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Shabbat Parashat Korach 5775

Parashat Hashavua: Those Who Argue With Prophecy

Harav Yosef Carmel


The first shrewd person who argued with prophecy and tried to present an alternative was Korach. Korach and his entourage became the symbol for generations of the worst kind of person who is involved in dispute – one who quarrels for selfish reasons. Moshe Rabbeinu saw this event as a watershed case which would determine the direction in which the state of affairs in Bnei Yisrael would flow from the spiritual perspective. That is the reason that Moshe made a demanding request of Hashem to intervene dramatically.

Moshe informed Korach and company: “Through this you will know that Hashem sent me to do all of these things, and it did not come from my heart. If these people will have a normal death … Hashem did not send me. But if Hashem will create something new and the earth will open its mouth and swallow them and all that is theirs, and they will go down alive to the grave, then you shall know that these people blasphemed Hashem” (Bamidbar 16:28-30). When matters turned out as they did, the Torah indeed records, “They and all that was theirs went down alive to the grave” (ibid. 33; see also how it is described in Tehillim 106:17). This stresses the extent to which Moshe’s claim, that the critics were complaining about Hashem rather than Moshe, had great truth.

In the generation of the prophets Yeshaya (who prophesied in the Kingdom of Yehuda) and Amos (in the Kingdom of Yisrael), the phenomenon repeated itself. Men, apparently intellectuals, writers, and musicians, saw themselves as at least on the level of the prophet. They argued with the presentations of the prophet and his conclusions and interpreted current events as they saw fit and as people enjoyed hearing. In warning them of their folly, Yeshaya used the terminology that the Torah used under the parallel circumstances of Korach. “Therefore, the grave opened itself and its mouth opened wide without limit ...” (Yeshaya 5:14).

The linguistic similarity gives us tools to understand the prophet’s intention. The use of the same key words as appear in regard to Korach shows to what extent the people of Yeshaya’s time were guilty of the same severe sins of denying the legitimacy of the prophet.

Let us pray that we will merit to once again hear the exhortations of the prophets to follow the ways of Hashem in a more complete manner. By following the words of the prophets, we will be true students of Moshe and the prophets who served Hashem nobly.     

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