CHASAM SOFER – KORACH
What’s in a Name
וְיִקַּח קֹרַח בֶּן־יִצְהָר בֶּן־קְהָת בֶּן־לֵוִי
Korach took — the son of Yitzhar, son of Kehas, son of Levi (16:1).
The name Korach first appears in the Torah in Parashas Vayishlach (36:5), as the name of one of Eisav’s sons. Since that Korach presumably followed in the wicked ways of his father, it seems astonishing that Yitzhar, a righteous member of the Levi family, would give his son the same name. The Gemara (Yoma 38b) states that one should not give his child the name of a wicked person! It seems reasonable to suggest that Yitzhar in fact erred in giving his son the name Korach, for it planted seeds of evil within him, which ultimately led him to instigate the ill-fated rebellion against Moshe.
Accordingly, we can explain why the Torah identifies Korach by listing three generations of his forebears — his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather — and why the Torah uses the particular expression וְיִקַּח קֹרַח, Korach took. The Gemara teaches that once a family has three consecutive generations of righteous people, it is natural for the succeeding generations to also be righteous (see Bava Metzia 85a; Kesubos 62b). As the verse says, וְהַחוּט הַמְשֻׁלָּשׁ לֹא בִמְהֵרָה יִנָּתֵק, A three-layer cord is not quickly severed (Koheles 4:12). Since Korach was descended from three generations of righteous men (Yitzhar, Kehas, and Levi), one would expect him to be righteous as well. Why did he turn out otherwise? Our verse addresses this question and says, ויקח קרח, Korach took. What did “Korach” take?בן יצהר בן קהת בן לוי, the son of Yitzhar, son of Kehas, son of Levi. The verse means to tell us that the name Korach, because it was originally a name of a wicked person, “took” — i.e., robbed — from this child all the sanctity that he should have attained by being the son of Yitzhar, son of Kehas, and son of Levi. His name caused him to be deprived of the merit of his illustrious forebears and to turn out the way he did (Chasam Sofer al HaTorah p. 75-76 ד”ה קרח בן יצהר).
In Memory of
R’ Yakov ben R’ Shmuel Yosef
and R’ Shimon ben R’ Moshe ע”ה
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