And Korach the son of Yitzhar the son of Kehas the son of Levi took… (Bamidbar 16/1)
Rashi explains that the reason that Korach challenged Moshe’s authority was because Moshe appointed his younger cousin, Elitzofon, to be the head (nossi) of the Kehas family. He felt that he deserved this position since he was the son of Kehas’s second oldest son and Elitzofon who was the son of Kehas’s youngest son. In addition to this, he he felt that he was bigger talmid chochom than Elitzofon.
Although this wasn’t Moshe’s personal decision (Moshe was simply carrying out Hashem’s decision) he became jealous of his cousin and wanted to take revenge on Moshe by disputing his right to rule.
One of the ways that he tried to get followers in his revolt was to show that Moshe had a very superficial understanding of the mitzvos and therefore wasn’t fit to be our leader.
Korach dressed some of the prestigious members of the Tribe of Reuvan, in four cornered techailos-colored garments and he brought them before Moshe. He then asked Moshe if they have to put tzitzis on such a garment. When Moshe replied that they were obligated he immediately retorted, “If one string of techailos exempts him from putting on more strings, then certainly if the whole garment is techailos he is exempt from putting on even one string of techailos!
The Medrash adds that he also asked Moshe if a room full of sefarim needs a mezuzah. When Moshe answered that it did, he retorted with the same logic, if a room needs a mezuzah that contains only two parshios in the Torah, then surely a room full of sefarim shouldn’t need anything more!
Zera Shimshon asks why did Korach specifically choose these two halachos to undermine Moshe’s authority and how is it connected to the appointment of Elitzofon?
He answers that the reason for these two mitzvos are quite clear. The possuk following the commandment to add a strand of techailos to the tzitzis says that we should look at it and remember the mitzos of Hashem in order to do them.
Concerning the mitzvah of mezuzah, Chazal say that when we place a mezuzah on our doors there is not reason to be afraid of demons (mazikim). (This is alluded to in the word mezuzas. Rearranging the letters spell out “zaz movess” which means “death, move away”!) In other words it is for protection.
This being so, Korach argued that it is simple logic that if the purpose and aim of tzitzis and techailos are to be a reminder to do the mitzos then certainly a whole techailos colored garment is a much bigger and more effective reminder. Therefore such a garment should be exempt from tzitzis.
He argued that Hashem only meant that the MINIMUM requirement is one strand of techailos, but surely a whole garment is better. Moshe who didn’t hold like this, simply doesn’t understand simple things and therefore shouldn’t be the leader!
It was the same argument to exempt a room full of seforim from mezuzah. He argued that Hashem only commanded the minimum protection, the two parshios in a mezuzah, and Moshe who required to put a mezuzah even on such a room doesn’t understand!
The real evil underlying point that he was getting at was that Moshe made the same illogical mistake concerning the appointment of Elitzofon.
True, that Hashem told Moshe to appoint Elitzofon to be the nossi, but what Hashem meant was that he was “GOOD ENOUGH” to be the nossi. However, if he (Korach) wanted the position, since he was older and wiser, surely it should go to him!
In truth though he was totally off and it was only his jealousy that made him think like this! It is obvious that even if according to our human limited understanding of things a whole techailos colored garment is a better reminder than one strand of techailos, a whole room of seforim is better protection than two small parshios, and Korach was a better choice to be nossi, still it isn’t like this. Hashem’s thoughts are not ours. We can never fully understand the reasons behinds the mitzvos and therefore we have to follow excactly what it says.
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