Happy End-of-Writer's-Block Day!
Together, we have pored over Sefer Bemidbar (although not Korach ;), analyzed the views of the commentaries, and reached a sound answer. As my belated Chanukah present to you all, I'm finally going to talk about-- Korach! (You might want to read the Perakim-- Bemidbar 16-17-- first.)
Here we go.
(ה) וַיִּפֹּ֥ל מֹשֶׁ֛ה וְאַהֲרֹ֖ן עַל־פְּנֵיהֶ֑ם לִפְנֵ֕י כָּל־קְהַ֥ל עֲדַ֖ת בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃... (כט) בַּמִּדְבָּ֣ר הַ֠זֶּה יִפְּל֨וּ פִגְרֵיכֶ֜ם וְכָל־פְּקֻדֵיכֶם֙ לְכָל־מִסְפַּרְכֶ֔ם מִבֶּ֛ן עֶשְׂרִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה וָמָ֑עְלָה אֲשֶׁ֥ר הֲלִֽינֹתֶ֖ם עָלָֽי׃ (ל) אִם־אַתֶּם֙ תָּבֹ֣אוּ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֤ר נָשָׂ֙אתִי֙ אֶת־יָדִ֔י לְשַׁכֵּ֥ן אֶתְכֶ֖ם בָּ֑הּ כִּ֚י אִם־כָּלֵ֣ב בֶּן־יְפֻנֶּ֔ה וִיהוֹשֻׁ֖עַ בִּן־נֽוּן׃
(5) Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel... (29) your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness, and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, ye that have murmured against Me; (30) surely ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I lifted up My hand that I would make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.
Moshe and Aharon displayed their inability to react pragmatically to complaints at the Spygate episode, with the result being the revocation of their entry into the Land of Israel.
What change occurs in between these stories, that Moshe somehow regains his right to the land (which he would need in the first place, so as to lose it)? Previously, I have said that Moshe was merely given a second chance, but this does not sit well with an established principle:
Translation: Any sin, big or small, is judged by he who does it; therefore, a small sin of a great person is considered great.
This would certainly apply to Moshe, and so we must change our thinking.
Perhaps Moshe's conduct at Spygate was not a sin. Why not? Because Moshe never had the ability, never had the strength, to take the initiative and act when it came to opposing the rebels (Moshe had the mental strength and willpower in other areas; this is a localized statement, only applying to rebellions of BN"Y).
He was an Anus, someone who was forced into doing the wrong thing. He was only precluded from entering the land as a consequence of his lack; not as a punishment.
And seeing as it was not a punishment, Hashem would be more than happy to help Moshe learn some skills. This way, when faced with a test, he can really make a choice-- to stand up, and therefore merit entry to the land; or to stand down, and therefore lose the privilege of entry to the land.
But how does Hashem go about teaching Moshe?
The answer lies in the only narrative that separates the two 'face-falls', the story of Korach and Friends.
(ג) וַיִּֽקָּהֲל֞וּ עַל־מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְעַֽל־אַהֲרֹ֗ן וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ אֲלֵהֶם֮ רַב־לָכֶם֒ כִּ֤י כָל־הָֽעֵדָה֙ כֻּלָּ֣ם קְדֹשִׁ֔ים וּבְתוֹכָ֖ם יְהוָ֑ה וּמַדּ֥וּעַ תִּֽתְנַשְּׂא֖וּ עַל־קְהַ֥ל יְהוָֽה׃... (יג) הַמְעַ֗ט כִּ֤י הֶֽעֱלִיתָ֙נוּ֙ מֵאֶ֨רֶץ זָבַ֤ת חָלָב֙ וּדְבַ֔שׁ לַהֲמִיתֵ֖נוּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר כִּֽי־תִשְׂתָּרֵ֥ר עָלֵ֖ינוּ גַּם־הִשְׂתָּרֵֽר׃ (יד) אַ֡ף לֹ֣א אֶל־אֶרֶץ֩ זָבַ֨ת חָלָ֤ב וּדְבַשׁ֙ הֲבִ֣יאֹתָ֔נוּ וַתִּ֨תֶּן־לָ֔נוּ נַחֲלַ֖ת שָׂדֶ֣ה וָכָ֑רֶם הַעֵינֵ֞י הָאֲנָשִׁ֥ים הָהֵ֛ם תְּנַקֵּ֖ר לֹ֥א נַעֲלֶֽה׃
(3) and they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them: ‘Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them; wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?’... (13) [Datan and Aviram said], 'is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, but thou must needs make thyself also a prince over us? (14) Moreover thou hast not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards; wilt thou put out the eyes of these men? we will not come up.’
(ב) וַיִּלֹּ֙נוּ֙ עַל־מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְעַֽל־אַהֲרֹ֔ן כֹּ֖ל בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַֽיֹּאמְר֨וּ אֲלֵהֶ֜ם כָּל־הָעֵדָ֗ה לוּ־מַ֙תְנוּ֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם א֛וֹ בַּמִּדְבָּ֥ר הַזֶּ֖ה לוּ־מָֽתְנוּ׃ (ג) וְלָמָ֣ה יְ֠הוָה מֵבִ֨יא אֹתָ֜נוּ אֶל־הָאָ֤רֶץ הַזֹּאת֙ לִנְפֹּ֣ל בַּחֶ֔רֶב נָשֵׁ֥ינוּ וְטַפֵּ֖נוּ יִהְי֣וּ לָבַ֑ז הֲל֧וֹא ט֦וֹב לָ֖נוּ שׁ֥וּב מִצְרָֽיְמָה׃
Whereas the complaint at Cheit HaMeraglim was mainly an attack on the mission, with a small attack on Hashem mixed in, the words of Korach, Datan, and Aviram are mainly an attack on Moshe, with an attack on the mission mixed in.
What is the point of this switch? It seems to the author that Moshe is undergoing education on how to stand up to rebels. In education, one starts with an easy lesson, and then progresses on to increasingly harder and harder ones. So too, if Hashem is trying to teach Moshe to speak up and take action against the rabble-rousers and rebels, who plague BN"Y's journey to Eretz Yisrael, a step-by-step approach is wisest.
Hashem pushed the 'reset' button, giving Moshe a chance to learn the pragmatism he had lacked since the Splitting of the Sea. What is the easiest way to motivate a person into passionate disputing and fighting? A personal attack.
Thus, Korach's complaints are 'Level 1' of Hashem's plan to turn Moshe into the kind of leader that the nation will need at their helm.
(ד) וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַיִּפֹּ֖ל עַל־פָּנָֽיו׃ (ה) וַיְדַבֵּ֨ר אֶל־קֹ֜רַח וְאֶֽל־כָּל־עֲדָתוֹ֮ לֵאמֹר֒ בֹּ֠קֶר וְיֹדַ֨ע יְהוָ֧ה אֶת־אֲשֶׁר־ל֛וֹ וְאֶת־הַקָּד֖וֹשׁ וְהִקְרִ֣יב אֵלָ֑יו וְאֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִבְחַר־בּ֖וֹ יַקְרִ֥יב אֵלָֽיו׃ (ו) זֹ֖את עֲשׂ֑וּ קְחוּ־לָכֶ֣ם מַחְתּ֔וֹת קֹ֖רַח וְכָל־עֲדָתֽוֹ׃ (ז) וּתְנ֣וּ בָהֵ֣ן ׀ אֵ֡שׁ וְשִׂימוּ֩ עֲלֵיהֶ֨ן קְטֹ֜רֶת לִפְנֵ֤י יְהוָה֙ מָחָ֔ר וְהָיָ֗ה הָאִ֛ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה ה֣וּא הַקָּד֑וֹשׁ רַב־לָכֶ֖ם בְּנֵ֥י לֵוִֽי׃ (ח) וַיֹּ֥אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֖ה אֶל־קֹ֑רַח שִׁמְעוּ־נָ֖א בְּנֵ֥י לֵוִֽי׃ (ט) הַמְעַ֣ט מִכֶּ֗ם כִּֽי־הִבְדִּיל֩ אֱלֹהֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֤ל אֶתְכֶם֙ מֵעֲדַ֣ת יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לְהַקְרִ֥יב אֶתְכֶ֖ם אֵלָ֑יו לַעֲבֹ֗ד אֶת־עֲבֹדַת֙ מִשְׁכַּ֣ן יְהוָ֔ה וְלַעֲמֹ֛ד לִפְנֵ֥י הָעֵדָ֖ה לְשָׁרְתָֽם׃ (י) וַיַּקְרֵב֙ אֹֽתְךָ֔ וְאֶת־כָּל־אַחֶ֥יךָ בְנֵי־לֵוִ֖י אִתָּ֑ךְ וּבִקַּשְׁתֶּ֖ם גַּם־כְּהֻנָּֽה׃ (יא) לָכֵ֗ן אַתָּה֙ וְכָל־עֲדָ֣תְךָ֔ הַנֹּעָדִ֖ים עַל־יְהוָ֑ה וְאַהֲרֹ֣ן מַה־ה֔וּא כִּ֥י תלונו [תַלִּ֖ינוּ] עָלָֽיו׃
Moshe starts off almost repeating the mistakes of the past-- he falls on his face-- but he gets up. He gets up and speaks, saying fighting words, attacking their motives, and challenging them to a contest without waiting for explicit Divine command.
Moshe, once again, is proactive; rather than wait for Datan and Aviram to air their grievances, he sends to them first, almost a pre-emptive attack.
Rather than waiting for Hashem to give him directions, Moshe pleads his case and asks from Hashem to follow his plan.
By all indicators, Moshe has passed Level 1 of his training.
Part 3: Where Korach Drops Us Off
The events of Chapters 16 and 17 set the stage for Mei Merivah in Chapter 20. The takeaways:
1) Moshe moves on to level 2-- an attack on the mission with a side attack on him and Aharon.
2) Moshe and Aharon utilize miracles and wonders to prove themselves.
3) The people now associate Hashem with death, and they seem depressed.
These are all the points that will come to the fore at Mei Merivah, some self-evident, some to be explained in a later source sheet.
1) The opinion of the Ra'ch (which the Ramban kind of concurs with)-- Source Sheet #7
2) The opinion of the Ibn Ezra
3) Explaining takeaways 2-3-- Source Sheet #7
4) Explaining the specific importance of pragmatism, action, and standing defiantly against wrongdoers, in relation to entering Eretz Yisrael.
I anticipate the following question: What about Cheit Ha'Egel, the Sin of the Golden Calf, where Moshe does take initiative against Bnei Yisrael's rebellion? The answer is found when one reads the text back in Shmot 32:
(19) And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and broke them beneath the mount. (20) And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it with fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it. (21) And Moses said unto Aaron: ‘What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought a great sin upon them?’ (22) And Aaron said: ‘Let not the anger of my lord wax hot; thou knowest the people, that they are set on evil. (23) So they said unto me: Make us a god, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him. (24) And I said unto them: Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off; so they gave it me; and I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.’ (25) And when Moses saw that the people were broken loose—for Aaron had let them loose for a derision among their enemies— (26) then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said: ‘Whoso is on the LORD’S side, let him come unto me.’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. (27) And he said unto them: ‘Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel: Put ye every man his sword upon his thigh, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.’ (28) And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses; and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. (29) And Moses said: ‘Consecrate yourselves to-day to the LORD, for every man hath been against his son and against his brother; that He may also bestow upon you a blessing this day.’ (30) And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people: ‘Ye have sinned a great sin; and now I will go up unto the LORD, peradventure I shall make atonement for your sin.’
The people have no lines and no action; even when they drink, the pasuk does not say 'and they drank', but rather 'and Moshe made them drink'. The people are astoundingly passive; there is no active rebellion. A subdued, almost sedated nation poses no challenge to Moshe. In all of the cases we are dealing with-- the Spies, Korach, and the Rock-- there is an active rebellion, and thus no logical comparison may be made.