July 25, 2024
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Have you ever had someone try to take the wind out your sails, telling you, “You are not so special. You are never going to amount to anything. If I were you I would not expect much success”? In effect, that was what Korach, the rebel, tried to say to Moshe. He was envious of his leadership. He did not recognize Moshe’s Divine destiny. Unlike the Rambam, whose 13 principles of faith affirm that Moshe was uniquely gifted and qualified, Korach tried to discourage Moshe by telling him, “You are nothing special. We are all holy. You are no big deal.” The Torah tells us that Moshe reacted by falling on his face. The commentary Chizkuni tells us this means Moshe was humiliated, insulted and despaired.

This was not the first time the Torah related how a person destined for greatness was discouraged, bullied and demoralized. Think of Yosef growing up among his brothers. He literally had dreams of greatness. His brothers could not abide by this and were very jealous of him. They did their best to see to it that his dreams would never come to pass. First, they threw him into a pit with snakes and scorpions. When that plan failed, they sold him into slavery, certain this would spell the end to his dreams.

In another such instance, the prophet Shmuel came to Yishai’s house to anoint a new king (1 Samuel 16). Shmuel asks Yishai to bring out all of his sons for inspection, since one of them was destined to be the new king. Yishai brings out one son after another until seven sons are presented. Yet, he does not bother to bring out his son David. Shmuel has to ask, “Are these all of your sons?” Finally, Yishai remembers to call for his son David, who was left out in the fields to tend the sheep. Can you imagine what David must have felt like? Even his own father did not believe he was good enough to present to Shmuel. Yet he did not let this discourage him. He came forward and received the anointing and God’s blessing. He did not let his father’s lack of faith in him discourage him from his destiny.

Receiving the anointing for kingship and the blessing apparently did not dissuade David’s brothers from bullying him and putting him down. Immediately afterward, (1 Samuel 17,) when King Saul was looking for a Israelite champion to do battle with Goliath, we read that David volunteers. His brothers, however, snicker and can’t help teasing him. Eliav, David’s older brother, gets upset with him and taunts him, saying, in effect, “What’s the matter, you naughty, presumptuous brat? Why aren’t you back up there watching those few sheep we left you with? That’s all you are good for anyway.”

In each of these instances we see that there might be others who might try to put us down and try to talk us out of fulfilling our destinies. Yosef’s brothers tried to take away his dream, King David’s father saw little potential in him, his brothers told him all he was good for was tending sheep, and in this week’s parsha, Korach tells Moshe he is nobody special. Yet, the Torah describes how these individuals persevered, had faith in Hashem and, more importantly, had faith in themselves. They went on to fulfill their Divine destinies and became great leaders who changed the world.

We each have a tafkid, a special purpose and meaning for which we were placed into this world. We cannot allow others to discourage us and cause us to give up. May Hashem bless us like Yosef, David and Moshe so that we follow our dreams, fulfill our destinies and pursue our unique gifts and qualifications, making this a better world.

By Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg


Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist. He is president of the Chai Riders Motorcycle Club of New York/New Jersey. He leads the Summit Avenue Shabbos Gemara shiur and minyan in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. He can be contacted at [email protected]. 

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