Parshas Korach is filled with mussar and lessons which literally flow out of every pasuk. One of the more perplexing psukim comes after Hashem performs this unbelievable giluy shechina and the ground swallows up Korach and his followers, who were rebelling against Moshe and Ahron. Indeed, Moshe warns Bnei Yisroel to separate themselves from Korach, Dasan and Aviram because Hashem will “create a Nes, the ground will open up and swallow them alive”. (Korach 17:30) Upon seeing Hashem’s Nes, prophetically foretold by Moshe to demonstrate that all of Moshe’s teachings and directives were from Hashem, the very next day they are rebelling against Moshe again. (17:6)
Specifically, the pasuk says “the entire Bnei Yisroel complained that Moshe had killed the people of Hashem”. How can this be happening? Literally, the day before, when people claimed Moshe was acting on his own, Hashem swallowed up the rebels into the earth. Had they not seen this? Had they learned nothing? This is not the way of people. Ordinarily if a child, student or other person commits a wrong and is punished, there is a lull of at least some days before they do the exact same thing again. Let alone in the presence of the same leader, teacher or whoever is in the position of authority. Did the entire nation really believe that Moshe had killed these people? Were they angling to be the next group to be disciplined?
This question troubled me for some time until last year. I was discussing this quandary with my son Chaim and he answered quite directly that “Bnei Yisroel had reason to believe this was true – that Moshe not only had a hand in the rebels being killed but had even dictated the method in which it would happen”. As we discussed this further he pointed out that not only had Moshe foretold the precise manner in which Hashem would punish Korach and his followers but there was a much stronger suggestion of Moshe’s role in last week’s Parsha, Parshas Shelach. Recall that in Shelach when the Meraglim brought back their slanderous report and Hashem told Moshe he would destroy them, Moshe’s plea was “the nations will claim you lacked the ability to bring them to Eretz Yisroel so you slaughtered them in the desert”. (Shelach 14:16) Immediately after which, the Yud Gimmel Middos are recalled and Hashem pronounces “Vayomer Hashem, Solachti Kidvarecha”, I forgive them – according to your words. (14:20) In fact Hashem had fashioned an Onesh, a punishment precisely responding to Moshes plea – Don’t destroy them because the other nations will say Hashem lacked the ability to bring them into Eretz Yisroel. And what Onesh did Hashem decree? I will bring the nation into Eretz Yisroel (so the other nations cannot say I lacked the ability) but this generation will die out entirely in the dessert over the next 38 years. Bnei Yisroel saw that Hashem responded and conformed the Onesh exactly to Moshes words.
Fast forward to Korach and again Bnei Yisroel see the Onesh exactly as Moshe had foretold – that the ground would swallow Korach and his followers. They assumed based on what they had seen that even if Hashem was performing the Nes, Moshe’s words mattered. What he pled and foretold impacted the precise decree from Hashem. So, they blamed him. Accusing him of having killed Hashem’s people. Thinking that if Moshe had asked for them to be spared, perhaps that would have worked. Instead, with Moshe promising that they would be swallowed up, their fate was sealed, by Moshe. Faced with a choice of accepting responsibility or fostering blame, it’s always easier to blame others for our missteps. Instead of seeing Moshe as Hashem’s messenger carrying out divine decrees, it was easier to blame the messenger for their plight. We all have this innate ability to see things through our own eyes or with wishful thinking. But we cannot blame the world, anything or anyone else for our challenges – be it antisemitism, war or a pandemic. We must understand that these are divine decrees, and our actions are factors in bringing about both the decree and the Refuah.