Timing is everything, and a person must be certain that the time is ripe for expressing a controversial or even unique idea and opinions.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is Korach (Numbers 16:1–18:32), and it is named after one of the Torah’s major rabble-rousing troublemakers. It may have been his extreme sense of jealousy that led him to pick fights. Most famously, he was jealous that his cousins Moses and Aaron got all the glory.
He felt that he deserved to be a leader of the Jewish people as well. The jealousy and fighting eventually led to Korach’s and his followers’ death. This week’s Torah portion is a classic example of the damaging nature of arguments.
As mentioned, Korach challenged the leadership of Moses. Recall that Moses never wanted to be the leader in the first place. He initially refused the position. It was only because God forced him to become the leader that he eventually agreed. As such, Korach was essentially challenging God, not Moses. Moses would have been happy to retire!
Responding to Korach’s claim that Moses illegally assumed the leadership, Moses tells Korach and his people to prepare fire pans filled with incense for an offering ceremony along with a Divine public display of who is the rightful leader. “Let God choose His leader,” Moses said.
Korach got another 250 people to join the protests against Moses, each of whom also wanted leadership positions. Why would Korach risk his life and challenge Moses? It is explained that Korach misinterpreted a prophecy of sorts that he was shown. Korach received a vision that he would be the patriarch of great descendants.
One of these descendants was Samuel the prophet. Samuel the prophet was considered to be as great as Moses and Aaron! As such, Korach falsely reasoned that if he was meant to be the ancestor of someone as great as Moses and Aaron, then he, too, deserved to be the leader of the Jewish people.
The “final straw” for Korach was when he saw Elizafon become the leader of a division of Levites. Korach felt that it was not fair because he was an older Levite candidate and also the son of an older Levite as well, and therefore the position should have gone to him! He became so jealous that a younger cousin got the third-highest position in the nation that he went on to contest the jobs of Moses and Aaron.
But here’s the question: It is noted that Korach only started his rebellion many months after Elizafon was appointed leader #3. What took him so long to show his anger and rebel? Where was his anger and jealousy when Elizafon was actually given the job?
It is explained that Korach was actually a very shrewd guy. He knew that timing was everything. He knew when to remain quiet and when to make a move. When Elizafon was first appointed, he was very popular. Everyone loved him. They were happy he got the job. Moses was also enjoying enhanced popularity at the time. Korach realized all this and knew that it was not the time to start up.
It was after last week’s Torah portion, the episode of the spies, that Korach realized that the time was ripe for him to make his move. This is because after the episode of the spies, and the decree (punishment!) that the Jewish people would be wandering the desert for 40 years, morale was at an all-time low. NOW was the time for Korach to be noticed and heard. He realized that at that moment he had a chance.
There is something good that we can learn from the evil Korach, and that is that timing is everything. A person needs to take into account many considerations before making a major move. A person must be certain that the time is ripe for expressing a controversial or even unique idea or opinion. That was Korach, a master of social psychology. A master in judging when the time was right. Timing is everything.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below: