Shabbat-Table Talks: Qorah

To read last year's Table Talk  click here.

By: Rabbi Ralph Tawil <>


Value: Overcoming envy by appreciating what you have. It is a reality. Some people will have things better than we do. We can always find someone who has a fancier car, house, CD, etc. than we have. Others might be gifted in other ways, intelligence, talent, beauty, for example. Some might react to this reality by having feeling of envy. Teaching our children ways of overcoming these feelings of envy can help them cope with this sometimes-disturbing reality. The step beyond overcoming one’s envy is to be happy for the other person’s achievement or possession.


Background: Bne Yisrael were just informed that they would not be going into the Promised Land immediately. This caused a lot of bitterness and a leadership crisis. Qorah was jealous of the fact that he was not given a leadership position in the tribe of Levi. According to Hazal (our sages of blessed memory), it was the fact that Qorah was passed up for the position of tribal leadership in favor of his cousin of lesser status. Qorah rallied the people behind him, not by saying that he deserves the power, but by using the demagogic argument of saying that there should be no leaders (“Indeed, the entire community, the entirety of them, are holy, and in their midst is the Lord. Why then do you exalt yourselves over the assembly of the Lord?”) Qorah’s argument was a thinly veiled attempt to get some more power for himself. Moshe first proposes a contest of the incense offering to allow Hashem to choose between Aharon and Qorah’s group. Then Moshe tries to dissuade the rebels from taking part in the fatal contest. Moshe pleads:


Text: Bemidbar 15:8-10

And Moshe said to Qorah: Pray hearken, Sons of Levi: Is it too little for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the community of Israel to bring you near to him, to serve the serving tasks of the dwelling of Hashem, to stand before the community, to attend on them?  He has brought near you and all your brothers, the Sons of Levi, with you—would you seek the priesthood as well?


Analysis: Moshe was certain that Hashem had chosen Aharon and was not afraid to put that to the test. Yet, he knew that the contest would result in the deaths of the rebels. So Moshe tried to dissuade the people from taking part in the incense-offering contest. In his argument Moshe saw through Qorah’s demagoguery and exposed Qorah’s true intention—that of Kohen leadership. Qorah should be happy with the status of being a Levite—one who has special service in the Mishkan.  One should not look at what he lacks and become envious. Instead, one should look at what he has and be satisfied.


Discussion: How did Moshe try to stop Qorah’s jealousy? (By making Qorah aware of what he has.)  How does focusing on what you have stop jealousy? (By realizing that you already have much you can ignore what you lack. Realizing that you have plenty diverts attention from what you do not have, to what you do, leading to a greater degree of appreciation and happiness.)


Ask your children: Did it ever happen to you that someone had something that you wanted? Describe what happened and most importantly how you felt. (Let more than one child talk at this point. You can also give an example of when you felt like this.)


How do you feel when a friend has something that you really would like? (Use an example here that would be appropriate for your children’s age.)


How can you follow Moshe’s advice to Qorah and learn to appreciate what you have? (First, become aware of what you have. Make a mental list of the things you have. Start from the five senses and the other aspects to the body and recognize what a gift it is from Hashem to have the function of all your organs. Then what a blessing it is just to be able to speak and think. Think about the people in your life.  The other things, the things that your child feels he is lacking, truly pale in comparison with these fundamentally important senses.)


Some objections that your child might raise to this approach are:

1)    “But my friend has these things as well!” Answer: Barukh Hashem. We are not trying to compete against each other in who has the best things. We are trying to appreciate the gifts that we have.  

2)    “My friend flaunts his special object and makes me feel inferior for not having it.” Answer: by getting upset at it you are just inviting more of your friend’s behavior. Instead try to be happy that he has the thing and show him that. Listen to this story:




Celebrate Other’s Success


Forty thousand fans were in attendance in the Oakland stadium when Rickey Henderson tied Lou Brock’s career stolen base record. According to USA Today, Lou left baseball in 1979 but faithfully followed Henderson’s prestigious career and was excited about his success. Realizing that Rickey would set a new record, Brock was quoted in USA Today as saying, “I’ll be there. Do you think I’m going to miss it now? Rickey did in 12 years what took me 19. He’s amazing.”


Lou Brock was able to set aside feelings of jealousy, envy or self-interest in order to enourage Henderson’s achievement. He rejoiced in the happiness of others. (Source: Glenn Van Ekeren, _Speaker’s Sourcebook II_, p. 126)


Activity: Ask each person to feel happy about and to compliment another person at the table for something unique that she has. Focus the group on enjoying the others achievement or special possession.


To read last year's Table Talk click here.


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