Respecting Boundaries/Knowing Your Limits
Korach was an incredible success story. Korach was super wealthy, and he also enjoyed social prominence, wisdom and charisma. And Korach also occupied the prestigious and meaningful spiritual status and role of being a Levy. But all this was not enough for Korach. Korach wanted more, much more. Korach wanted to take even more power for himself.
Our sages explain that that’s why our parashah starts with the Hebrew word “Vayikach”, which is Hebrew for “And he took”. Korach was not content with his notable share, and so he tried, cunningly and very skillfully and shrewdly, to take even more for himself. Rashi explains in his commentary that what Korach “didn’t get” was that there are certain established boundaries and hierarchies in this world (Rashi on Numbers 16:5), and that when we try to erode and undo these boundaries, the results can be quite devastating. As the Talmud teaches: “When you try to grab ahold of too much, you end up grabbing nothing”.
Our story ends with the abrupt and tragic demise of Korach. The Chassidic tradition reminds us that there is at the very least a “Korach in potentiality” lurking within each and every one of us. Sometimes we are tempted, whether by thought or deed, to try and grab ahold of more than our fair share, and offset the established boundaries at home, at work, or elsewhere.
The downfall of Korach is a timeless reminder to all of us, to know and remember our place and limits, respect established boundaries, and focus on enhancing, deepening and cherishing the abundance which we already possess on so many fundamental levels, rather than encroach on someone else’s territory and domain, as was the case of Korach vis a vis Moses.