Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Taking Versus Giving

by HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir

This week’s parashah begins, “Korach took” (Numbers 16:1). Korach’s whole interest in life was in taking. He yearned to take the leadership away from Moses and Aaron. His legendary wealth was the result of taking. He pursued honor and desired to take it away from others, as reflected in his telling Moses and Aaron, “You have gone too far” (16:3), interpreted by Rashi as meaning: “You have taken far too much greatness for yourselves.”

He generated controversies -- built upon insincere motives -- within the Jewish People, and these controversies brought tragedy upon himself, his family and his company: “The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their houses, along with all the men who were with Korach and their property” (16:32).

Moses, as opposed to Korach, was the embodiment of the trait of giving: “I did not take a single donkey from them” (16:16). He was humble, “more so than any man on the face of the earth” (13:3). When G-d sent him to lead Israel in their exodus from Egypt, Moses argued, “I beg you, O G-d, I am not a man of words... I find it difficult to speak and find the right language” (Exodus 4:10). Moses fled from honor, hence honor pursued him.

Right now, we must learn a lesson from the tragedy of Korach and his company. We must not be guided by selfish self-interest either on the personal or national level. Materialism must not stand at the center of our lives, since it leads to the moral breakdown of the individual and the community. Quite the contrary, we must yearn for and educate towards giving, towards altruism and morality, towards benefiting our fellow man, loving him and developing friendship with him.

It is true that we live in a materialistic generation: As Rav Kook wrote: “We have a tradition that spiritual rebellion will surface in Eretz Yisrael and among the Jewish People at large at the onset of their national rebirth. The material complacence which will beset part of the nation, thinking that they have already arrived at their final destination, will make them less spiritual... The longing for lofty, holy ideals will cease, and spirituality will automatically decline and wane” (Orot, page 94).

Yet the day is not far off when a revolution will transpire in the form of a great movement of repentance which will revive the nation and bring redemption to them and to the whole world. This will be the sort of repentance which stems “from the holy spirit which will proliferate then” (Ibid.). Through this, we will merit with our own eyes to see “a new light shining over Zion” (morning prayers).

Looking forward to complete salvation,
Chodesh Tov,
Shabbat Shalom.

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