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300 Mules

Korach (Numbers 16-18 )

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

Parshat Korach tells how Korach instigated a rebellion against the leadership of Moses. This act involved a surprising amount of chutzpah, given the fact that Moses had just delivered the Jews from slavery in Egypt, led them through the Red Sea, and brought them to Mount Sinai.

Yet Korach still thought he could instigate a public rebellion against Moses. What was the source of his astounding brazenness?

The Midrash says that a few hundred years earlier, when the entire wealth of the civilized world was amassed by Egypt, a large portion of treasure was eventually funneled to Korach. It is said that Korach's wealth was so great that he required a caravan of 300 mules just to transport the keys to his treasure house!

It was this great wealth, explain the commentators, that prompted Korach to challenge Moses' leadership. Wealth is a wonderful resource. But like anything, it can be abused. A wealthy person might sometimes feel a sense of power and entitlement - which then manifests in inappropriate ways. I recall one time seeing a popular entertainer wantonly destroying property, then smirking with glee over the thought that his fame somehow made him immune to normal standards of behavior.

The Sages say that wealth is a tremendous test in life, perhaps even greater than the test of poverty. The challenge of wealth is to use it for the betterment of mankind, and to avoid using it as a prop for one's ego. That was Korach's fatal mistake.

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