Parshas Korach (5773)
This week's Parsha focuses on Korach's quarrel with Moses and his subsequent downfall. Rashi (Bamidbar 16, 1) asks the obvious question: what possessed Korach to argue with Moses? He explains that Korach felt the position of Premiership should have been his, and therefore he was jealous of his cousin Elitzafan ben Uziel who received the appointment. As the Mishna in Avot (4, 21) tells us, this jealousy literally "took him out of this world," and he was swallowed alive into the ground.
Rav Shlomo Wolbe Z"l elaborates on the above Mishna. He cites Maimonides who explains as follows: "The Mishna states that jealousy, desire, and love of honor removes a person from this world. The reason is because possessing these three character traits, or even a single one of them, inevitably causes a person to forfeit his Faith in the Torah." It is clear that the Maimonides understood "the world" mentioned in the Mishna as a reference to a person's Faith in G-d. Why is it that specifically these three things cause a person to lose his Faith?
Faith in the Torah is belief in the fact that spirituality is a reality. Ta'avah - physical desire, stands diametrically opposed to one's ability to connect to spirituality. As the Chovot Halevovot writes, the purpose of the Torah is "to enable one's logic to reign over his desires." Hence, getting caught up in fulfilling mere physical desires detracts from one's ability to believe in spirituality as a reality.
Jealousy too hinders a person's ability to perceive Divine Providence. If he would truly believe that everything Hashem does is calculated to the very last detail, there would be no room left for jealousy. How could one be jealous of what his friend has when he knows that Hashem explicitly decided that he doesn't need or deserve that specific thing?
Finally, he who runs after honor is clearly lacking in his belief that true reward and punishment are allocated only in the next world. One who is cognizant of this fact does not feel the need to seek honor, because he knows that his actions will be aptly rewarded in due time. Moreover, as Rabbeinu Yonah writes that the honor he receives in this world might even detract from the reward he is meant to receive in the next world.
The Rambam tells us that a person's "world" is his Emunah - Faith. In light of the above, a great way to work on our Emunah is by diminishing our pursuit of jealousy, desire or honor. This is easier said than done being that most things we do are somehow connected to some sort of self aggrandizement. Nevertheless, merely being aware of the detrimental effects of these negative traits is already a step in the right direction!