופתים אשר עשה משה, איך ייתכן שלא יאמינו בשליחותו? ואם לא האמינו הם, שהיו עדי ראייה, הלא זה יביא להטיל ספק במשה ולומר שמא מעשיו מזויפים. אבל האמת הוא כי קרח ואנשי עדתו לא כפרו במופתים אשר עשה משה ולא היו מייחסים אותם לתחבולות אנושיות , שהרי אמרו כי כל העדה כולם קדושים ובתוכם ה', הנה הודו כי ה' בקרב ישראל ושהוא עושה להם אותות ומופתים, אבל קרח ועדתו טעו טעות גדולה מחמת הרגלם בין המצרים עובדי האלילים ולמדו מהם דעות נפסדות בענין האלוהות וההשגחה.
והנה קרח ועדתו מאמינים היו כי יש אלהים בישראל וכי האלהים הזה הנקרא ה', נשבע לאבותם להורישם את הארץ, ושהוא העושה להם אותות ומופתים; אבל היו מאמינים כי האל על ידי עבודות מיוחדות הוא כורת ברית עם כהניו וחכמיו היודעים דרכי עבודתו ועושה להם רצונם.
והנה האמינו כי משה פועל גבורות בכוח האל, אבל האמינו ג"כ שהאל מתפתה ושומע למשה בעשותו לפניו העבודות הרצויות לו, וא"כ עכשו שהוקם המשכן ונודעו משפטי הקרבנות ודרכי העבודה הרצויים לפני ה', יוכל כל אדם להיות כהן ונביא מבלעדי אהרן ומשה;
והנה קרח היה מתנשא לאמר: אני אהיה כהן ונביא, וה' יענה אותי בניסים ונפלאות כאשר ענה את משה ואת אחיו בגדולה, ואני ואחי נהיה להם לנושאי כלים?
ומשה ראה את כוונתו ואמר להם: קחו לכם מחתות, ותראו אם העבודה והקטורת היא מקובלת לפניו מצד עצמה, יהיה המקטיר מי שיהיה , או אם רצון האל הוא שיהיה המקטיר איש מיוחד הנבחר והחביב לו.

which is a lot to read so I will just quasi-translate. Korach was not upset about any specific incident. He was jealous of Moshe and took advantage of the suffering of the people. They just received the decree for the sin of the scouts, and he brought his plan into action.

Korach and his congregation saw all the miracles Moshe did, so they surely did not believe that he was not sent from God. They did not suspect him of performing those miracles through trickery. Shadal's proof is that they say:
ג וַיִּקָּהֲלוּ עַל-מֹשֶׁה וְעַל-אַהֲרֹן, וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם רַב-לָכֶם--כִּי כָל-הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים, וּבְתוֹכָם יְהוָה; וּמַדּוּעַ תִּתְנַשְּׂאוּ, עַל-קְהַל יְהוָה. 3 and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them: 'Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them; wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?'
Thus, they think the nation indeed is holy, and that Hashem is among them. Rather, they erred in the nature of God and his providence. (Compare this to what Rav Yosef Karo's maggid informs him about the nature of the dispute! In a subsequent post, beEzrat Hashem.)

They erred because they were used to a specific approach from witnessing it in practice in Egypt. They thought that there was indeed a god, whose name was Hashem, who swore to their ancestors that He would make them possess the land, and that He was the one who made signs and miracles for them. But they believed that this god, via particular services, cut a covenant with His priests and sages who knew the ways of his service, and granted for them their wishes.

And thus, they believed that Moshe enacted great acts with godly power, but they believed as well that God was tempted/persuaded by and thus listened to Moshe when he performed before Him via those particular acts of service which He likes. And if so, now that the Mishkan was built, and the laws of the sacrifices and the ways of the service which Hashem desires are known, then anyone could be a priest and a prophet, and it did not have to be specifically Aharon and Moshe.

And thus, Korach elevated himself to say "I am a priest and a prophet, and Hashem will answer me with miracles and wonders, just as he answered Moshe and his brother in greatness, while I and my brothers will be carriers of vessels?"

Moshe saw their intent and said to them: Take for yourselves firepans, and see if the service and the incense is accepted before him by its own properties, while the offerer of the incense can be anyone, or if Hashem's desire is that the offerer of the incense is a specific person designated by Him and cherished by Him.

1 comment:

Saul said...

Note that Ramban has preceeded Shadal in this explanation (at least regarding the timing). In his commentary of the Torah, Ramban argues against Ibn Ezra's theory that the Korach rebellion occurred earlier in the Book of Numbers (right after the appointment of Elitzafan (Num. 3,29). Ramban argues that Korach's rebellion occurred precisely at the time indicated by the simple pshat of the Torah i.e. after the sending of the spies. Indeed, for Ramban, the timing is critical to understanding the story. He says that Korach would never have dared question Moshe's authority right after the Exodus - after all, it was clear then to everyone in Israel that Moshe was God's chosen messenger. Until the story of the spies, only a few people were punished for their sins (e.g. in the incident of the golden calf). However, in the incident of the spies and the other incidents in the desert that followed it, many thousands died (see Numbers 14,45), and the people became disillusioned and open to the suggestion that Moshe should be replaced by another leader. (Ramban says that they all (incorrectly) thought that Moshe hadn't prayed on their behalf after the sin of the spies). Shadal's explanation is an interesting extension of Ramban's idea.

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