Torah Fax

Friday, June 18, 2004 - 29 Sivan, 5764

Torah Reading: Korach (Numbers 16:1 - 18:32)
Candle Lighting Time:  8:12 PM
Shabbat Ends: 9:22 PM

"I Am In Charge Here"

Our Parshah tells the story of Korach who rebelled against Moses. His main argument was that "all of the people are holy, why should you [Moses and Aaron], exalt yourselves over the community?" When the Torah introduces the rebellion it states "And Korach took-the son of Yitzhar, the son of Kehat, the son of Levi-together with Dathan Aviram. "Commentators raise the question of the wording of this verse: It states that he "took," without saying what he took.
Rashi explains that the word "took" means that he took himself away from the rest of the community by starting this rebellion. Alternatively, Rashi explains, it means that he took with him some of the most influential people with him in this act of treason.
The Midrash explains that the words "and he took-Vayikach" has the connotation of a purchase. "He made a bad purchase for himself" by starting this rebellion, for in the end, not only was his cause not accepted by G‑d, he ended up being swallowed by the earth.
The difficulty with all of these explanations is that the phrase "and he took" implies that he took something, yet nothing else, othert than his lineage, is mentioned in the text. Why doesn't the Torah state clearly what he took? Upon reflection one can answer that indeed, that was the problem with Korach. He did not take anything or anyone with him; he just took himself, he set himself aside as the self appointed new leader of the Jews.
This conveys two points: First, there are people who are self-absorbed. Even when they convince others to join their effort, they still remain preoccupied with their own honor and agenda, not really caring and connecting to their allies. This can also be the meaning of the Midrash: "He made a bad purchase for himself." The Midrash actually means that the "bad purchase" was "himself," i.e., the viewing of himself as the ultimate and exclusive consideration in all of his dealings.
Second, Korach was of the opinion that he was not in need of a leader and mentor. When he complained about Moses' leadership role using the argument that "all of the people were holy," Korach was not taking up for the rights of the people. Rather it was his way of saying, "I don't need Moses as my leader and guide. I am holy myself and can connect with G‑d without the aid of any other person, including Moses."
To buttress his independence of anyone else, the Torah thus continues to trace his ancestry. Korach meant to say that his distinguished pedigree provided him with superior qualities, enabling him to reach G‑d without ay intermediaries.
Korach was obviously mistaken. G‑d established a world in which humans cannot go it alone. We depend on our alliances and connections to others. This does not reflect any weakness on our part; on the contrary, it is an expression of maturity to know how we are part of a larger picture, and that our individual contribution depends on our connections with others, but that others also depend on us. This idea of interdependence really speaks to our uniqueness that we-with our own little niche-can affect that entire picture.
Korach was thus wrong on both counts. By separating himself from the rest of the community-even from his own cohorts-Korach was denying himself all of the resources that G‑d placed at his disposal. And by denying his need to be directed by Moses, he was also severing his connection to G‑d who chose Moses to be his-and all of Israel's-leader.
The need for connecting to others and to one's leader has often been explained by way of the analogy to the human body. A human body is healthy only when all of its organs work together harmoniously. For that possible, all of the organs must be connected to the brain.
The leaders that G‑d has chosen represent the brain of the Jewish people. Only by connecting to our mentors can we fully actualize and enjoy our own individual contribution. This explains the importance Jewish tradition-from Biblical and Talmudic times onward-have placed on following and connecting to our leaders and teachers of Torah. In our generation, the Lubavitcher Rebbe stood out as the "Moses" of our generation in the way he led the Jewish people and the direction he charted for us. The Rebbe was committed to rebuilding the spirit of the Jewish people in the Post-Holocaust era. With optimism, love for everyone and selfless devotion to lead us towards the ultimate goal of bringing Moshiach and the final Redemption, the Rebbe succeeded in changing the face of Jewry throughout the world. The Rebbe accomplished all of this by seeing the good in each and every one of us and by helping us tap our own individual talents and inner spirituality, so that we can fully actualize our potential.
As we approach the 3rd of Tammuz this coming week-the day that the Rebbe's presence was concealed from us ten years ago-it is appropriate for us to reflect on the lesson of Korach and to solidify our connection with the Rebbe, the Moses of our time. This we do by following in his way of seeing the good and holy in everyone and by actualizing that goodness and holiness by greater devotion to Judaism.
Moshiach Matters

Looking out of his window one day, Rabbi Shneur Zalman (1745-1812) observed the street being cleaned: the garbage was swept together into a little pile, and then a number of piles were swept together into a big mound. Rabbi Shneur Zalman commented to his family, "This is how things will look before Moshiach comes. Today, wealth is in the hands of many people. But before Moshiach comes, money will be concentrated either in the hands of a few private individuals or in the hands of the government. (From From Exile to Redemption)
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