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Numbers 26:11 – Verbalise Your Remorse

13 Tammuz 5783 – 2 July 2023

וּבְנֵי־קֹ֖רַח לֹא־מֵֽתוּ׃ 

“The sons of Korach, however, did not die”.

Korah’s sons played a key role in the rebellion against Moses.[1] A rebellion in which they ridiculed Moses, in which they claimed that Moses himself had devised the laws of the Torah. In which they also ridiculed the Torah and G-d. The Midrash[2] shows how Korach did this very subtly and could therefore create doubt in others.

What is written above the matter (in Numb. 15:38)? “Speak unto the Children of Israel and tell them to make tassels (zizit) for themselves.’” Korah quickly said to Moses, “In the case of a prayer shawl (tallit) which is all blue, what is the rule about it being exempt from [having] the tassel?” Moses said to him, “[Such a prayer shawl] is required to have the tassels.” Korah said to him, “Would not a prayer shawl which is all blue exempt itself, when four [blue] threads exempt it? In the case of a house which is full of [scriptural] books, what is the rule about it being exempt it from [having] the mezuzah (which contains only two passages of scripture)?” [Moses] said to him, “[Such a house] is required to have the mezuzah.” … [He also] said to him, “These are things about which you have not been commanded. Rather you are inventing them [by taking them] out of your own heart.”

What drove Korach and his sons in their rebellion against Moses? It was jealousey.

He envied the chieftainship of Elizaphan the son of Uzziel whom Moses appointed as chieftain over the sons of Kohath by the Divine word[3].

An interesting point given to show that jealousy was the main reason for his behaviour is the punishment. A punishment that had not come forth before, and was created on the sixth day of creation, that the ground opened its mouth to swallow Korach and his. We find a parallel of this in the story of the first murder. The murder of Cain and Abel. In which the ground opened its mouth and swallowed the blood of Abel[4].

Korach’s sons participated in the rebellion before the outside world. They did not share their father’s jealousy and repented in their hearts. They were great men and several Psalms were written by them. Consider, for example, Psalm 42, 44 and 49. Because repented in their hearts for following their father, but did not disclose this openly, they did share in the punishment of being swallowed up by the earth, but this did not become their death.

Rashi [5]: They were the first to get involved in the conspiracy, but during the dispute they had thoughts of teshuvah (repentance) in their hearts. Therefore, a secure, elevated area was set apart for them in Gehinom (underground purgatory), and they settled there.

Korach’s sons were allowed to leave this safe place underground at some point and return to the community. This is evidenced, among others, by the birth of the prophet Samuel who was a descendant of one of Korach’s sons.

And this brings to light the power of teshuvah: Even an incomplete teshuvah was sufficient to save the instigators of Korach’s rebellion.

The great power of forgiveness that even Adam was stunned by. The forgiveness Cain had received from Hashem after killing his brother.

Rabbi Chama said in the name of Rabbi Chanina, son of Rabbi Yitzchak:

Cain left happily. . . . He came across his father, Adam, who asked him, “So, how did your judgment go?”
Cain answered, “I repented, and we reached a compromise.”
Adam began slapping himself on his face. He exclaimed, “This is the power of repentance, and I had no clue!”
Then he stood up and he sang, “A song for the day of Shabbat! It is good to admit to G‑d!”[6]

How great would have been the forgiveness of sons of Korach if they had made it known to the people, if they had told them openly that they had made a mistake.

Jealousy is a tremendous force which brings people to sin. It seeks reasons to justify why you are jealous and why you should be entitled to something you are not entitled to. Just as Korach felt he was entitled to his position. It makes you ridicule others. Just as Korach ridiculed Moses.

“That new neighbour’s car? How did he get it, surely not fairly earned”.

Let us be careful not to be jealous, and if we find that this attribute arises in us, let us ask forgiveness for it.

By Angelique Sijbolts


[1] Kehot Chumash on Numbers 26:11
[2] Bamidbar Rabbah 18
[3] Korach: Korach’s Rebellion
[4] Rebellion
[5] Buried Alive and Surviving
[6] Jewish Guilt

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