Korach (Numbers 16-18 )
GOOD MORNING! What are the core beliefs of Judaism? Throughout the ages the greatest of our sages have dealt with this question. Rambam, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), the well-known and revered Jewish philosopher and scholar, formulated "The 13 Principles of Jewish Belief" as the essential beliefs of our heritage. He clearly categorizes and clarifies the essence of our beliefs.
The Thirteen Principles of Belief fall into three categories: A) The nature of the belief in God, B) The authenticity, validity and immutability of the Torah, C) The responsibilities upon human beings and our ultimate reward. Every principle as stated by Maimonides is prefaced with "I believe with complete belief that..." This week and next week I will enumerate and elucidate with the explanations found in the Artscroll Siddur. The Nature of the Belief in God has five principles:
1) The Creator creates and guides all creatures; He alone made, makes, and will make everything. (There is no partnership in creation. God is the sole Creator and the universe continues to exist only because He wills it so. He could exist if everything else were to come to an end, but it is inconceivable that there could be any form of existence independent of Him).
2) The Creator is unique and there is no uniqueness like His in any way; that He alone is our God, Who was, Who is and Who always will be. (God is a complete and total Unity. He is not a collection of limbs and organs, as are man and animals. He cannot be split as can a rock or divided into component elements as can everything else in creation).
3) The Creator is not physical and is not affected by physical phenomena; there is no comparison whatsoever to Him. (His essence cannot be understood by human beings who are physical; we cannot conceive of a Being unaffected by the laws of nature and physics).
4) The Creator is the very first and very last. (He is eternal and the first source. He created everything and transcends time which is also a creation. See Genesis and the Big Bang by Gerald Schroeder -- and the classic commentaries on the book of Genesis).
5) To the Creator alone is it proper to pray; it is not proper to pray to any other. (No creation has any power independent of what God assigns to it. To attribute ultimate power to any thing or being other than God falls in the category of idol worship).
For a brilliant exposition on the Thirteen Principles of Belief, read Fundamentals and Faith by Rabbi Yakov Weinberg, former Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel Yeshiva in Baltimore (and brother of Rabbi Noah Weinberg, founder of Aish HaTorah). Another excellent book is Maimonides' Principles -- The Fundamentals of Jewish Faith by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Both are available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.
Korach, Numbers 16:1 - 18:32
There are two rebellions this week. First, Korach, a Levite, was passed over for the leadership of his tribe and then challenges Moshe over the position of High Priest. No good rebellion can be "sold" as a means for personal gain, so Korach convinces 250 men of renown that they must stand up for a matter of principle -- that each and every one of them has the right to the office of High Priest (which Moshe had announced that God had already designated his brother, Aharon, to serve).
Fascinatingly, all 250 followers of Korach accept Moshe's challenge to bring an offering of incense to see who God will choose to fill the one position. This meant that every man figured he would be the one out of 250 to not only be chosen, but to survive the ordeal. Moshe announces that if the earth splits and swallows up the rebels it is a sign that he (Moshe) is acting on God's authority. And thus it happened!
The next day the entire Israelite community rises in a second rebellion and complains to Moshe, "You have killed God's people!" The Almighty brings a plague which kills 14,700 people and only stops when Aharon offers an incense offering.
To settle the question once and for all, Moshe has the head of each tribe bring a staff with his name on it. The next morning only Aharon's staff had blossomed and brought forth almonds. The people were shown this sign. Aharon's staff was placed in front of the curtain of the ark as testimony for all time.
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from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
How was it possible for Korach to rebel against Moses and defy his Divine commission? God said to Moses at Sinai:
"Behold! I come to you in the thickness of the cloud, so that people will hear as I speak to you, and they will also believe in you forever" (Exodus 19:9).
How could God's promise to Moses be negated?
The Steipler Gaon answered that we must understand the nature of the Divine promise. It is an axiom of Judaism that a person has moral free will and that God does not control or interfere with a person's freedom of choice. This means that a person is free to believe or not to believe in Moses, and God did not impose this belief on anyone.
God's promise to Moses was that Israel's belief in Moses will never be undermined by philosophical speculation. On a purely intellectual and philosophical level, Korach would not have doubted Moses. However, because he was vain and envious, his distorted thinking led him to erroneous conclusions.
We take great pride in our reasoning abilities. We should realize how sensitive these are and how easily they can be influenced by emotions and desires to lead us to false conclusions.
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