THE STORY of this week's sidrah deals with a great crisis in the life of our people in the desert. A man by the name of Korach, a cousin of Moses and Aaron, arose and challenged the right of Moses and Aaron to act as the leaders of the nation. Note that Korach and his followers began their rebellion as champions of the people, fighting for the rights of the masses. "They gathered against Moses and Aaron, and said to them: Enough of you! For all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and God is in their midst. Why then do you lift yourself above the congregation of the Lord?" (Num. 16:2). But as it developed later, Korach was not interested in the rights of the people. He was concerned only with his own ambition to depose his cousins and to take hold of the helm of leadership himself. In his great conceit he thought that he was better qualified to be at the head of Israel than Moses. He scorned the teachings of Moses and considered them archaic. Korach was sure that he knew more of the spirit of the times than his older cousin.

From our own experience we know what a dreadful and ugly disease conceit can be. If unchecked, it brings suffering and sorrow to multitudes, and poisons the minds of many as it did in the days of Korach.

In many instances, the conceited individual really has nothing to be conceited about. This is illustrated by the story that is told about a young man who came to a Chassidic rabbi to be cured of conceit. The holy man invited him to remain with him in his private room where he received people. After a little while a man came to ask the rabbi for a favor. He needed 500 rubles to marry off his daughter and he didn't know where to get it. "Here is a wonderful opportunity to be of service to a fellow Jew in need," said the rabbi to the young man. "Extend him a loan of 500 rubles for a few months, and you will have a great mitzvah,." I am very sorry," replied the young man hesitatingly, "but I have no money." A few minutes later a learned man came to seek the advice of the rabbi in a difficult passage in the Talmud. "This young man will explain it to you," the rabbi pointed in the direction of the conceited fellow. "I haven't studied enough Torah in my life, and I can't do it," the young man replied apologetically. Soon afterwards a businessman entered. He was involved in a complicated enterprise and was at a loss as to what his next move should be. Should he expand or sell out? "Perhaps you can advise him?" the rabbi turned once more to the young man. "No, I can't help him at all," the young man's reply came haltingly. "I never had any experience in business." Well, well," said the rabbi. "You neither have money, nor knowledge of thc Torah, nor any business experience-and you are conceited! Please tell me what you are conceited about!"

The Belzer Rebbe was once stranded in a small town. Two people invited him to stay at their homes. One was reputed to be careless in matters of kashrut; the other, while known for his adherence to ritual, was guilty of conceit. The Rebbe chose to stay with the former. When asked why, he explained that God never said that He would not stay with a trefniak, but it does say toavat Hashem kol gvah-lev "Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 16:5).

When a man thinks he knows everything, what regard can he have for the Torah? What can it teach him? What can he learn from the Synagogue or the rabbi? Such a person sows the seeds of unhappiness not only in the community but also in his own home. Anyone who has ever dealt with family problems knows that one of the basic causes for disharmony is conceit. When one of the partners in the home begins to look down upon the other as less worthy, a wedge is introduced that is bound to break a heart, a home, or both. When a husband begins to display a feeling of superiority over his wife by ignoring her opinions, or when a wife tries to push her husband into the background when a serious conversation is taking place because she feels she is more worldly-wise or better educated than he, the ship of matrimony is headed in the direction of dangerous reefs that frequently spells disaster.

When an individual is guilty of the sin of conceit it is bad enough. But when an entire nation becomes afflicted with this maddening disease, it brings disaster upon itself and the rest of humanity. Germany was the classic example of this malady. Unfortunately many nations still suffer from the scourge of conceit. Let the world atone for this sin and thus escape the punishment visited on Korach and his followers.

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