Divrei Torah

PARSHAS KORACH 5777

Jealousy is an age-old element of the human and the cause of major strife in this week’s Parsha.

Korach and his men went up against Moshe. Korach objected that the two highest positions among the Jewish people, the leadership and the Kohein Gadol, were held by Moshe and Aharon, who were brothers. 

Now, Korach was a great scholar. He was a very religious man. So, what brought him to this dispute with Moshe? Didn’t he understand that Moshe being the leader and Aharon the Kohein Gadol were G-d directed appointments? 

Rashi provides us with the answer. By the command of G-d, Moshe had appointed Elitzafan ben Uziel as the prince over the family of Kehas, one of the three families of the Tribe of Levi. Korach became jealous. He said to himself: My father was one of four brothers. The oldest brother, the firstborn was Amram. His two sons, Moshe and Aharon are the king and Kohein Gadol. Who should get the next position of greatness, the position of prince for our whole family of Kehas? Is it not I who comes from the next oldest brother, Yitzhar? Yet, Moshe appointed Elitzafan, the son of the youngest brother, Uziel. So, in response to feeling cheated, Korach gathered 250 men together and presented Moshe with a halachik question intended to disprove Moshe’s authority.

Their question was regarding the obligation of Tzitzis for an all-woolen blue garment. Moshe responded that the garment was obligated for Tzitzis. Korach and his men laughed at Moshe’s answer. They said that such a garment is exempt because one blue thread is sufficient for a regular garment. So, an entirely blue garment certainly does not require Tzitzis. They said that Moshe was illogical and his answer was made up from his own imagination, rather than the word of G-d. Therefore, in Korach’s mind, Moshe’s appointments of Aharon and Elitzafan were also made up and not the word of G-d.

So, what started Korach on his downfall? Kinah – jealousy – one of the Ten Commandments. Jealousy is an important and recurring theme in the Tanach. The story of Cain and Abel is about jealousy. Both Cain and Abel brought sacrifices. Abel’s was accepted . . . Cain’s was not. Cain was angry. Why? Not because his sacrifice was rejected. Rather, his brother’s was accepted. That was more than he could bear. His brother had something that he didn’t have. Therefore, Cain was the first person in history to come in second place. He was the first person who had to deal with jealousy. He was the first person in the world to commit murder, all because he was jealous of his brother. 

The story of Joseph and his brothers was also replete with jealousy. The brothers were jealous of Yosef because Ya’akov favored him. Yosef had something the other brothers didn’t have . . . the utmost love from their father. The devastating impact of jealousy shows up again when King Saul tried to kill David because many people favored David over him.

Why does the Tanach devote so much space to jealousy? Because the Tanach is the book for human beings and we have to deal with jealousy our entire lives - day after day - year after year, as kids . . . as teenagers . . . and as adults.

One time several years ago, when we were in a restaurant, one of our children – who were much younger then (and so were we) - ordered a kids meal, another ordered the fruit plate. Generally, when we are out with the entire family - which is before Pesach and about one other time during the year - our rule in restaurants is that the drink is water. However, the kids’ meal came with pop and the fruit plate came with frozen yogurt. Once one kid had pop or the frozen yogurt, suddenly, they all needed it. They would have been fine without it. But now, everybody was jealous of each other. Why does she have pop? Why does he have frozen yogurt? 

It’s not the frozen yogurt. It’s not the pop. It’s not having when someone else does have.

It is very clear that jealousy is an age-old problem from the dawn of mankind until today, over the biggest and smallest things. It drives people crazy. I do not have magical answers to change human nature. But, if we understand that this is a problem with which we all deal, perhaps we are at least halfway towards solving the problem. Somehow, we must be happy with what we have – mind our own dinners – not our sibling or neighbors. As we say in our Brachos every morning “we thank G-d for making us everything we need.”