Receive weekly insights from the Chief Rabbi
Office of the Chief Rabbi

Korach: Something extraordinary happened in our living room!

Share this article:


Something extraordinary happened in my living room. My wife Valerie has always wanted to grow Flame Lilies. This is because the Flame Lily is the national flower of Zimbabwe where Valerie grew up. So at long last she bought the bulbs and quite remarkably, within just a few weeks the plants reached right up to the ceiling. There were two stems about 18 inches apart, and then something very special happened. Tendrils started to grow from each stem horizontally. They moved towards each other until eventually they met and curled around each other.  Each tendril was in search of another to connect with, to bond to.

This fascinating natural inclination to connect is something we can all learn from and it’s certainly a lesson which was lost on Korach. Parshat Korach commences with the words, “Vayikach Korach,” – “Korach took.” (Bamidbar 16:1)

All of our mefarshim, our commentators, want to know: what did Korach take? In the Targum Onkelos, the Aramaic translation, Onkelos explains,

“Ve’itpeleig Korach,” –  “Korach took himself to the other side.”

He separated himself from Moshe and Aharon and the rest of the people. Korach thrived in an environment of divisiveness, and that was his downfall.

There are two occasions in the Torah in which we’re told that something is not good. Right at the beginning of Bereishit, 2:18 we’re told,

“Lo tov lihyot adam levado.” – “It is not good for a person  to be alone,”

and that is why Hashem created Eve – to be alongside Adam. Later, in the book of Shemot, 18:17, Yitro said to his son in law Moshe, “Lo tov,” – the way in which you are judging the people by yourself is “not good.” You should do so with others. When we separate ourselves from others rather than connecting with them, that is not good for us and it’s not good for our society.

The Torah gives us a mitzvah that we should not be like Korach and his followers but rather we should strive to appreciate the relationships in our lives, to bond together in a meaningful and constructive way with others. This certainly is one of the major lessons of the coronavirus during which we have been denied that opportunity to have physical contact with others.

Let us appreciate the relationships we have by reaching out to others with affection and love. After all, if plants can do it, we can too.

Shabbat shalom.