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Sermon - Parshat Korach - 4 Tammuz 5780

"The Pit of Despair, Westley, the Sons of Korach and Hope"
In my humble opinion one of the all time great movies is The Princess Bride.  With its great action and tongue in cheek wit and with amazing characters like Andre the Giant’s Fezzik the giant, Inigo Montoya – “you killed my father, prepare to die.” , Billy Crystal’s Magical Max, the evil Prince Humperdink and the beautiful, if slightly slow witted, Princess Buttercup.  But of all the characters, my favorite is of course Westley, the farm boy turned Dread Pirate Roberts, whose wit, cunning, strength, skill, faith and winning good looks carry the film throughout.   Our hero faces his darkest hour when he is captured by Prince Humperdink and sent to the Pit of Despair…. Excuse me… the Pit of Despair,  to be tortured.  In the midst of a terrible experience of torture at the hands of a terrible machine called… the machine, our hero lets out a great and terrible scream which can be heard far and wide in the kingdom.  The scream is heard by his friends, Inigo and Fezzik, who come to his aid, finding him only Mostly Dead, and bring him back to accomplish his task of saving the princess.    I mention this because…  well because I really like the movie.  And because I am particularly partial to the character of Westley,… I feel a certain kinship with him.   Oh , I also mention it because in this week’s parsha we also find a pit of despair – the pit of despair for the rebel Korach and his followers that comes to swallow them up.    An interesting twist to the story of the pit of Korach is the sons of Korach.  Rashi tells us that one of the reasons that Korach was confident in his rebellion against Moshe was that he saw with divine insight that one of his descendants would be the great prophet Shmuel HaNavi.  He figured to himself – if Shmuel is going to be descended from me, I must be in the right here.    But he was mistaken.  What happened?  The Torah in Parshat Pinchus actually tells us an interesting part of the story – U’vnei Korach lo Meisu – the sons of Korach did not die.    Why not?  If they were part of the rebellion  - why didn’t they die?  Rashi there quotes the Talmud in Sanhedrin, that the sons of Korach were part of the rebellion and they were going down in the pit and being swallowed alive and going to Gehennom with the rest of them - but at the last moment – the sons of Korach had thoughts of Teshuva – they repented and they cried out to God – and miraculously an elevated piece of rock shot up and saved them from going down to their deaths with the rest of the rebels.    Just like Westley in the Princess Bride, the sons of Korach cried out at their time of ultimate despair and were heard.  They were saved by God, and would go on to be the forbears of Shmuel HaNavi and author several of the Psalms, several chapters of Tehillim.   The message is clear.  Even though we may be facing times of great despair – we should never give up – asking for help during those times is what we have to do.  Sometimes only by crying out when we are in the deepest pit  - like the sons of Korach, like Joesph in the pit before them, and like Westley in the Pit of Despair, will we get our best answers.    Many of us feel like we are in a pit of despair with this interminable Covid situation.  Things have been not normal for so long now.  Things are not as we would like them they are not as we would wish.  But we must have hope.  For often times when we cry out for help, when we cry out in teshuva, when we don’t despair and when we reach out for a lifeline, the answer from above is AS YOU WISH.  May this be the answer from above, and may it come soon.

Wed, July 6 2022 7 Tammuz 5782