Rabbi Wein.com The Voice of Jewish History

Rabbi Wein’s Weekly Blog
 Printer Friendly


It is always astounding to see and realize how ego, turf and ambition can blind even great people who are otherwise wise and even pious personalities. Human society suffers greatly from this phenomenon and religious society is not exempt from its erroneous consequences. In fact, religious society is more susceptible to these ills simply because character failings can be wrapped in piety with the excuse that one is doing God’s will.

A holy cause that is contaminated by human weaknesses, political ambition, monetary gain and smug self-righteousness is no longer a holy cause. The problem with so-called holy causes is that those who support them feel justified to use any means whatsoever to attempt to gain their ends. Forgery, violence and all sorts of zealotry are all permissible in order to advance the cause being espoused.
And the irony and tragedy of the situation is that those who resort to these means cannot in any way see the desecration of the very holiness that they are attempting to represent, that their behavior and tactics always engender. While allegedly speaking in the name of God, their actions and behavior blacken his holy name, so to speak, in the eyes and minds of the general population.
Korach is convinced that God is on his side and therefore his behavior towards Moshe, reprehensible as it may be, is justified and even necessary. In his hubris of imagined holiness he mistakes in his own personal ambition for somehow being the will of God. This leads to his eventual destruction and demise.
One of the inner plagues of religious Jewish society today, as in the past, is that religious zealotry knows no limits. It can defame Moshe with impunity, undermine legitimate religious and halachic authority, and justify any and all behavior no matter how tawdry and even illegitimate it may be. Unfortunately there are many examples of this attitude exhibited daily in our broader community.
There are issues and policies that are clearly outside the realm of Jewish law that are elevated immediately into being regarded as pillars of faith and issues of halacha. And once so elevated, then there is no room for rational reasoning or the wisdom of compromise and harmony. In a Jewish world that faces so many vital issues of overwhelming importance, most of the controversies that spark so much divisiveness in today’s religious Jewish society are not those upon which the eternity of Torah and Israel depend.
This was also one of the failings of Korach, who took a personal and certainly secondary issue of station and leadership and elevated it into a dispute that involved all of the Jewish people wrongly and unnecessarily. These types of troublemakers amongst us should be shunned and ignored. Even arguing with them feeds their egos and in their eyes, advances their cause.
Perhaps that is the reason that Korach and his crew were swallowed up by the earth so that no martyrdom or memorial would remain for others to emulate or imitate.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein

Subscribe to our blog via email or RSS to get more posts like this one.