For the week ending 25 June 2022 / 26 Sivan 5782

Parsha Ponders: Eyes To See

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by Rabbi Rafi Wolfe

“Korach…and Dasan and Aviram…and Ohn… they and two-hundred and fifty men from the Jewish People confronted Moshe…” (Bamidbar 16:1-2)

This week’s Torah portion details the rebellion of Korach. He challenged the leadership of Moshe and Aharon, convincing a group of the greatest sages of Israel to join his cause. Rashi asks: How could Korach think that his rebellion would be successful? Moshe clearly was a miracle performer. He played a role in the Ten Plagues, and split the sea. He obviously had a very close relationship with Hashem. Rashi says that “Korach’s eye misled him.” Korach saw in a prophecy that his future descendant would be the prophet Shmuel, who our Sages say was of equal prominence to Moshe and Aharon. Korach figured there was no way he would merit this great descendant unless he took action. He would have to rebel against Moshe and Aharon and become the leader. In the end, his rebellion proved unsuccessful, removing all doubt about Moshe's rightful authority. The commentaries are bothered with Rashi’s phraseology. Why did Rashi say that Korach’s eye (singular)misled him, instead of the more normal expression that Korach’s eyes misled him?

The Shem MiShmuel suggests an answer based on an innovation of the Noam Elimelech. There is a mitzvah for all men to go to the Temple during the three pilgrimage festivals as in Deuteronomy 16:16.

Our Sages derive that only someone who is able to see with both of their eyes is obligated (Chagigah2a), but someone who is blind in one eye is exempt. The Noam Elimelech suggests that the reason is related to the rationale behind the mitzvah. A person has two eyes, each with its own purpose. One eye is to be able to see the loftiness of Hashem, to see His majesty. The other is to see one’s own lowliness. The purpose of going to the Temple, where Hashem’s presence is the most potent, was to be inspired by Hashem’s exaltedness. This could only be truly appreciated by someone with both of their eyes. The contrast of experiencing the grandeur of Hashem’s presence with an understanding of one’s own lowliness was tremendous. Someone with only one eye would miss out on that contrast, and is thus exempt from the mitzvah.

The Shem MiShmuel suggests that this is why Rashi mentions that Korach’s eye misled him. Korach was able to see the grandeur of Hashem. He had one eye. However, he was unable to see his own faults. He was extremely arrogant since he did not see his own lowliness. As a result, although he knew how important it was to serve Hashem, he thought that only he was the perfect person to lead the pack. He felt his rebellion was justified, and also felt it was destined for success. His eye misled him, because knowing Hashem’s greatness is not enough. One also has to realize they are not in charge. Having a healthy dose of humility is the only way not to be led astray.

  • Sources: based on Pardes Yosef HaChadash, Korach 58

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