Avoiding Jealousy and Mockery

We live in an age of rapid online communication, and there are plenty of positives as well as negatives that come with this. The speed of modern-day communication is incredible. With the click of a computer key or phone button our words and thoughts can be sent across the world instantly. The question is: What type of messages are we sending? One can send words of praise, gratitude, as well as important information that will benefit the recipient. Conversely, one could send messages of anger or mockery. Mockery is dangerous for the person being mocked, as well the ones exposed to it as well as to the one disseminating it to begin with. In Parshat Korach, we clearly see the dangers and fallout that can occur from both jealousy as well as mockery.

The Parsha begins with verses that show how a great man fell due to jealousy and mockery:                                                     

Numbers 13:1-3

וַיִּקַּ֣ח קֹ֔רַח בֶּן־יִצְהָ֥ר בֶּן־קְהָ֖ת בֶּן־לֵוִ֑י וְדָתָ֨ן וַאֲבִירָ֜ם בְּנֵ֧י אֱלִיאָ֛ב וְא֥וֹן בֶּן־פֶּ֖לֶת בְּנֵ֥י רְאוּבֵֽן׃ וַיָּקֻ֙מוּ֙ לִפְנֵ֣י מֹשֶׁ֔ה וַאֲנָשִׁ֥ים מִבְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים וּמָאתָ֑יִם נְשִׂיאֵ֥י עֵדָ֛ה קְרִאֵ֥י מוֹעֵ֖ד אַנְשֵׁי־שֵֽׁם׃ וַיִּֽקָּהֲל֞וּ עַל־מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְעַֽל־אַהֲרֹ֗ן וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ אֲלֵהֶם֮ רַב־לָכֶם֒ כִּ֤י כׇל־הָֽעֵדָה֙ כֻּלָּ֣ם קְדֹשִׁ֔ים וּבְתוֹכָ֖ם יְהֹוָ֑ה וּמַדּ֥וּעַ תִּֽתְנַשְּׂא֖וּ עַל־קְהַ֥ל יְוָֽה׃ 

Now Korah, son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, took himself, along with Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—descendants of Reuben — to rise up against Moses, together with two hundred and fifty Israelites, chieftains of the community, chosen in the assembly, men of repute. They combined against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and G-d is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above G-d’s congregation?”

What does it mean that Korach took himself and others? Our sages explain that due to unbridaled ambition and gripping jealousy, Korach gathered hundreds of leaders and mocked Moshe and Aharon. He claimed that Moshe invoked nepotism doling out all the national power and prestige to himself and his older brother Aharon. Despite the fact that G-d told Moshe to appoint Aharon as High Priest, Korach’s claim was that since all of Israel stood at Mt. Sinai, they were thereby equally holy and deserved to be on par with the appointed leaders. Korach then went on to distort Torah commandments in order to ridicule Moshe and even accused Moshe of adulterous relationships.

The charismatic power and prestige of Korach garnered a great following of hundreds who were willing to follow him even over a cliff. Such is the power of jealousy and mockery.

The miraculous but tragic results of this rebellion are well known:

Numbers 16:32

וַתִּפְתַּ֤ח הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֶת־פִּ֔יהָ וַתִּבְלַ֥ע אֹתָ֖ם וְאֶת־בָּתֵּיהֶ֑ם וְאֵ֤ת כׇּל־הָאָדָם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לְקֹ֔רַח וְאֵ֖ת כׇּל־הָרְכֽוּשׁ׃ 

The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households, all Korah’s people and all their possessions.

Since Korach and his followers were jealous and aimed to lower the status of Moshe and Aharon in the eyes of the Israelites, G-d in turn lowered Korach and his followers into the earth and quelled their rebellion. After mocking Moshe, Aharon and the Torah, the last laugh was on Korach and his followers.

The lessons are clear:

  • Avoid jealousy at all costs. There are so many ways to shine; so, there is no need to be jealous of another’s success.
  • Words can build and conversely, words can destroy. Mockery knocks down others and will eventually take down the mocker himself.

Let’s use our summer gatherings with family and friends as well as our online correspondence to strengthen one another, learn from one another, and celebrate one another.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence