Don’t Fall Prey to Your Emotions!
By Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber
A devastating episode transpires in this week’s Torah reading. Korach starts an uprising against Moses, challenging him with the claim that the appointment of Moses’s brother Aaron as the High Priest was based on his own interests and was not a decision made by God. In the end, Korach and his followers suffered a terrible fate as they were swallowed up alive by the ground. What was it that incited this rebellion against Moses? How did Korach succeed in getting so many people involved in this terrible act of rebellion against their loyal leader?
The Ramban (16:1) enlightens us with a fascinating insight. The Ramban tells us, that really Korach and the other instigators of the rebellion had their complaints formed in their minds long beforehand. However, the nation at that time loved Moses dearly. Moses was held by the Jewish nation in such high esteem, that if anyone would think of protesting against Moses, he would have been stoned by the people. And so, for the time being, Korach and the others kept their mouths shut and did not dare start up with him. But then, tragedy had befallen the nation. Many people had sinned when they complained that they were dissatisfied with the Manna and they desired meat. The Manna provided them with their nutrition in the most delectable way, and many of the complainers subsequently died as a consequence for their ingratitude. Not long after this, the Sin of the Spies took place. The people complained about being led to the Land of Israel, and it was decreed that all the adults of age twenty and up should die in the desert, as they were not permitted to enter the Land. As a result, the nation had hit a low point and their spirits were down. It was then that Korach decided seize the opportunity. When Korach saw the bitter feeling that had gripped the people, he decided to take advantage of the gloomy mood that they were in and he stood up to challenge Moses publicly. The emotional state that the people were in had allowed them to join Korach against Moses, and this is how he succeeded in starting an outright revolt against their beloved leader.
Interestingly, Hitler had employed a similar strategy. How did Hitler get a civilized and educated country to rationalize the murder of millions of innocent people? It was after World War I, when the Germans were defeated and were heavily sanctioned by the Allies. The morale of the German nation was at an alltime low. Hitler used this emotional state of the Germans as an opportunity to launch his agenda. “Kristallnacht” marked the dramatic turn of violence against the Jews in Germany. A low ranking German diplomat was assassinated by a Jew, and the Germans retaliated by burning Synagogues and destroying Jewish owned businesses. Historians found that this was not just a spontaneous response of the German people, but a meticulously devised plan by Hitler. Hitler was waiting for an excuse to get the German people riled up and had made preparations in advance for this day. He too, succeeded in preying on the depressed emotions of people and getting them to rise up against the innocent.
This is a very important lesson for each and every one of us to keep in mind. When we go through a low point in life, we must realize that we become extremely vulnerable to turn against those who have been loyal to us. When we feel down, we naturally are more inclined to lash out at others, and take out our emotions on those who are most dear to us. But we must not do that. We must be on guard not to look to blame others for things that we ordinarily would never do. Sometimes it could even be a friend who might try to convince us in such a situation to find fault in those who have been good to us. By being aware of this vulnerability, we will realize the feelings against others which arise within us at such a time, may be very far from reality. This realization alone has the power to save us from ruining relationships. By recognizing that we are in a vulnerable emotional state that could bring on irrational views of others, we will be more likely to control our actions, and not let out ourselves hurt those who are closest to us (or anyone else.)