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Korach the son of Yizhar the son of Kohas the son of Levi separated himself with Dasan and Aviram, sons of Eliav and On the son of Peles, sons of Reuven. They arose before Moshe with two hundred and fifty men of the Children of Yisroel, princes of the assembly those summoned for meeting men of renown. (Bamidbar 16, 1-2)
In this week’s parsha we learn about the rebellion of Korach and his followers. In the sefer Beis Ephraim, Rav Yaakov Shlomo Weinberg notes that there were four distinct groups of people who participated in the rebellion. Each group joined for a different reason.
The first group was Korach. Korach questioned Moshe’s power to grant leadership positions to himself and family and deny all others the right to serve Hashem in the same capacity. He claimed that he was acting for the sake of heaven. Chazal, however tell us that his true motivation was because he was jealous of his cousin Eli’tzafon that was appointed by Moshe to a high position.
The second group consisted of Dasan and Aviram. They had no interest in leadership, in serving Hashem or any other claim of Korach. They were motivated solely by their hatred for Moshe. They acted upon every opportunity to make trouble, regardless if they believed in the cause or not.
The third group was On ben Peles. On ben Peles had no interest in leadership nor did he wish to make trouble for Moshe. However, he had a close relationship with Korach and was loyal to him. He did not want to jeopardize his friendship and relationship with Korach no matter what.
The fourth group consisted of the two hundred and fifty men. They were brainwashed by Korach to believe that their fight was noble and just. They were falsely made to believe that Moshe took away from them any opportunity of leadership and Divine service. They truly believed that they were acting for the sake of heaven.
In the text of the Hagadah we read about the four children. They are the wise son, the wicked son, the one who does not know how to ask and the simple son. Many assume that the wise son is a righteous son. However, the commentators explain that this is not necessarily correct. The righteous son is not mentioned in the Hagadah because he does not have any questions. One who has pure faith in Hashem has no questions against Hashem or His Torah. The four sons mentioned are disturbed by something about Hashem and the Torah.
Chazal knew that there are exactly four types of sons from the fact that the Torah mentions four times how we shall instruct or respond to our children. Each response or instruction is different leading Chazal to figure out which type of son the Torah is addressing. We may ask, where did the Hagadah get these four titles; wise, wicked, simple and the one who does not know how to ask?
We may suggest that the four titles of the Hagadah were derived from the four groups of people who joined in the rebellion against Moshe.
Chazal, when studying Korach express their astonishment as to why he led the rebellion. In their comments they say “Korach was a very wise man. What made him do this foolish thing?” From these words we derive that Korach was wise.
In the Torah and in Chazal we find that Dasan and Aviram are called wicked. In parshas shemos the posuk says “and he (Moshe) went out on the next day and behold! Two Hebrew men were fighting. He said to the wicked one, why do you strike your fellow” (Shemos 2:13). Rashi commenting on the word fellow tells us that this word implies the other one was also wicked. Chazal tell us that these two wicked men were none other then Dasan and Aviram.
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 109b) relates that the wife of On ben Peles persuaded her husband to abandon his participation in the rebellion by asking him a question. If Moshe wins you will be his disciple. If Korach wins you will be his disciple. Whatever happens you will remain a disciple, you have nothing to gain, why are you getting involved? His wife was clever enough to ask him this question but he was like the child who does not know how to ask.
Finally, we have the two hundred and fifty men who were falsely made to believe that they were acting for the sake of heaven. The Hebrew word for the simple son is tam. Although we have translated this word as “simple,” a more precise definition is pure or naive. Due to the purity and naiveté of the two hundred and fifty people they became victims of Korach’s power of persuasion.
The four groups of people who rebelled against Moshe include every type of person who seeks excuses to make trouble. The four titles of the children in the Hagadah are taken from the four groups of people who rebelled against Moshe and Hashem. Korach corresponds to the Chacham. Dasan and Aviram correspond to the Rashah. On ben Peles corresponds to the one who does not know how to ask and the two hundred and fifty men correspond to the Tam.
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It was the next day, Moshe came to the tent of the testimony and behold the staff of Aaron of the house of Levi had blossomed; it brought forth a blossom, sprouted a bud and developed almonds. (Bamidbar 17, 23)
In this week’s parsha we learn about the rebellion of Korach and his followers. In the aftermath of the rebellion, Hashem told Moshe to take a staff from the leaders of each tribe together with that staff of Aaron, representing the tribe of Levi. The staffs were to be put in the mishkan. On the next day the staff of Aaron blossomed flowers, buds and almonds. This miracle served as a sign that it was Hashem who chose Aaron to serve as the kohen gadol and his tribe as priests and their authority and positions of leadership were not fabricated by Moshe.
It is noteworthy that the posuk says that the staff of Aaron blossomed on the next day. In parshas Shemos Moshe and Aaron were instructed to perform signs for the Jewish People in order to prove to them that Hashem will redeem them from Egypt. Moshe’s hand was smitten with tzaraas, his staff turned into a serpent and he turned water into blood. (Shemos 4:2-9) We may note that there the signs were done instantaneously. Why then only here was there a delay in that the staffs did not blossom until the next day?
Chazal tell us that sometimes the Hebrew word machar is not to be translated literally as the next day but instead interpreted as referring to the distant future. “Yeish machar li’achar z’man.” With this principle we may suggest that part of the symbolism of Aaron’s staff blossoming with flowers, buds and almonds was that it occurred precisely on the next day.
A leader’s success or failure cannot be measured or judged immediately but only in hindsight and retrospect. Often, a leader’s performance is not popular at the time but years, decades or even centuries later we look back and understand how correct his actions were. Similarly, Hashem here was conveying to the Jewish people that although at this time they did not appreciate the leadership qualities of Aaron and murmured against him, it will be in the distant future when they look back and realize that it was his tenure of leadership that brought forth flowers, buds and produced fruit.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5764/2004