Ego Is Insatiable    

Rabbi Reuven Mann

Upon reading this week’s parsha, Korach, we can’t help but wonder, is there no limit to man’s capacity for chutzpah?  The integrity of Moshe’s leadership was challenged by none other than his close relative who charged that he was amassing all political and religious authority for himself and his brother Aharon.  It is interesting to study Moshe’s reaction to this egregious accusation.  Upon hearing the awful words of Korach he “fell on his face.”  After instructing the rebels to come prepared with incense pans and fire through which G-d would demonstrate whom He had chosen to perform the Tempe service, he addressed the charges of Korach.  He did not seek to defend or explain himself in any way.  Rather, he pointed out to Korach that he was a member of the tribe of Levi which had been separated for special honors.  Moshe asserted that Korach was unsatisfied with the prestige that Hashem had bestowed on him and said “Is it not enough for you that Hashem brought you close to Him to do the service of the Mishkan to minister before the community and you seek also the kehuna (priesthood)?”

It must be noted that in responding to Korach Moshe made no attempt to refute his allegation that he was power hungry.  He did not seek to defend himself by explaining that he harbored no desire for power and had pleaded with Hashem to assign the mission to someone more qualified.  He did not cite his record as the faithful emissary of G-d in taking the Jews out of Egypt and leading them through the travails of the wilderness.  Nor did he mention that it was precisely his pleading which had saved the Jews from annihilation for the sin of the golden calf and the spies.  In both instances G-d had offered to establish Moshe as the progenitor of a new nation which would be even greater than the one He would destroy, to which his response was; “If so please erase me from the Book You have written.”  The notion that Moshe pursued or even harbored personal political ambition was absurd.  Had no one learned anything from the punishment of Miriam whose sin was that she “was not afraid to speak of My servant Moshe” whom G-d had pronounced as “the most faithful in My entire House?”  

The arrogance of Korach is beyond comprehension.  His distortion of the pure character of Moshe masqueraded a deep and fundamental flaw which he could not face up to.  The Rabbis say, “He who disparages others does so from his own blemish.”  Moshe knew that Korach yearned for power and was envious of the appointment of Aharon.  He reminded him that as a Levite, Hashem had granted him distinction.  Ironically a little bit of glory can be a dangerous thing.  It can arouse one’s appetite for fame and make him envious of those who are higher up on the ladder.  Moshe wanted to give Korach a chance to introspect and recognize that the real problem was his own ego.  That is why he fell to the ground and then pointed out that Hashem had bestowed great privilege on him.  He wanted to demonstrate his profound humility and respect.  In spite of his exalted position as the leader of Israel he had no compunctions about relinquishing his honor for the sake of peace.   He urged Korach to consider why he was unhappy with the honor G-d had granted him.  If his motivation was truly for the sake of Heaven he would be grateful for the opportunity he had been given and not look at what others had.  If, however, he harbored delusions of grandeur he should know that even if he were given the position of Aharon he would never be satisfied because ego is insatiable.  This parsha contains an important lesson for our lives.  Each person is unique and cannot obtain satisfaction through comparison to others.  Contentment can only come about through developing our abilities and confronting our challenges with dedication and complete trust in Hashem.  We should not envy the success of others but only seek to emulate the virtues that made it possible.  Above all we should constantly review the teaching of our sages: “Who is wealthy?  One who rejoices with his portion.”

Shabbat Shalom