There are only five parshios that are named after people. Noach, Yisro, Balak, Korach and Pinchas. The first letter of each name adds up to the gematria 242 the same as the word L’ora for light. Each one of these figures brought light, by way of a dramatic change to the world as a result of their actions.
(16:2) "Vayakumu Lifnei Moshe- They rose up before Moshe. Anshe Shem-Men of renown." Rabbeinu Bachya raises several questions in connection with this whole episode. Firstly, how can we explain that Moshe, the loyal Shepherd of the people, who had repeatedly interceded on their behalf when the people had sinned, in this instance instead of interceding on their behalf when actually demanded an extreme penalty for the instigators? Why did he not spend his energy instead to get these people to repent their error? After all, there is no sin so severe that it cannot be expiated through sincere repentance by the Sinner?
Furthermore why would their children, their babies, be mentioned as part of their sin? Surely any minor children of Doson and Avirom should not be held responsible for their parents actions?
In order to do justice to these verses we must take a Kabalistic approach involving the transmigration of souls. (Sod Hagilgul) This is where souls that have done great things, whether positive or negative, are returned to this world. Either to assist a worthy person to achieve a great undertaking or to be given an opportunity to correct certain sins of a past life. This is hinted to in the words of our verse. Anshe Shem-Men of renown." A similar expression was used in the narrative of the Tower of Bavel. (Bereishis where they are quoted as saying "Let us build a city and a tower whose top will be in the heaven so that we will make a name for ourselves." Onkelos translates "Vayikach Korach" as "V'espaleg" as in Dor Haflogeh. As a result Hashem scattered them across the globe and confused their language. The second chance given these souls was in Sodom where the verse hints to the "Men of the city, the men of Sodom" (19:4) The people of the city were the people of Sodom! Their evil actions caused Hashem to send Malachim to destroy the entire area. Here in our verse we encounter the third and final chance given for these souls to redeem themselves. But they failed. When during Moshe's generation these people repeated their gross disobedience to Hashem a third time, Moshe does not pray for them to be saved because this is their third strike. Even their children must be removed for they had no further chance to expiate their sins, no further transmigration of souls. This too is hinted in the words "Vayakumu Lifnei Moshe- They rose up before Moshe". It should have said "Vayakumu el Moshe" instead we have the word "Lifnei-Before" What Moshe now faced had already happened before Moshe's time. (Rabeinu Bachya)
The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (5:17) says “A dispute that is for the sake of heaven is destined to endure- A dispute that is not for the sake of heaven is not destined to endure. Which is a dispute for the sake of heaven? The dispute between Hillel and Shamai. Which is a dispute that is not for the sake of heaven? The dispute between Korach and his company.” It would seem that the comparison is not equal? It should have said the dispute between Korach and Moshe? Not Korach and his followers? However when there is a dispute not for the sake of heaven they only can see one side. In their eyes there is no other side. When the aim of dispute is victory, both sides lose. Korach dies and Moshe’s authority was tarnished. But when the aim is the truth both sides gain. To be defeated by the truth is the only defeat that is also a victory.
The first Machlokes in the Torah was (Bereishis 1:16) when there were two luminaries“Vayas Elokim es Shnei Ha’Moros Ha’Gedolim-And Hashem made the two great luminaries.”Rashi says they were both created equal “The light of the moon is equal to the light of the sun” But the moon was reduced when it complained that two kings cannot rule with one crown. The word Machlokes in Gematria is 584, the same as the root of the very first Machlokes Ohr Ha’Levana K’Ohr Ha’Chama-The light of the moon is equal to the light of the sun.
(16:1) “Vayikach Korach-And Korach took.” What exactly was it that he took? The posuk does not mention anything being taken. Rashi says that it means he took himself to one side. Or possibly he took the leaders to one side, opposing Moshe. But perhaps we can suggest another explanation. The Arizal writes that the name Moshe, which equals 345 is the equivalent to the names Korach and Hevel. What does this mean? We know that after the sin of Adom the Torah tells us that Chavah had two additional children. Kayin and Hevel. They were the offshoots of Adom’s original personality but they were two opposite brothers. When Kayin was born his mother said “Ki Kanisi es Elokim- I have acquired a man of Hashem.” He was a man of Kinyin of acquiring. The name Kayin equals 130 the same as the word Hakanah to acquire. He was a taker who took for himself. When he brought a Korban for Hashem he brought inferior produce and kept the best for himself. Hevel on the other hand was the opposite. His name means nothingness, mist or smoke. He had completely given over of his personality. He took no initiative on his own. When the Torah mentions his sacrifice it says (Bereishis 4:4) “V’Hevel Heivi Gam Hu-And Hevel also brought.” meaning that if not for the fact that he saw his brother attempt to come closer to Hashem, he never would have thought of it on his own.
Korach knew that he was a reincarnation of Kayin, so in order to fix, to be the tikun for that neshama, he felt that he had to take on some of his character traits. If you take the names Kayin (160) and Hevel (37) they equal 197. What was lacking in Korach’s view was the Kehuna which is what he sought for himself. The word L’kahano equals 111 which when added to the numerical value of Hevel and Kayin complete the name Korach (308).
But Korach took too much for himself as Moshe said (16:7) “Rav Lochem Benei Levi-You have taken too much for yourselves sons of Levi.” The words “Vayikach Korach-And Korach took” equals 432 in gematria. They have the same numerical value as the words “Hamin Haeitz-From the tree” (Miluy) which is the phrase used after the chet of the Eitz Hadas. What he took was the negative aspects of Kayin. (The Eitz Hadaas.)
(16:1) “Vayikach Korach ben-Yitzhor ben-Kahos ben-Levi.” The Parsha begins by stating the lineage of Korach but stopping short of including Yakov. Rashi say's that Yakov prayed that his name would not be mentioned with Korach. The question is what difference does it make if Yakov’s name is mentioned? We still know that he was his great grandfather? Not mentioning his name does not erase his lineage? The Oznayim L’torah asks this question and gives the following answer. Yakov risked his life to obtain the birthright from his brother Essav. The privilege of performing the sacrifices in the temple could not remain in the hands of his firstborn brother. He therefore engineered its transfer to his descendants. This would have been a tremendous argument for Korach to use. He could have argued that in his claim for the priesthood he was acting in the same manner as his grandfather. This is what Yakov prayed for. He prayed that his name be not mentioned ie. That these ideas not enter into Korach’s mind.
The Ibn Ezra explains that there is a deeper meaning in this. Korach's rebellion was an even greater attack on Yakov than it was on Moshe. In parshas Toldos we learned that Yakov was the first to challenge the Bochor. He did this three times. First acquiring Essav's birthright then again by transferring Reuven's birthright to Yosef and finally by choosing Ephraim over Menashe. So if the firstborn had a claim as Korach maintained then the selection of Yakov over Essau as the chosen people should be void.
The Midrash tells us that Korach saw that in the future his descendants would be great people. He therefore assumed that his claims, to replace Aaron must be correct. What he didn't see was that his descendants would do Teshuva. If Korach was so smart why didn't he think of this possibility? In addition when Moshe came to prove who Hashem had chosen he said, “If these men die a normal death than I am not sent by Hashem, but if a new form of death is brought into the world then you will know that all of these things have come through Hashem not me.” Why was there a need to have this new type of death? Why couldn't Hashem just create a plague as before?
There is a type of spiritual genetics that a person gives over to his descendants. If a person reaches a certain level of Kiddusha, in some form this is transferred over to his offspring. The same is true of the negative aspects of a person’s actions. This too is passed on to his descendants. Korach thought that if his descendants were able to reach such high levels of Keddusha it must be due to the fact that they were not burdened by the negative baggage that he himself passed down. They would not have been able to do this if his attempt at the Kehuna was so wrong. Because even Teshuva would not be able to totally erase the tremendous negative acts that Korach had done. This is why a new type of death had to be created. A type of death that could wipe out any traces of negative spiritual genetics. So his descendants received a new start and were therefore able to reach the great levels that Korach envisioned.
The question that emerges from all of this is how could Korach have such descendants? If indeed he was so off the mark with his Machlokes, how could he have produced a Shmuel Hanavi? R,Salant suggests that every act a person does is rewarded even if unintended. Korach caused there to be a tremendous Kiddush Hashem in the world. Even though this was not his intent, never the less, his act had to be repaid.
The Shem M’shmuel asks why didn’t the merit of Korach’s great descendants protect him from his fate? The Gemarrah in Sanhedrin (104B) writes that “A son provides merit for his father.” Why, then, could their merit not stand for him to save him from punishment? The answer is found in another Gemarrah (Yoma 85B). The general principal in the laws of Teshuva:”One who says I will sin and then Yom Kippur will atone, Yom Kippur will not atone.” Korach’s mistake was rooted in the fact that he saw the future greatness that would come from him. Korach used this foreknowledge of his noble descendants to justify his sinful activities. Thus while a son may provide merit for his father, this principal can only be applied if the son is not the cause of that sin.
(16:2) “Anshei Sheim-Men of renown” This phrase can be read as “Men who were experts in using the Sheim Hamiforesh. The words “Anshei Sheim-Men of renown”is 701 in Gematria the same as the words Megaleh Amukos-To reveal the depths.
(16:22) “Vayomru Kael Elokai Ha’Ruchos L’Chol Basar Ho’Ish Echad Yechtah-They said G-d of the spirits of all flesh, shall One man will sin.” This reference to Hashem as “G-d of spirits of all flesh” is very unusual. Plus the phrase “shall one man sin” is in the future tense, but they had already sinned? R.Shimshon Astropolia writes that this is a reference to Yeshu. The word “Ho’Ish” equals 316 the same as Yeshu. He is the one who will sin in the future. The connection begins with Kayin. The ground that opened to accept the blood of Hevel now opened to receive Korach. The initial letters of Kayin are Kuf Yud Nun and stand for Korach, Yeshu, Notzri. The idea behind this connection is that all three attempted to negatively change the world.
(16:30) “Im Beriyah Yivrah Hashem- If a creation Hashem creates.” The Ohr Hachaim say's that these words are incorrect. It should have read “Im Hashem Yivrah Briyah-If Hashem creates a creation.” When Hashem created the world he created the mouth of the Earth. But after Hevel was killed and the earth accepted the spilled blood it was punished. The mouth of the earth was not permitted to open again until now by this incident with Korach. This is why the posuk say's Beriyah Yivra, since this was a creation that had already existed but was restrained until now. The Shem Meshemuel say's that part of the Neshama of Hevel was reincarnated in Moshe. We have learned in Bereishis, Hevel became deserving to be the first man killed because when his Korban was accepted by the Shechina he gazed at the fire that came down. Moshe corrected that chet when he turned aside from gazing the Shechina at the burning bush. Korach had the blood of his brother on his hands. So it comes out that the Earth was now able to correct that chet of accepting Kayin’s blood here by swallowing up Korach.
(16:30) “Im Beriyah Yivrah Hashem- If a creation Hashem creates.” Moshe proclaims a test to prove conclusively that he acted only at Hashem’s command. The question is how would this be different then all of the other miraculous displays performed by Hashem through Moshe? The Maharal explains that this opening of the earth was no mere earthquake. Rather this was an event that was planned from the very beginning of creation. The Mishnah in Avos lists this as one of the ten things created on the eve of the first Shabbos at twilight. What the nation witnessed was so terrifying that no one could doubt the veracity of Moshe’s actions. When the earth opened up its mouth the entrance to Gehenom rose up to the earth’s surface and swallowed these men alive. If someone tried to flee, the opening of the earth pursued them. They saw what no living man had ever before seen.
(16:3) “Vatikalu al-Moshe V’al-Aharon Vayomeru Rav Lochem-They gathered together against Moshe and against Aharon and said “It is too much for you.” Korach in accusing Moshe of taking too much for himself by appointing his brother as the Kohein Gadol, uses the words Rav Lochem- It is too much for you. Moshe in reply accuses Korach of the same and even uses the same words. This perhaps we can say is the key to understanding what was Korach’s mistake? He argued that all of Yisroel stood at Har Sinai and heard the word of Hashem, therefore all of them are holy. Was this not true? Korach’s mistake was in the fact that he wished to negate the unity of the Torah. Chazal say that no individual can fulfill all 613 mitzvos. There are mitzvos that only apply to a Kohen and others that apply only to a man. It is only by being a collective unit that we can achieve this. Korach’s argument was divisive. He saw each individual as not being a part of the whole. In his lust for power and honor he was willing to sacrifice the lives of the 250 men plus Dathan and Avirah. Moshe had said that they each should bring a fire pan but only one of them will survive. Korach believed that he would be the one chosen but he did not care about the lives of the 252 men that would perish.
This is why the punishment perfectly reflected his sin. For one who sees his fellow man only as an object to advance his own personal goals will in the end swallow anyone who stands in his way. This is why the earth swallowed him up. The very fact that the earth can provide a firm base for man to tread upon depends on the unification of each individual grain of sand into terra-firma. One who denies the need for this unity causes the grains to break apart and finds he himself swallowed up in it.
The words Rav-Loch- You have taken too much hints at these 252 men that Korach caused to perish. The words Rav Loch B’gematria equal 252.
(16:3) “Vatikalu al-Moshe V’al-Aharon Vayomeru Rav Lochem-They gathered together against Moshe and against Aharon and said “It is too much for you.” This is one of the most ludicrous charges that could have been leveled against Moshe. Everyone knew Moshe's humbleness. The Torah itself testifies to it. How could Korach make such a claim? We can see from Moshe's response why Korach picked the charge that he was an honor seeker. Moshe in reply accuses Korach of the same and even uses the same words. "Rav Lochem- It is too much for you." The reason is because of something the Talmud teaches us in Kiddushin (70a) "Kol Haposel, B'mumo Posel". When a person invalidates a person he invalidates him with his own shortcomings. In other words what Korach said about Moshe said more about Korach himself than it did about Moshe. This is why Korach chose this ludicrous charge that Moshe was an honor seeker. It is precisely because it was Korach himself who was seeking honor that he projected this personality fault onto Moshe.
(16:27) “Unisheihem, Uveneihem, Vtapom- And their wives, and their children and their infants.” Rashi says that normally underage children are not held responsible until either 13 or 20 years old, yet here even the infants were punished? The reason is machlokes-arguments. This comes to show how severe dispute is. These words are difficult to accept. Why would an innocent child need to be killed? Perhaps we can say that these were children that were never meant to be.The posuk Rashi comments on are only referring to the children of Datan and Avira. Datan and Aviram should have died in Mitzraim during the plague of darkness as did 80% of Klal Yisroel were it not for the fact that they were spared merely to serve as a counter balance to Moshe Rabeinu. This finally came to a head in the dispute with Korach’s men. Now that they are gone there is no need for their line to continue.
(17:20) “ Matehu Yifrach-The chosen staff will sprout.” Hashem told Moshe to collect one staff from each tribe and place them in the tent of meeting. The tribe that is the chosen one will sprout almonds by morning. This would remain stored away for the future in case anyone would attempt to contest the priesthood. The numerical value of the words Matehu Yifrach equals Moshiach. The Hebrew word for almond is Shekaidim which has the same numerical value as the word Chashmonayim the future descendants of Aharon who upheld the Kiddusha and honor of Hashem.
(17:23) “V’hinei Porach Mateh-Aharon...Vayigmol Shekaidim-Aharon’s staff blossomed and grew almonds.” After witnessing the miraculous events that just occurred, the earth opening, the fire descending, how could there still be any doubt? What's more how could the blossoming of almonds compare with what an event that had been planned since the creation of the world?
Perhaps we can say that until now everything they had witnessed was an angry response. Fire, death, earthquakes. Here for the first time they were witnessing a benevolent G-D. The blossoming of a dry piece of wood, this miracle would not only not destroy, it would remain fresh for thousands of years. If in the future the priesthood was ever again challenged this staff would be brought out with the fresh almonds still attached. This was a sign that the nation could relate to.
What is the significance of almonds? Rashi says that they are the ones that grow quickest, just like the Kohen Gadol who must be quick in his service to Hashem. In addition, the letters of the word for almonds is Shekaidim. If you rearrange the letters of the word Shekaidim it spells Kedoshim. Aharon and his descendants were the carriers of Kiddusha in this world. This is what the almonds represented.
(17:26) “Vayaas Moshe Kasher Tzivah Hashem Oso Kain Asah-Moshe did as Hashem commanded him, So he did.” Moshe is instructed to place the staff of Aharon before the Ark of testimony as safekeeping, as a sign for anyone who might think of rebellion. Why would I think that Moshe would not do as Hashem commanded? There are only three times in the Torah where these words are found. Here is the first. Later on in (20:27) it is repeated when Moshe is told to bring Aharon up to Har Hahor to die. And the last place is when Moshe is told to install Yehoshua as his replacement. In the later two cases we can clearly see why Moshe would hesitate completing Hashem’s words. But why in our posuk should Moshe not be willing to comply? The Oznayim L’Torah writes that the following posukim attest to what was happening. Klal Yisroel was complaining “We are all lost, everyone who approaches then Tabernacle will die.” On the surface these words seem hard to comprehend. As the Oznayim L’Torah explains what they were saying is if you place the staff of Aharon in the Holy of Holies we will never see it, and if we contest the priesthood we will die. On the other hand if we enter the sanctuary to see the staff we will die. Either way we are lost. Moshe’s response was not to listen to the nation but rather obey the word of Hashem. If a miracle is a daily occurrence it loses it’s uniqueness. Hashem therefore commanded that it only be brought out when absolutely necessary.