Parashas Korach

This week’s parashah recounts Korach’s rebellion against Moshe. This rebellion was motivated by jealousy and a desire for honor. Korach was tainted with a degree of haughtiness, which led him to feel he deserved a higher position. Accordingly, I present here a selection from the Maggid’s teachings on the topic of haughtiness, taken from Sefer HaMiddos, Shaar HaGaavah.
The essence of haughtiness is a person’s weighing his worth on a false set of scales. He aggrandizes himself and places himself above his fellow men. Among bad traits, haughtiness occupies a unique position. All other bad traits are primarily latent; they operate only when triggered by some event. But haughtiness operates on a constant basis; a haughty person is always occupied with thoughts about his supposed special eminence. In addition, haughtiness amplifies all of a person’s other bad traits. We readily see that a haughty person’s anger is exceptionally fierce, his resentment exceptionally entrenched, his jealousy exceptionally strong, his jubilation exceptionally lively, and his brooding exceptionally morose. In short, haughtiness rules over all of a person’s physical and mental faculties; not one is free of its odious influence. Thus Shlomo HaMelech teaches (Mishlei 21:4): “Haughty eyes and a proud heart are the tillage of the wicked – a sin.” A haughty person constantly seeks ways to make an impression on others, with every act and every move. He walks with marked deliberateness and acts ponderously, as if his body were made of lead. He speaks to no one except for men of eminence.
One way a person can be led to haughtiness and a feeling of self-importance is through certain gifts Hashem granted to him, in His compassion and kindness, to a greater extent than to others. Thus, a wise person takes pride in his wisdom, a strong person in his might, a rich person in his wealth, a good-looking person in his good looks, and so on. As a person reflects on his special gifts, he comes to feel that he deserves accolades, and adopts a stance of superiority toward those who are not favored with the gifts he has. He is filled with self-love – he honors and aggrandizes himself, he praises and exalts himself, and he sets his place above the stars in the heavens. His foolish attitude is a disgrace to him. He imagines that he acquired his gifts through his own power, and prides himself on his diligence and quickness. In his great foolishness, he forgets that there is a Supreme Power watching over the world and running its affairs with kindness and benevolence, and that man is but a vessel that receives blessing from above; he fails to recognize that he can lay no claim to what he has as the product of his own efforts.
Note the contrast between the way a fool lavishes himself with honor and the way a pure-hearted man lavishes his Creator with praise and thanks. The righteous man’s heart is suffused with fear, awe, and submissiveness, as befits a servant who is the beneficiary of his master’s kindness and eats at his master’s table. All day long his hope and desire are riveted on one issue: When will I be able to extend to my Master, who grants free blessings, the service I should provide Him as a recipient of His benevolence? He devotes his full soul to the task of serving Him, with love and a generous spirit. The dolt, however, does not understand. When he reflects on all his blessings, he grants his own self the recognition he should be granting his Creator, the Prime Cause of everything.
Hashem alone is worthy of grandeur and glory, for it is through Him alone that wealth and honor come. Thus, when Pharaoh turned to Yosef as a man he thought was an expert at interpreting dreams, Yosef declared (Bereishis 41:16): “It is beyond me. God will answer to bring Pharaoh peace.” And previously, in his encounter with the chief butler and the chief baker, he said (Bereishis 40:8): “Behold, unto God are interpretations.” The man of high spiritual stature is overcome with embarrassment before the King of Glory, who rules over all, and in whose hand lies the soul of every living being.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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