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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Bemidbar: Parashat Qorah: Moshe Rabenu Fell

Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi

"Moses heard and he fell on his face." (Be'midbar 16:4)
Upon hearing Qorah's initial claim against him, Moshe fell on his face in an act of mourning and desparation. The gemara in Masechet Ta'anit states (14B) that one is not allowed to fall on his face unless he will be answered as Yehoshoua was answered, as we see in Yehoshoua 7,10 that Hashem asked Yehoshoua directly, "Why are you falling on your face."

Moshe Rabeynou, who was more modest than anyone, did not think anything of himself. He especially did not believe that he was worthy to be answered in the way that Yehoshoua was answered later in the future. However, Moshe saw that the complaint was against him, and his very title as "Rav" of the nation, and so he fell on his face.

Why didn't Moshe fall on his face other times that bad events transpired?
Why specifically now did Moshe fall on his face?

When Moshe heard that Qorah believe that everyone is equally holy, and that everyone deserves honor, he fell on his face because he knows how difficult it is to acquire holiness. Moshe worked tirelessly to acquire his level of holiness in steadfast limud (learning) that he could not bare to hear the claim that everyone was the same in this respect. He also realized that Qorah's understanding was completely misguided as we see in the Gemara in Sanhedrin (109A):

"Moses heard - what did he hear? That they suspected him of 'Eshet Ish' (seemingly being with a married woman, adultery)

Where can we find a hint of this in the verses?

Our rabbis say that when one argues with another and states, "I am not a Rasha" ("I am not an evil person"), it is as if he is calling his friend a "Rasha". Similarly, when Qorah said "Kulam Qedoshim" ("Everyone is Holy"), and the opposite of holiness is Ervah, or sexual immorality, they were implying that Moshe was not Qadosh.

Meaning - Not Has Vehalilah that Moshe committed adultery, but rather we must understand the Gemara as Moshe only received his holiness at birth. Otherwise, he would be just like everyone else. "Eshet Ish", "Married Woman" does not mean that he sinned and was with a married woman, but rather his holiness was bestowed upon him from when he was born to an Eshet Ish, meaning his mother. Moshe came out a Man of God - but others are all the same and people can justly make claims against them.

(He was therefore justly making a claim against Elissafan Ben Ouziel)

For those Daqanim, the Gemara says "MEH-Eshet Ish"- instead of "BEH-Eshet Ish", MEH, meaning "coming from".
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