Even kindergarten children know and can tell the story of how the earth opened its mouth and “swallowed” Korach and all of his followers at the end of the tragic dispute of this week’s Portion. Our commentators add to this story another symbolical layer of depth: It is not just that envy does not take us anywhere, it simply eats us up. It makes us sink down, disappear and become erased. Till this very day, powerful, burning envy is “burying” people alive.
Korach, indeed, had a high status in the Tribe of Levy. He was wealthy (in Hebrew we have this expression: “as rich as Korach”), he had a family, an important role, and significance – but he did not see any of this. Of course, he disguised his words with a cloak of ideology, as if everything was done for the sake of heaven, for the public’s good, but the kernel of that dispute started with his powerful envy of Moshe, of Aaron, of every person who seemed to him to be more senior and important. Our Sages in the Mishnah tractate of Avot (“Ethics of Our Fathers), summed it up with a simple yet tantalizing verse: “Envy, lust and honor take one out of the world.” That is, this is not just a bad trait, not simply another problem – it simply takes one out of the world. This Portion reminds us that seeing the good that we have and not coveting the good that others have – is the most urgent thing to take care of.