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Home » Korach

Korach: Excuses, Excuses

Submitted by on June 2, 2013 – 4:55 amNo Comment | 4,577 views

The Process of Sin

Korach is an infamous name, synonymous with his rebellion against Moses and Aaron. The truth is that Korach never set out to lead a rebellion, he set out to nurse a grudge, but gradually his interests grew more and more grandiose until he sparked a rebellion. This slow process was taken in small steps, each justified by the excuses he made for himself and in that sense he was no different from us. Don’t we all make excuses to justify the little crimes we like to commit? And unless checked, don’t we all allow our excuses to grow and lead us to ever greater sins? Our sins don’t lead us to full our rebellion, but our red lines certainly recede when we approach them.

Korach’s story began with a small twinge of jealousy, but to understand it we must begin with a bit of family history. Korach’s father had three brothers. The oldest brother was Amram, whose two sons, Moses and Aaron, were appointed to lead the nation. His youngest brother was Uziel, whose son Elizafan was chosen to lead their branch of the Levitic family. Korach, whose father was the second oldest brother, felt he had been passed over in favor of the youngest brother’s son.

At first he wanted merely to lead his family, but the more he thought about it the more he blamed Moses rather than G-d for passing him over. The more he blamed Moses the more envious he grew and the more he coveted Moses’ position. Now he was no longer content to campaign for Elizafan’s position, now he aspired for Moses’ and Aaron’ positions and here he created his first excuse.

It wouldn’t do for Korach to lead a rebellion for selfish purpose. He excused his aspirations with the argument that this wasn’t about him, it was about the entire nation. Korach painted himself as a populist who believed that, given the opportunity, all Jews can rise to prominence. Why should Moses and Aaron claim exclusivity on prophecy and priesthood when anyone can perform that task?

At this point Korach sought support from others who aspired to the priesthood. It must be noted that the men he recruited were holy devout souls who yearned for the opportunity to serve G-d in the holiest way by offering incense in the Holy of Hollies. They realized it would lead to their demise, but they considered the price worthwhile. It is akin to a flame that seeks constantly to rise up though the price of such ascent is departure from the wick and extinction. The flame is willing to become extinct if in return it can morph into a higher state. These men sought to sublimate their souls and surrender to the exquisite grandeur of the infinite even if the price of admission was death.

These holy men had no quarrel with Aaron. Their interests were a-political; they wanted to be absorbed by G-d and His All Loving embrace. Korach recruited them to his cause to garb his rebellion in holiness. They welcomed Korach’s offer because they hoped he could help them reach their goal.

Yet, Korach had a problem. These holy men provided a veneer of respectability, but they lacked the fire needed to spark a rebellion. For that Korach would need to recruit men who were truly dedicated to Moses’ demise. Once convinced of his nobility of cause, Korach could easily make excuses for joining ranks with such nefarious men to help him achieve his cause.

And so he turned to Moses’ sworn enemies, Datan and Abiram, men who bore a personal grudge against Moses for many years. They were experienced campaign operators and their infrastructure was ready to go. All they needed was a spark to ignite their powder and Korach provided it.[1]

Now Korach had all he needed. The holy men provided respectability. Datan and Abiram provided the army that would lead his rebellion. Korach, like a politician who starts out to make a difference, but ultimately compromises his integrity in order to remain in office, made excuses for his pact with such terrible men.

A Point of Reflection

Was Korach so different from us? Suppose we decide to cheat on our taxes. excuses - innerstreamWe wouldn’t set out to cheat and steal or we wouldn’t be able to look ourselves in the mirror. Instead we create excuses to justify our theft. We tell ourselves that the government doesn’t require or even deserve our money and that we could spend it more efficiently and for better cause. Once our crime is painted in righteous colors we take license to descend into greater sin. If these excuses justify taking from the government they can justify taking from our neighbors especially if our needs increase and leave us desperate.

No one sets out to steal outright. We begin with soft crimes for which we easily craft excuses, but once our crimes are wrapped in holy bunting we take license to increase the crime. The same is true of gossip. Suppose someone treated you horribly and you were dying to talk about it, but can’t because you don’t abide gossip. What do you do? You craft excuses. You paint your gossip as a favor to others to guard them against being hurt in the same way. Of course once you have license to gossip, you continue along this path until you are gossiping freely and without hesitation.

If we are honest with ourselves we will realize that in many ways we are just like Korach[2] and if we denounce his actions we ought to improve our own. If we can truly disdain Korach’s deeds we must truly change our own. We cannot have one without the other.

[1] It is fascinating to note that, Korach, his holy men and Datan/Abiram were punished in accordance with their deeds. The holy men who sought to sublimate themselves and be absorbed by their hot fire passion for G-d were singed by flames and burned to death. Datan and Abiram, who sought to drag Moses down were swallowed alive into the abyss of the earth. Korach, who wanted both to rise to the sanctity of priesthood and to drag Moses down was punished with both. He was burned alive and was swallowed into the abyss. See Haamek Davar on Numbers 26: 11 that it was for his pact with Datan and Abiram that Korachs sons, who were originally involved with their father, abandoned the rebellion.


[2] To be sure there is a great difference. Korach was jealous and divisive and iltimately sparked a rebellion. But we are like him in the sense that we too make excuses to justify our sins.

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