Action or Belief: Parashat Korach

June 16th 2017


Through the hand of Moshe Rabbeinu the Jewish people witnessed the great miracles performed by God at the splitting of the sea and later on at Mount Sinai.  The Torah testifies that the people believed in God and Moshe wholeheartedly. Yet, shortly after, we are introduced to the divisive story of Korach, a cousin of Moshe who cast aspersions on Moshe's leadership, for his own self-interest.

What happened to change Korach’s mind so soon after the whole nation openly declared their belief in Moshe? Did he believe that all he had witnessed was a sham?

As a boy, I recall my uncle Rabbi Zaks of Monsey, New York, traveling to Jerusalem where he posed this question to the great sage Rabbi Dovid Solovetchik of the Rabbinic dynasty of Brisk. The solution proposed was ingenious and indicative of the subtleties of the advanced Talmudic analysis that is trademark of Brisk. When Maimonides codified the Laws of Belief he constantly uses the terminology of "He who says". Not once does he write "He who believes" leading the scholars to suggest that the expressed thought or speech carries more weight than that which is in the mind.

Korach may have been a true believer on the inside, but what he said to others was different, and in the end that's what we will remember him as for eternity – the one who caused tremendous disunity among the Jewish people.

Having a Jewish heart is wonderful, and knowing what is important is crucial, a prerequisite for all growth that is to come. However, if we don't express our ideas into action then in the future, when we are inevitably faced with a challenge of Korach, given a choice of placing our values over our comfort, we may fail.

If our Judaism only stays in the realm of theory then we have let ourselves down, squandering the potential we possess to fulfil our mission that which we were charged with to be forces for good and change in the world.