Dispute that is Not for the Sake of Heaven

  • Harav Yehuda Amital


Adapted by Rami Yanai

Translated by Kaeren Fish



Sometimes, as we approach parashat Korach, we become so involved in lofty ideas and concepts that there is a danger of forgetting what Korach actually did, and the main lesson to be learned from the parasha. All kinds of explanations and reasons are offered for this episode, for the fact that this group rebelled against God, while the bottom line remains that there is no real explanation that can answer the question of why Korach acted as he did. This is the main message of the parasha: that a person who gets involved in conflict and argument acts illogically.

We look at great people who squabble with each other, and wonder: What got into that respectable, elderly man, who used to be so wise, to lead him into such foolishness? We forget that there is really no logic in a squabble.

In contrast to Korach's illogical behavior, Moshe and Aharon act with composure and equanimity. The Gemara, commenting on their demeanor, tells us:

The world exists only for the sake of Moshe and Aharon. There is it written, "What are we? (Va-anachnu ma – figuratively, we are ma)," while elsewhere it is written, "He hangs the world on nothingness" (belima).

Rabbi Ilaa said: The world exists only for the sake of one who holds himself back at a time of argument, as it is written: "He hangs the world on belima (figuratively, on restraint)." (Chullin 89a)

The world exists not by the merit of the pious, saintly ascetics of the world, but rather by the merit of someone who holds his mouth at a time of argument! It is specifically in this that a person's greatness is expressed.

We must remember that any person who gets into an argument has a "Kamtza" – a core of companions. He also has a "bar Kamtza" – people who dislike him. We should not think that if we enter into a dispute, we will be immune to the deterioration and illogic that always follows. We must elevate ourselves to the level upon which the world rests – the level of Moshe and Aharon, who held themselves back at a time of argument.


Having established that at its foundation, Korach's rebellion lacked logic, we may examine his claim: "For all the congregation, all of them, are holy."

Korach cannot understand why there must be a tribe of Levi that is chosen from amongst the nation, while in truth the entire nation is holy. He cannot understand the necessity of a higher stratum that stands above the nation, while the entire nation has merited prophecy.

A similar claim is voiced by the nations of the world: why it is necessary that there be a Chosen Nation? Why can all the nations not exist on the same level? They continue to ask: if you Jews are indeed chosen, why are you in exile? If you are truly the Chosen Nation, why are you not prominent and celebrated, but rather persecuted?

When Moshe answers Korach and his company, he is also answering the nations of the world: "In the morning God will show…."

Morning, as we know, symbolizes the redemption, while night is the darkness of exile. Moshe knows that there is no answer to these questions in the world as it is today. We have to pray for the 'morning,' for the redemption. Only then will the truth of Am Yisrael become clear. Therefore the chapters of Tehillim that begin with the words, "Of the chief musician; a psalm for the sons of Korach" speak of the future redemption, where all will understand the function of Am Yisrael amongst the nations.


(This sicha was delivered on Shabbat parashat Korach 5733 [1973].)