July 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Parshat Korach: The Rejection of Leadership

At times, we are challenged to uncover the underlying reason why chazal chose a specific chapter in the Navi as the haftarah that would connect to the message or theme of the Torah reading. This week’s haftarah, however, requires no deep analysis to understand our Rabbis’ choice of the 11th and 12th chapters of Shmuel Aleph for the haftarah. The rebellion of Korach and his followers against the leadership of Moshe and Aharon read in this week’s parsha was not simply a denial of Hashem’s choice, but also a reflection of their blindness to His guiding hand and ongoing miracles that accompanied them throughout their travels in the desert. After all, if God had rejected the leadership He would not have performed the wonders He had for them.

Similarly, we read in this week’s haftarah the people’s demand for a king to replace Shmuel HaNavi, which, as God Himself states, is a rejection of His leadership. The two stories, that of the parsha and that of the haftarah, even have parallels in the very language that is used. Moshe proclaims his innocence before Hashem with the argument, “Lo chamor echad meihem nasati” (“I have not taken even one donkey from them”), while Shmuel asks the people: “…vachamor mi lakachti…” (“…and whose donkey have I ever taken…?”). Likewise, Shmuel begins his review of the kindnesses God had done for the nation by stating: “Hashem, Who made Moshe and Aharon (your leaders),” a clear reference to the fact that it is God Who chose him to be their leader as well. And, finally, we must not ignore the irony of the story in our haftarah—for it is Shmuel, a direct descendant of Korach, who is now forced to defend his actions as Moshe was forced to defend himself from the accusations of Shmuel’s own ancestor.

But we would be remiss if we saw these two stories as perfect parallels, for there is an essential difference between the two stories. The Israelites of Shmuel’s time had no intention of rebelling against Shmuel’s leadership or questioning his being chosen by God. They accepted Shmuel as their prophet, their “religious” guide; indeed they loved him, but they desired a king to be their military/political leader. As they saw it, they were fulfilling a mitzvah given in the Torah: “You shall certainly place a king over you,” one of the three commandments required upon settling the land, according to the Rambam (the Talmud [Sanhedrin 20b] includes an argument as to whether this was a mitzvah or not).

Rather, their mistake, we may suggest, is that they believed that the king would “fight our battles,” thereby implying that victory was in the hands of the monarch and not God Himself. This is why Hashem comforts Shmuel by telling him that the people had rejected Him, the Almighty, and not Shmuel. And this also displayed a blindness to the miraculous victories Hashem had just performed for them, thereby echoing the very sin committed by Korach and his followers.

It is indeed no wonder that we read this haftarah this week, as we learn from the comparisons and the contrasts.

By Rabbi Neil Winkler

Rabbi Neil Winkler is a past rabbi of the Young Israel of Fort Lee and now lives in Israel.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles