As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. — Numbers 16:31-32
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Korach, which means “Korah,” from Numbers 16:1–18:32.
One of the memories that has stayed with me from the funeral of my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, was the amazing outpouring of love honoring him. At his funeral, wreaths were everywhere, a beautiful mountain of flowers, a testimony to the millions of people who my father helped during his lifetime.
In Judaism, we are taught that a person takes nothing with them when they leave this world except for their good deeds. It gave my sisters and I great comfort to know that my father was accompanied by all the good deeds he had done throughout his life.
Our Torah reading this week describes an entirely different kind of man. Korah was an extremely wealthy man. Even today, the expression used in Hebrew to describe an affluent person is someone “as rich as Korah.”
The True Value of Good Deeds
Korah’s wealth gave him a false sense of security and caused him to think that he was greater than he really was. But Korah’s wealth ended up his greatest enemy. Ultimately, it led to his rebellion and his downfall.
Jewish tradition teaches that Korah’s sons stood by his side in his rebellion, and when the ground opened up, they were swallowed up, along with Korah and all their possessions. However, the Jewish sages taught that the sons of Korah repented while they were underground, and then, miraculously rescued.
Psalm 49 is attributed to the sons of Korah, written after their miraculous rescue. They wrote these powerful words about wealth: “Do not be overawed when others grow rich … for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them” (Psalms 49:16-17).
Imagine this profound moment of clarity as Korah’s sons watched their wealthy father and his prominent supporters perish in an instant. Where was their money now? All the money in the world could not buy back even a moment of life!
In the end, all possessions are meaningless; only our good deeds have true value and will be with us forever. The kindnesses we perform today is the real wealth that we have and that will be with us forever.
How might you use your resources and possessions to help others today?