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Shabbat Parashat Korach 5778

Parashat Hashavua: Korach and Anti-Kereach People Connection or Coincidence?

Harav Yosef Carmel

Chazal explain that the significance of Korach’s name is that he made a korcha (lit., a bald spot) in Israel (Sanhedrin 109b), as his people were swallowed up (Rashi ad loc.). The Maharsha explains that his name became korcha in that no one would use it, as “The name of the wicked will rot.” We will explore a different significance and a connection to a much later generation.

There is a very deep connection between Moshe and Eliyahu, who were each the central prophets of their era. (In Eliyahu’s case, according to the midrash that he was Pinchas, he continued from the time of Moshe for hundreds of years.) It is appropriate that the last prophecy in Nevi’im connects them: “Remember the Torah of Moshe … I am sending you Eliyahu Hanavi …” (Malachi 3:22-23). Each of them had a revelation at Har Chorev, did not eat for 40 days and nights, and disappeared in a manner that there was no known burial place. Each left behind a disciple, whose names were basically synonymous (Yehoshua=Elisha). Yehoshua entered the land and first conquered Yericho and decreed that Jews should not live there; Elisha fixed the water in Yericho soon after Eliyahu’s death and enabled people to live there.

When Elisha left Yericho, he was approached by “small youngsters” who said to him, “Come, kere’ach (bald one), come, kere’ach” (Melachim II, 2:23). In Tzofnat Eliyahu, I explained that these were not youngsters in age, but they were men who lost their prophetic abilities when Eliyahu died. They were denying that Elisha inherited Eliyahu’s role by highlighting that Eliyahu had a lot of hair and Elisha was bald.

Is the linguistic similarity between Korach and kere’ach just a coincidence? Notice that there are other linguistic overlaps between the stories. The splitting open of the ground to devour Korach is described by the root bako, as is the killing (by bears) of the 42 “children” who mocked Elisha.

Eliyahu was connected to the rebuilding of Yericho in the following way. The navi tells that Chiel built Yericho and “paid for it” by his firstborn Aviram dying when he placed its foundations and his younger son Seguv dying when he erected its doors. This is followed by Eliyahu declaring that there would not be any rain in the Land without his approval (Melachim I, 16:34-17:1). Aviram was one of the leaders of Korach’s rebels.

Chazal’s expounding on these stories furthers the connections. Korach attacked Moshe by asking sets of questions which highlighted how the Torah defies normal logic (tzitzit for a tallit full of techelet; mezuza for a house full of sefarim). Achav used similar logic. Achav came to visit Chiel after his sons died and denied that their death had anything to do with Yehoshua’s curse. Achav made a logical claim. If Moshe’s curse of no rain if people leave Hashem did not work, as Achav led the people to idolatry and rain continued. Thus, certainly his disciple’s curse against builders of Yericho would not work. Eliyahu responded by invoking a drought, as Achav basically dared Hashem to do.

We thus have seen many similarities between Moshe and his disciple and Eliyahu and his, the opponents of each, and the root kere’ach. Each opponent questioned the prophetic legacy of one of the great prophets of all time.

May we merit the return of the prophecy and the mission of Eliyahu Hanavi.  
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