Parashas Korach

The haftarah for parashas Korach is a section in Shmuel Alef presenting Shmuel HaNavi’s farewell address to the Jewish People; this section was chosen because Shmuel is a descendant of the sons of Korach – see Tachuma, Korach 5. Early in the address, Shmuel says (Shmuel Alef 12:3):
Here I am – Testify regarding me before Hashem, and before His anointed: Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I robbed? Whom have I coerced? From whose hand have I taken a ransom that I should avert my eyes from him? [Tell me], and I will make restitution to you.
I present here the Maggid’s commentary on this passage.
It is a basic tenet of our faith that Hashem alone is sovereign over heaven and earth. When a mortal man exercises rulership, it is solely because Hashem put him in this position of power, so that he may use his power to establish law and order and subjugate the wicked. In this vein, Yeshayah says (verse 32:1): “Behold, the king will rule for the sake of righteousness.” That is, the king’s role is to teach the people how to act righteously and uprightly. Similarly, when presenting the laws pertaining to a Jewish king, the Torah commands (Devarim 17:18-19):
And it shall be, when he sits upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him for himself two copies of this Torah in a book … and he shall read from it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear Hashem his God, to observe all the words of this Torah and these statutes, to do them.
The king is the people’s guide, to exhort them to do good and admonish them to shun evil. Thus Shlomo HaMelech states (Mishlei 24:21): “Fear Hashem, my child, and the king.” Fearing the king is part of fearing Hashem, for the purpose of a king is to teach the people wisdom and fear of Hashem. The Torah commands further (Devarim 19:20) that the king must not raise his heart above his brethren. The king must not exploit his position to advance his own honor; he must understand that his exalted station is an entrustment that Hashem granted him so that he may lead the people along the proper path. Accordingly, in regard to Shlomo HaMelech it is written (Divrei HaYamim Alef 29:23): “Shlomo sat on the throne of Hashem.” Shlomo understood that his throne was really Hashem’s and not his own; he never entertained the thought of priding himself over his position.
Speaking of Hashem’s sovereignty, David HaMelech declares (Tehillim 145:13): “Your kingdom is the kingdom of all worlds.” Seemingly, it would have been more appropriate for David to say: “You are king over all worlds.” But David chose his words carefully. He is saying that the entire essence of all worldly kingdoms the role they play as part of Hashem’s kingdom, that Hashem established worldly kingdoms with their sovereigns in order to promote His honor. Thus, in the prayers of the Yamim Noraim, we say that Hashem grants kings sovereignty but the dominion is really His (הממליך מלכים ולו המלוכה) – that is, that Hashem grants kings sovereignty for His own sake. The same theme surfaces in David’s final address to the Jewish People. In its account of this address, the Bible describes David as “the man raised on high” (Shmuel Beis 24:1). David opens his address by saying (ibid. Beis 24:2): “The spirit of Hashem spoke through me, and His word was upon my tongue.” Here, David is saying: “My kingdom belongs to Hashem; He vested it in me so that I serve as His agent, to carry out justice and lead the people to fear Him. The words I speak are Hashem’s words.” David then continues (ibid. 23:3): “The God of Yisrael has said – the Rock of Israel has spoken to me – [Become a] ruler over men, a righteous one, who rules through the fear of God.” The righteous ruler recognizes that the sole purpose of his position is to instill fear of Hashem and promote his honor.
It was an established practice for Jewish leaders to vindicate themselves, in the course of a final address, for example, by pointing out that they did not deal with the people imperiously and did not take grandeur for themselves. Thus, in this week’s parashah, Moshe said to Hashem (Bamidbar 16:16): “I have not taken even a single donkey of theirs, nor have I wronged even one of them.” Likewise, David HaMelech, in his final address, testified that he used his position only to promote Hashem’s honor and not to glorify himself. He declared (Divrei HaYamim 29:11): “Yours, Hashem, is the greatness, and the strength, and the splendor, and the triumph, and the glory, indeed everything in heaven and on earth; Yours, Hashem, is the kingdom, and the sovereignty over every leader.” And in the passage from this week’s haftarah that we quoted at the outset, Shmuel vindicates himself similarly. Shmuel was not merely saying that he never took someone’s ox or donkey, and never robbed or coerced anyone. Rather, he was issuing a general declaration that he never used his leadership position for any kind of personal gain.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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