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Torah from Dixie presents "Cloning in Jewish Law" 

A blown fuse


by Nachliel Friedman
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer

The tragedy of Korach which we encounter in this week's Torah portion is one fraught with questions, but one major problem stands out. What caused this great man to break down?

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The tragedy of Korach which we encounter in this week's Torah portion is one fraught with questions, but one major problem stands out. What caused this great man to break down?

Korach was the oldest son of Yitzhar, who was the second son of Kehat (who was in turn a son of Levi, one of the twelve sons of Jacob). Korach was a very wealthy man and a leader amongst the Levites. The Midrash tells us that Korach was a great scholar, had ruach hakodesh (divine inspiration), and was one of the carriers of the holy ark. The Zohar, the basic work of Kabbalah, states that he was the Levite with the greatest potential. With his ruach hakodesh, he saw that the prophet Samuel was destined to descend from him. In short, Korach's résumé ranked up there with Moses, Aaron, and the most illustrious leaders of the Jewish people.

The spark that caused the fuse to blow was the appointment of Elitzafan the son of Uziel to be the prince of the Kehat family of Levites. Uziel was the youngest of Kehat's four sons*. Korach reasoned as follows: Moses and Aaron, the leader of the Jewish people and the Kohen Gadol (high priest) respectively, both came from Amram, Kehat's oldest son. Next in line for a position of leadership should be the oldest member from the family of Kehat's second son, i.e. Korach. When he was passed over in favor of Elitzafan, the son of Kehat's fourth son, Korach became upset. This was a grave error which cost him dearly, for although Korach was a great man, he was unfit for the position because he wanted it for his own honor.

Once he decided to challenge the appointment of Elitzafan, Korach went off the deep end. He also challenged Moses' role as a prophet, Aaron's appointment as the Kohen Gadol, and even denied parts of Hashem's creation of the world. He argued with Moses about the mitzvot of tzitzit and mezuzah, and spent his time and energy convincing other prominent men of Israel to join him in his challenge of Moses.

The question is why? What happened to the holy man we described above? How could a person flip out and go the opposite direction so suddenly? The answer is that Korach had a burning jealousy. In Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers 4:21), the sages teach, "Jealousy, desire, and honor remove a person from the world." The basis of jealousy is when a person is constantly comparing himself to those around him. Korach did have some reasonable claims, but his argument was built on jealousy and was not for the sake of Hashem. His error was to allow himself to get swept away by his destructive emotions. When Korach went down, he dragged all of his followers with him, as the Talmud (Tractate Sanhedrin 109b) states that Korach and his congregation have no portion in the World to Come.

When reading this mind-boggling story of Korach's downfall, we are left to ponder its roots. The Torah is giving us a clear opportunity to see first-hand the destructiveness of base jealously. We are given the opportunity to learn from the mistake of this great man. Our job is to apply to our own lives the obvious lesson that there is to learn from Korach. We must realize that we are each given our own unique situation and role in life, and that we must not measure ourselves by the people around us, but rather by our own abilities, talents, gifts, and potentials.

*The following genealogy might clear things up: Levi had 3 sons - Gershon, Kehat, and Merari. Kehat had 4 sons: Amram (father of Miriam, Aaron, and Moses), Yitzhar (whose firstborn was Korach), Chetzron, and Uziel (whose firstborn was Elitzafan).

Nachliel Friedman, the nephew of Rabbi Binyomin Friedman and a frequent visitor to his beloved city of Atlanta, has just graduated from the Ner Israel High School in Baltimore and plans to study at the Yeshiva Beis Yisrael in Jerusalem starting this fall.

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