The Torah in Parashat Korah describes the revolt waged by Korah and his followers against the authority of Moshe and Aharon. Korah and his group posed to Moshe the question, “Madu’a Titnas’u Al Kehal Hashem” – “Why do you elevate yourselves over the congregation of G-d?” Korah accused Moshe of asserting his authority and exerting power for personal, egotistical interests, for prestige and glory.
Just two weeks ago, in Parashat Behaalotecha, we read the Torah’s description of Moshe Rabbenu as “exceedingly humble, more so than any person on the face of the earth.” G-d Himself testified to the fact that Moshe was the precise opposite of how Korah portrayed him. Korah charged him of asserting himself out of a desire for honor and power, whereas in truth, Moshe was more humble than any other person in the world.
This incident teaches an important lesson about the way we are tested during life. Namely, our patience is tested specifically in our areas of strength. If a person pokes fun at us for something regarding which we profess no skill or expertise, it doesn’t bother us. But it is when we are challenged in the area in which we feel accomplished that our patience and forbearance are tested. As a Rabbi, I could easily ignore an insult about my talents as a softball player. I do not play softball, I never put much effort into honing my skills in the sport, and I never thought of myself as much as a softball player. So if a person would come along and make fun of me for being a lousy player, it would not affect me too much, or at all. But if somebody would come along and challenge my ability to deliver Torah lectures, which is precisely the field in which I have invested much time and effort, that is when I will be tested. This is when I might be naturally inclined to feel offended and get angry, and must find the inner strength to ignore the insult. Moshe was challenged specifically in the area of his greatest achievement – humility – and he passed the text with flying colors, ignoring the insult and proposing a way to prove that the leadership appointments were made by Hashem, and not by him.
Our areas of success and achievement are often our source of personal pride, and it is thus specifically regarding those areas that we are emotionally vulnerable. Since they provide us with a sense of satisfaction, challenges to our success in those areas tend to hurt. We should learn from Moshe’s example to keep at our emotions at bay, and to have the strength to ignore insults and retain our dignity in the face of unwarranted criticism and scorn.