In Parshas Korach, Moshe Rabbeinu retorts to Korach’s rebellious demand to be elevated from his births status of a Levi to replace Aharon as a Kohein, רב לכם בני לוי; it is great enough to be a Levi.
The Medrash teaches us that Hashem was dissatisfied with this rejoinder, and as a consequence, when Moshe Rabbeinu begged to be allowed to enter Eretz Yisroel in Parshas V’Eschanan, the answer he received was in the parallel terminology רב לך על תוסיף.
Seemingly, this connection is difficult to understand. Why should Moshe Rabbeinu’s legitimately harsh reply to Korach’s insolence cost him the ability to lead the Jewish Nation into Eretz Yisroel? Furthermore, what is the significance of the similarity in phraseology between the two statements?
It seems that, at least ostensibly, Korach’s request was a lofty one. Korach claimed that he did not wish to be limited to serving Hashem on an intermediate level; rather he was striving for his greatest possible potential. Moshe Rabbeinu, in turn, enjoined Korach to appreciate and be satisfied with the exalted position of a Levi, and not to demand more.
38 years later when Moshe Rabbeinu appealed his denial of entry into Eretz Yisroel, his request was not merely sentimental. His desire to partake of the bounty of the Promised Land was primarily to have the opportunity to fulfill the numerous Mitzvos that can only be performed in its confines. While many of the 613 Mitzvos can be performed anywhere, the maximum spiritual accomplishment is only possible in Eretz Yisroel.
In this context it becomes apparent that Hashem’s intent in rebuking Moshe Rabbeinu was to indicate that no one should ever be complacent and satisfied with his Ruchniyus and desist from seeking higher goals. While Korach’s demands were clearly insincere, the method of responding appeared to endorse the idea that being “satisfied with ones lot” applies to ones spiritual lot as well, and nothing could be further from the truth. Consequently, as Mida Keneged Mida, Hashem informed Moshe Rabbeinu that he would have to be satisfied with his vast and unparalleled accomplishments in Ruchniyus, and desist from striving for even greater heights.
In truth, a sincere version of Korach’s demand is not completely unattainable. While everyone laughs at the protagonist of the famous story/joke about the hapless individual who offered his Rabbi enormous sums of money to “make him a Kohen” because his father and grandfather were, it is no laughing matter.
The Rambam in the conclusion of Hilchos Shmita proclaims that the Kohanim are not entirely unique by means of their genealogy. Any individual, regardless of his pedigree, can dedicate his life to serving Hashem the way the Kohanim and Levi’im did, and expect to attain a similar spiritual status. So, while those of us not born as descendents of Aharon HaKohein might never receive the first Aliya or Duchen, we can essentially transform ourselves into the equivalent of Kohanim through our utter devotion to Hashem. The fool in the parable was only misguided in his methods, not in his goal.
We should draw a lesson from this incident and remember to never be complacent about our Ruchniyus. If we constantly strive to grow and accomplish, we can reach unimaginable accomplishments.