Monday, August 31, 2015

482 - Korach

Chazal (Pesachim 119a) tell us that Korach's fabulous wealth ultimately led to his demise. The Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 22:7) elaborates on this idea: "Three gifts were created in this world: wisdom, strength and wealth. One who merits any one of these has the ability to merit everything. However, this is only true when the gifts are Heavenly bestowed... When these gifts do not come from Hashem they will eventually cease. Our Rabbis taught: There were two extremely wise men in the world - Achitofel a Jew and Bilam a gentile - and both perished. There were two strong men in the world - Shimshon a Jew and Golias a gentile - and both perished. There were two wealthy men in the world - Korach a Jew and Haman a gentile - and both perished. Why? Because their gifts were not from Hakadosh Baruch Hu, rather, they grabbed the gifts for themselves."

What does it mean that these gifts were not given to them from Hashem? Theoretically we could have explained it to mean that although Hashem did not intend for them to have these gifts, nevertheless their intense desire for them caused Hashem to acquiesce to their wishes as Chazal assert, "A man is taken along the path he wishes to take." However, this cannot be the case because Hashem gave Shimshon his strength initially in order to fulfill the prophecy that was told to his parents before he was born that he would deliver Bnei Yisrael from their oppressors. Also, it seems from Chazal that Hashem intentionally endowed Bilam with prophecy and wisdom so that the nations of the world would not be able to claim that had they been granted a spiritual guide they too would have refrained from transgressions. 

The Chovos Halevovos writes (Yichud Ha'maaseh chap. 5) regarding wisdom, that when it is used properly it is the panacea for all ailments, and when it is misused it develops into a full blown disease which has no cure or treatment. With this in mind, says Rav Wolbe (Alei Shur vol. II p. 606), we can understand the statement of Chazal. All three of the gifts mentioned are given to a person to be utilized in the manner intended by Hashem. As Yirmiyahu declared (9:22,23) "The wise man should not glorify himself with his wisdom, the strong man should not glorify himself with his strength and the rich man should not glorify himself with his wealth. For only with this may one glorify himself - contemplating and knowing Me." The gifts are given as a means of getting to know Hashem. If they are used to this end one will continue to benefit from them, but if they are misused he has in effect "grabbed" them from Hashem and they will not endure.

Hashem grants every person countless gifts and numerous talents. We were endowed with these gifts to aid us in our avodas Hashem. It behooves us to take inventory of our gifts and talents to determine if we are using them properly or if we are using them at all. What a waste if would be if we had the talents which would enable us to help others and we simply weren't cognizant of them. And how pathetic it would be if we held the keys to our own success in our back pocket and we simply were not aware of them. Hashem gave us talents to use in furthering avodas Hashem on a personal level, a communal level and quite possibly they could even be employed to benefit the entire Klal Yisrael!

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