Parashat Korah: “It Is Not From My Heart “- The Torah is From God
**This week's parasha is dedicated L’iluy nishmat Natan ben Shoshana Levy by his children **
This week’s parasha, Parasha Korah, describes the revolution waged by Korah and his cohorts against Moshe Rabbeinu. Korah says to Moshe, “Why do you raise yourself about the Lord’s congregation?” He accuses Moshe Rabbeinu, who the Torah (Bamidbar 13:3) describes as ‘humble’, as being arrogant, holding himself above the rest of the people, and taking power and leadership for himself.
Interestingly, after the sin of the Golden Calf, as well as after other sins committed by the Jewish people, Moshe Rabbeinu defended the Jewish people. Here, however, Moshe prays to God that He should “pay no regard to their oblation.” Even the nation is surprised by Moshe Rabbeinu’s reaction. After the people are punished, they complain, and accuse Moshe and Aaron of “bringing death upon the Lord’s people.” This is the only case in the Torah in which Moshe Rabbeinu actually wishes ill upon the Jewish people. Why is his reaction so severe?
In addition, one might ask why the Torah even records this incident. The Torah does not relate every episode. Indeed next week’s parasha occurs in the fortieth year; the Torah omits the events of over thirty eight years, until the fortieth year. So what is the lesson of this parasha?
I would like to suggest that this Parasha, Parashat Korah, is the most important parasha in the Torah. The Rambam, in his Commentary to the Mishna (Sanhedrin Chapter 10), enumerates the Thirteen Principles of Faith. He insists one should “know, and review them many times.” He writes that while one who is punished, one who doesn’t believe in one of the Thirteen Principles forfeits his share in the World-to-Come.
The Rambam presents the Eight Principle.
The Eight Principle is that the Torah is from the Heaven. It must be believed that the while of this Torah which is in our hands is the Torah that was brought down to Moshe Rabbeinu, as all of it is from God… Similarly its interpretation as it has been handed down is also “from the mouth of the Mighty One.” That which we observe today such as the form of the sukka, the lulav, the shofar, the sisit, the tefilin and other such forms are the actual forms which God told to Moshe and which he told us to do.
He continues to assert that all of the verses are of equal value, as they were all given to Moshe Rabbeinu by God. That is why, according to our tradition (based on the practice of Rambam), we do not stand when the Ten Commandments are read out loud from the Torah. Since all verses are of equal importance, why should we stand for some verses and not others?
The Rambam derives this principle from a verse in this week’s parasha.
The verse on the basis of which this Eighth Principle is attested is his (i.e. Moshe) saying, “by this, shall you know that the Lord has sent me to do all of these things... for it is not from my heart” (Bamidbar 16:18).
In other words, Moshe asserts that all of his actions are based on the words of God. From this the Rambam derives that the Torah, as transmitted by Moshe Rabbeinu, is an accurate reflection of God’s words.
If so, we might suggest that Korah didn’t just challenge Moshe Rabbeinu’s leadership; he challenged whether the Moshe was indeed transmitting the Torah accurately. He denied the veracity, and the origin of the Torah. Moshe Rabbeinu immediately understood that at the heart of Korah’s rebellion was the denial of the Divine origin of the Torah. If so, not only did Moshe Rabbeinu deny this, saying that the Torah is “not from my heart,” he realized that unlike other sins, this deserved a swift and definite punishment.
For this reason Parsaht Korah is so important. It was written in order to emphasis the centrality of the Rambam’s Eight Principle of Faith, the Divine origin of the Torah. This is why we need to be so careful when someone comes to change a tradition of the Torah. To disagree with Moshe Rabbeinu is to disagree with God.
Reading Parashat Korah should lead us recommit ourselves to the Rambam’s Eighth Principle. We need to accept all of the Torah, including those parts which we don’t understand. The Principles of Faith are not negotiable. There are many “Korahs” of our generation, as the verse says, “and the sons of Korah did not die,” and we pray that Hakadosh Baruch Hu will give us the strength not to be fooled by those who present us falsehoods. God willing those who uphold this principle will merit a portion in the world to come.