ויקמו לפני משׁה ואנשׁים מבני־ישׂראל חמשׁים ומאתים נשׂיאי עדה קראי מועד אנשׁי־שׁם׃
ויקהלו על־משׁה ועל־אהרן ויאמרו אלהם רב־לכם כי כל־העדה כלם קדשׁים ובתוכם יהוה ומדוע תתנשׂאו על־קהל יהוה׃
Now Korach the son of Yitz'har, the son of K'hat, the son of Levi, along with Datan and Aviram, the sons of Eli'av, and On, the son of Pelet, descendants of Re'uven, took men and rebelled against Moshe. Siding with them were 250 men of Isra'el, leaders of the community, key members of the council, men of reputation. They assembled themselves against Moshe and Aharon and said to them, "You take too much on yourselves! After all, the entire community is holy, every one of them, and Adonai is among them. So why do you lift yourselves up above Adonai's assembly?"
(Num 16:1-3 CJB)
Korach tried to arouse others to rebel against Moshe. He protested that Moshe took too much glory and power to himself and to his brother Aharon. Doing so, Korah tried to give the impression that he was only interested in equality and in the welfare of the whole nation. On this parasha, Midrash Tanchuma explains that it was not so, but exposes the fact that Korach rebelled against Moshe simply because he was jealous of the princeship of Elitzofon, the son of Uzziel which he felt should have fallen upon himself.
From here we see a fundamental principle that applies to many disputes. Quite often the person instigating the dispute, while proposing noble goals, is not motivated by the overall good, as if he really were he would not create a congregation riff, which in many cases is an abomination to HaShem (Prov 6:19).
Digging deeper, we often discover that dispute instigators, whether in families, congregations, societies, groups, are more often than not motivated by some sort of selfish personal gain that they hide under a cloak of altruism. In the case of Korach, the dispute instigator hypocritically pretended to have the welfare of the people in mind, when in fact, he was sick with pride and jealousy, feeling that he had been passed over for a leadership position that he felt should have fallen upon him. The greatest irony in all this, is that whereas he was sick with pride, Korach accused Moshe or pride, he of whom HaShem had said in the previous parasha that he was the humblest of all men (Num 12:3).
My wife and i have travelled visiting many congregations, and it seems that this story is a repeating one. We have met so many brokenhearted congregation leaders who have had to face dispute instigators using trivial elements of doctrine, or trivialities period, in order to create a riff that usually brings them some sort of benefit, be it social (leadership/recognition), financial, or otherwise.
I personally believe that this attitude constitutes a great danger for our congregational body. Hiding themselves under a cloak of altruism as though they were seeking the good of the people, as in the case of Korach, ill-motivated people divide HaShem's family. In the case of the places we have visited, it often involved close friends or trusted members who like Achitophel towards David (2 Sam:15:31), turned their traitorous back towards those who trusted them.
In Psalm 55, we have King David's prayer when he was faced with a similar situation.
My heart within me is pounding in anguish, the terrors of death press down on me, fear and trembling overwhelm me, horror covers me. I said, "I wish I had wings like a dove! Then I could fly away and be at rest. Yes, I would flee to a place far off, I would stay in the desert. (Selah) I would quickly find me a shelter from the raging wind and storm." ...
... and further on ...
Ruin is rife within it, oppression and fraud never leave its streets. For it was not an enemy who insulted me; if it had been, I could have borne it. It was not my adversary who treated me with scorn; if it had been, I could have hidden myself. But it was you, a man of my own kind, my companion, whom I knew well. We used to share our hearts with each other; in the house of God we walked with the crowd. (Psa 55:4-14 CJB).
My wife and I wrote a song about this, a song called, 'Give me Wings', which can be played from our Chag Sameach CD. (Click HERE to download 'Give me Wings'.)
In the Hebrew of Numbers 16:40 (17:5 for Jewish edition texts) we read an injunction that escapes us in the English text.
It says, ולא־יהיה כקרח וכעדתו which reads literally, 'It [the congregation of Israel] shall not act as Korah and his group', sentence which can be read in Hebrew as a commandment to not act like Korach. To not be like Korach then becomes that transcends differences in theology, halacha, and doctrine. Because of what he did, Korach was severely punished along with all the people who joined him. The same thing also happened to Miryam, who made seditious claims against Moshe (Numb 12), and happens to us if we act as they did (1 Cor 10:6).
Our master spoke of such and of their role within the community of believers,
"Beware of the false prophets! They come to you wearing sheep's clothing, but underneath they are hungry wolves! (Mat:7:15)
For there will appear ... false prophets performing great miracles - amazing things! - so as to fool even the chosen, if possible. (Mat:24:24)
Paul had problems with those too:
In my many travels I have been exposed to danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the desert, danger at sea, danger from false brothers. (2 Co:11:26)
They do indeed have the outward appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed religious observances, false humility and asceticism; but they have no value at all in restraining people from indulging their old nature. (Col-2:23)
Paul prided himself in not following the example of Korach:
For, as you know, never did we employ flattering talk, nor did we put on a false front to mask greed - God is witness. (1 Th:2:5)
In my life I have learned that love and unity are a choice, a conscious rational decision that we make. It is not dependent on feelings , emotions, facts, conditions, or doctrines. We need to make that choice in order to not allow Korach-like wolves in sheep's clothing to devour us.
MAY HASHEM HELP OUR CONGREGATIONS.
MAY HE HELP US TO MAKE THE CHOICES NECESSARY TO STAY UNITED.
B'SHEM YESHUA HAMASHIACH!
R' Gavriel Lumbroso