In Memoriam: Korach

June 18, 2017 at 3:43 AM , , ,

“…And Korach set [himself] apart…” – Bamidbar 16:1

וַיִּקַּח קֹרַח – במדבר טז, א

“The mention of a righteous man shall be for a blessing,” says the verse in Mishlei (10:7), “but the name of the wicked shall rot.” The Talmud (Yoma 38b) interprets the latter part of this verse as a directive not to name your child after a person who was corrupt or evil, so that the wicked person’s name will be put out of circulation and will rot, as it were.

Yet each year, a portion in the Torah is traditionally called Parshas Korach, perpetuating the memory of a man who led a rebellion against Moshe! If you wouldn’t name your child for Korach, why name a portion in the Torah for this wicked man?


This tradition indicates that despite Korach’s wrongful actions, at the root of his rebellion lie a kernel of truth, a virtue we must remember and aspire to emulate.

As the Torah recounts, Korach desired to replace Aharon as the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. The attraction of this position was the extraordinary sanctity that came with it, which enabled the Kohen Gadol to stand in perfect union with G-d and to serve before Him constantly. Therefore, in and of itself, Korach’s aspiration for priesthood was highly commendable. In fact, the Midrash (brought in Rashi on Bamidbar 16:6) relates that when Korach and his associates told Moshe what they wished for, Moshe said, “I too desire the same!” We therefore honor this quest for holiness by calling the parsha on Korach’s name.

Nevertheless, the first word of the parsha, vayikach, is omitted from its title. For Vayikach Korach means “And Korach set himself apart,” emphasizing Korach’s rebellion against Moshe, who at G-d’s instruction, appointed only Aharon as Kohen Gadol. The word vayikach is therefore omitted from the parsha’s title, because Korach’s deplorable actions and the strife he caused are not something we seek to memorialize.

Korach’s name, however, is enshrined in Jewish tradition, for his lofty dreams are an inspiration for all of time.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 18, pp. 190-191; Sefer Hasichos 5748, vol. 2, p. 500-501


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