Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent . . . — Numbers 16:1
The Torah portion for this week is Korach, which means “Korah,” from Numbers 16:1–18:32, and the Haftorah is from 1 Samuel 11:14–12:22.
When I was a college student, I participated in Jewish youth groups as a group leader. Together with a bunch of other college kids, we would inspire middle school and high school students around the country to be excited about their Jewish heritage and to make good choices in their lives.
There were always those among us who were there to have a good time; others felt good about making a difference in someone else’s life. But there were always the few who were there purely to give to others – it wasn’t about them at all.
One such leader was a friend of mine. When he got up to make an inspirational speech in front of the kids, he began, “Ten years from now, I don’t want you to remember my name or even who I am. But I want you to remember this message . . .” At that moment, he became unforgettable.
This week’s Torah portion is called Korach, after the person Korah, whose story is the focus of the reading. Korah was jealous of Moses’ position of leadership so he began a rebellion against him. Things ended badly for Korah after God’s preference for Moses was made clear when only Moses’ offering was accepted instead of Korah’s and his followers. After that, the earth split open and swallowed Korah and his cronies, and there they remain forever. Korah’s jealousy led to his own death.
Isn’t it ironic that we named a Torah portion after Korah? Moses, the greatest leader of all, doesn’t have a Torah portion named in his honor, and that was just fine with him because Moses was “a very humble man, more humble than anyone” (Numbers 12:3). Yet Korah, who chased after fame and power, gets the prize – a chapter named after him in the world’s greatest bestseller: the Bible!
But at the end of the day, we all know who is better known. Everyone knows who Moses is. Some people have also heard about Korah, but it’s not because of his great leadership abilities. Korah’s fame — or infamy — is tied to his faults. Korah was once a well-respected leader in Israel. Yet he went down in history as an example of how not to be. Moses was humble and unassuming throughout his life, and history has shined a light on his righteousness for all eternity.
Friends, it’s not about the fame and the glory. It’s not about being remembered or recognized. The results of our actions will far outlive us and the memory of us. Life is about being good, not looking good. Ultimately, it’s those who don’t care if they are remembered who are never forgotten.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President