One of the challenges with understanding Korach’s entire attack on Moshe & Aharon, is that some of the details of his argument seem, at face value, to be relatively true.
And none would seem to be more true than when he says the following:
](ג) וַיִּקָּהֲלוּ עַל מֹשֶׁה וְעַל אַהֲרֹן וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם[ רַב לָכֶם כִּי כָל הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים וּבְתוֹכָם יְקֹוָק וּמַדּוּעַ תִּתְנַשְּׂאוּ עַל קְהַל יְקֹוָק:
Moshe & Aharon, you have taken too much. Because the ENTIRE NATION, we are ALL HOLY, and Hashem is amongst us, so why should you rule over Hashem’s nation.
כָל הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים
It’s the rallying cry of so much of our modern world, and even our Torah world. Everyone has a place. Everyone has value.
However, it is clear that Hashem feels that Korach has gone too far.
But why? What was it that Korach was missing in his argument?
The Biala Rebbe, in his sefer Divrei Bina quotes the following fascinating gemara in Nedarim (39b) in reference to the rebellion of Korach:
מלמד, שעלו שמש וירח מרקיע לזבול ואמרו לפניו: רבונו של עולם, אם אתה עושה דין לבן עמרם אנו מאירים, ואם לאו - אין אנו מאירין!
Rather, this teaches that the sun and moon ascended from rakia to zevul and said before Him: Master of the Universe! If You do justice for the son of Amram, i.e., Moses, in his dispute with Korah, we will continue to illuminate the world, and if not, we will not illuminate the world!
And, of course, the question is, what are chazal trying to teach us here? What do the sun and moon have to do with the conflict between Korach & Moshe?
We know, chazal tell us in many places, that there are 613 total mitzvos, 248 positive mitzvos corresponding to the 248 limbs in the body, and 365 negative mitzvos, corresponding to the 365 sinews in the human body. The point being, presumably, that it is only with the attainment of the ENTIRE TORAH that a human being can feel a sense of shleimus, of being whole.
But there’s a significant problem with this approach: There is no individual person who can fulfill ALL 613 mitzvos in the Torah!
Some mitzvos are relevant to men, some to women. Some are to be performed only by a Kohein, others only by a Levi, others only by a Yisrael. Other mitzvos can be performed only by farmers, others by Sofrim, and the list goes on.
How then, asks the Biale Rebbe, can a person attain that level of completion if he or she CANNOT practically perform all the mitzvos of the Torah?
The answer, he writes, is that it is obvious that NO person is expected to perform all mitzvos. Like we said, it’s IMPOSSIBLE. Rather, there is an expectation that TOGETHER, not as individuals only, but as a collective known as Klal Yisrael, that when every one of us, men, women, farmers, Kings, Kohanim, Leviim, each play our role and do our part, then TOGETHER we will fulfill Kol HaTorah Kula, and we will fill in the blanks for each other.
Chazal are teaching us that it is ONLY with each individual completing their own personal avoda, playing their own VITAL role, that every other individual can be WHOLE.
Yes, everyone’s role is different. But we are only a Klal Yisrael, writes the Rebbe, if each individual is able to find their place, fulfilling the mitzvos that apply to them because then we have a klal working in a synchronized way, and not only practically but also metaphysically.
And this is what Korach was missing. Yes, Korach was correct: “Kol Ha’Eida Kulam Kedoshim,” All of Am Yisrael, no matter who they are, are absolutely Kadosh. But his next step was wrong! He asked, “If everyone is holy, then why should some people be leaders and others be led!? And the answer is that every person has their own kochos, their own unique talents, not better or worse than anyone else. And it is our job to figure out where we fit best, how our talents will allow us to contribute to the klal.
And says the Rebbe, that with this, we can now begin to understand the gemara in nedarim.
Why did the sun and moon step up in defense of Moshe Rabbeinu? Because the sun and the moon, at least according to Chazal, have experience in balancing their different - but equally vital - responsibilities.
The Gm in Chullin (60b) notes that in the story of creation at first the sun and moon are called “Shnei Meoros HaGedolim” the two large luminaries, but then shortly after calls them “the Maor HaGadol” and the “Maor HaKatan” the large and small luminary.
And the gemara explains that at first they were both large, but the moon complained that it is impossible to have two Kings making use of the same crown. At which point Gd said, “No problem, L’chi U’miati et atzmeich”, fine, then go make yourself the smaller one.”
And the moon responds: “You’re right, Gd. I made a good suggestion, and You’re correct, so I will make myself the Katan”.
And the gemara concludes with Hashem telling the moon:
זיל ליקרו צדיקי בשמיך (עמוס ז, ב) יעקב הקטן שמואל הקטן (שמואל א יז, יד) דוד הקטן
The righteous will be named after you, “Yaakov the Katan, Shmuel the Katan, and David the Katan.”
The moon is telling HKBH: It doesn’t make sense to have me and the sun doing the same job! Everything in the world has its own role, its own potential, and I want my own!
And so, Hashem says you’re right, the moon and sun – while equally vital – are also uniquely different. And when the moon accepts Hashem’s response, HKBH praises him, by saying that future great people will be great because they are willing to make themselves a Katan.
Because what made Yaakov Avinu, Shmuel HaNavi, and David HaMelech great, was that even as they took on leadership roles, they were willing to make themselves small, to recognize that they were no greater than anyone else. They just had a different role to play.
And so, says the Biale Rebbe, that’s why the sun and moon are the ones to defend Moshe Rabbeinu. They say to HKBH: If you don’t defend Moshe, then we won’t do our jobs! We were the ones who set the standard for the recognition that one of us may look big and one may be small, but in reality we are the same. Yes, KULAM KEDOSHIM, but NOT because we do the same job, but specifically because we have EACH EMBRACED who we are! And if Korach is successful, then all we sacrificed for will be lost!
The mistake of Korach was to believe that he only had value if he had a position of leadership. When in reality, Korach had the opportunity to showcase to so many others what it means to find your place, and to be proud of it, even if it isn’t a place that receives as much notoriety.
So often we attend graduations or other school functions, and sometimes, and maybe just because people need something to say, they refer to our children as “the future leaders of the Jewish People”. And I have to say that has always made me uncomfortable.
Why? Because many of our children will NOT be leaders when they become adults. And that’s just fine. For some people, leadership is the way they contribute to society, for others it’s through their technological skill, or their commitment to chesed, to learning, or to a whole host of other skills and interests. What we want for our children is not to necessarily find positions of notoriety, it is for them to find something in life they believe in, and maybe most importantly to find something that can allow them to believe in themselves.
And, of course, this is true for us as adults as well. The more we believe that HKBH has placed us in our unique circumstances, with our unique abilities, and our unique challenges, the more we can stop looking around at the achievements of others and be proud of how we navigate the lot we have been handed, as challenging as it can be at times.
The more we can BELIEVE the true expression of Kol Ha’Eida Kulam Kedoshim, that HKBH placed me here in this world because there is something uniquely special about what I bring to the table, the more simcha we can find in our lives, no matter what may come our way.
So, in the end, Korach was right, at least in some respects. He was right that we all have our own, unique, special kedusha. And Klal Yisrael needs that special kedusha of each of us to make our nation complete.