Good Shabbos and welcome to the G"C shiur on Parshas Korach. Hakoras Hatov to Rav Herschel Schechter for his glosses on the gemora in Eiruvin and for ideas on the presentation of the Machlokes. In this week's parsha, we note the mutiny spearheaded by Korach and other leaders of the nation against the authority of Moshe Rabaini, and his brother and Kohen Gadol, Aaron. Perhaps we can learn some interesting lessons about proper Jewish leadership from this example…
The issue that Korach raised was one raised in other places in Shas: if a tallis is fully techeiles, do we need another techeiles string attached to it? (Similarly, if there is a house full of Torahs, do we require that there be a mezuzah affixed to the door?) A common theme to these questions can be the division between the purpose behind the mitzvah and merely fulfilling/discharging the mitzvah itself. It is said that on the basis of sevora (mere logic), Korach might have had a point, if he had presented his case l'shem shomayim and not l'shem dissent. As the Rambam says, you can take off your tzitzis at night (ur'iesem oisam) on account of the pasuk but only if you're going to change your outfit, not stam (v'tzarich iyun on this).
Similarly, the gemara in Eiruvin (13) notes that there were numerous disputes between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai. We also know that the gemara in Brachos (6) says that "Beis Shammai b'makom Bais Hillel eina mishna"- we never follow Beis Shammai at all. (now how does this reconcile with the fact that in Yevamos 31 the Gemara spends much time trying to understand the shita of Beis Shamai?) The answer is that we know that learning the shita of Beis Shamai is indeed a kiyum in Mitzvas Talmud Torah- but we don't pasken like them- so what's going on here? The Noda BiYehuda and others say that when there is a halacha established by Chazal, we don't follow the minority, at all (not even a midas chassidus to do so). Also, the Sefer HaChinuch says (and is echoed by mefarshim) that Beis Shammai were sharper (m'chaddei tfei) but Hashem allowed the halacha to be like Beis Hillel in order to allow a feasible way of arriving at a psak to exist. This approach is not unanimous, and is supplemented by the idea that judges (and leaders to some extent) get siyata dishmaya- assistance from heaven. But how far reaching does this authority extend?
We know there is a famous Rashi on the beginning of Sifrei that says that the words of the Chachaim must be followed to the left and the right- even if they say your right is left and your left is right. However, we also know that there is a Yerushalmi Horios that says that a talmid chacham is not allowed to follow the words of the Sanhedrin in cases where he knows that the psak is wrong. So Ramban reconciles this apparent distinction by saying that Rashi must be referring to a psak that a hedyot (simple person) thinks is in error (i.e. if your doctor gives you advice that doesn't make sense, unless you have a Medical degree, etc. you probably shouldn't just ignore it based on your own reasoning)
To return to our initial gemara in Eiruvin, the Ritva says that when Hashem gave the Torah to Moshe, he taught him all the mitzvos in the Torah. So essentially Moshe was the only Chacham at that point and he spread Hashem's Torah to Am Yisroel, but it was all coming thorough him. It could be that the major fallacy committed by Korach was to view himself as a Chacham and think that he understood all the sevoras of Moshe and determine that they are objectively wrong. In fact, however, he was a hedyot and should not have questioned the ruling of the Chachaimim. This is why when the earth swallowed him up, we know to this day (Gemara) that Korach and his followers are still saying from down below in Gehinom: Moshe Emes v'toraso Emes- Moshe is true and his Torah is true. So we can see that Korach was wrong for several reasons- its not taka that he had a legitimate point of view l'shem shomayim, like Shammai, where even though we never pasken by it, we still get credit for learning it. And it wasn't even that he was looking for upholding one of the shiv'im panim la torah. Rather, he was actively seeking to take for himself authority from Moshe Rabaini and not for the right reasons- so from the tziruf (combination) of these reasons, we see that the Earth swallowed up. Let's try to always figure out the right directions for our own life by following the right motivational sources for the right reasons, and follow our hearts and minds- for the good!