Posted on March 23, 2011
by Cory Nagelberg
June 27, 2009/5 Tammuz 5769
A few years ago, a great mystery was revealed to me while I was watching a basketball game. The Philadelphia 76ers were playing the New York Knicks, and one player stood out among all of them – Allen Iverson. Allen Iverson was the flashiest, most selfish, most arrogant basketball player I had ever seen. But the first thing that came to my mind when I saw him wasn’t the idea of a basketball legend, but rather the story of Korach.
This week, we will read about Korach and his followers in the Torah reading, aptly titled “Korach.” Korach was a man from a priestly family who believed that he was equal to, if not greater, than Moshe and Aharon. He wondered why they had more power than him, and why they were shown more respect than he was. He amassed a group of followers who felt the same way – they believed that “All the community are holy, all of them, and Hashem is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above Hashem’s congregation?” Moshe was appalled to hear that any Israelites felt this way, so he set forth a challenge – Korach and his followers would get a chance to make an offering to Hashem, and then Hashem would choose whether Korach should be a leader or whether Moshe and Aharon should retain their positions. The next day, Korach and his followers make an offering, and in response, Hashem forces the ground to open up and swallow Korach and his followers alive.
Now, it is hard to believe that Hashem forced the ground to open and swallow people. But it isn’t hard at all to understand the message from this parasha. As Moshe says, “Is it not enough that the God of Israel has set you apart from the community of Israel and given you access to Him?” We should be thankful for what we have, for the special duties that each and every one of is responsible for. It may be something as simple as walking the family dog, or something as complex as running a website. Either way, it is important not to downplay the importance of our roles. Every individual does something special to make the kehilla run smoothly, and that’s very important. If we forget that, we might wind up like Allen Iverson, ridiculed and mocked for our ultimately foolish ball-hogging ways.
Did you know …
… that Birkot Ha-Shachar, according to the Mishneh Torah, were not recited all at once at the synagogue, but were assigned to specific morning activities? (For example, for the bracha “Oter Yisrael B’tifara,” who girds Israel with His glory, one says it as s/he puts on his/her belt.)