Sunday, July 03, 2005

Many Pieces Making One Peace

Disagreements tend to get disagreeable. Disputes have a knack of getting disputable. Arguments usually flirt with the argumentative. Quarrels, in all likelihood, will have you on your knees quarrelling. Still, we cannot resist them. Or, more accurately, we do not wish to resist them.

“Imagine all the people living in the world agree”. With all do respect to Mr. Lennon – both John and Vladimir – Imagination, chemically enhanced or otherwise, just aint gonna cut it. Agreed, we need an alternative to disagreement, but I do not think the Lennon approach is it. If it were, we would either be “Day Trippers” in the LSD sense, or living on “Animal Farm” with the pigs running the show. Now what a pigsty that would be – or, in Johns case, a pig-high – it gives a whole new meaning to “Back In The USSR”.

He did not fancy laced mushrooms, nor was he a Marxist (Carl, not the brothers), but Korach felt that, if we are all holy, why should some of us be more holy than others; if we are all “dyed blue” why should we need “fringe” benefits; if we are all full of holy books why should we need a Mezuzah on our door. A tremendous question; and by the Torah dedicating an entire segment to Korach – indeed his name titles it – it is telling us: this is no mere detail in history; it is lesson for all of eternity – a lesson of not only how we should not act but, also, of how we should act.

Where exactly did Korach go wrong? He thought that all people were High Priests: we are all G-d’s children and, therefore, not subjected to the views of Man – an extremely valid and correct observation. (One of) the underlying difference(s) between the Jewish belief and that of, say, the Christian, is that we Jews do not believe in intermediaries, we do not need a “middleman” to “enhance” our relationship with G-d. This was Korach’s legitimate claim: why should Aaron be “closer” to G-d than, say, I; why should he be a High Priest and I but a lowly Levite?

With methodology that will undoubtedly make Freud giggle in his grave, let us uncover the root of Korach’s “issues”: it was partly his parents’ fault; as well as the fault of his environment; and let us not forget the sibling rivalry.But most of all, as we shall see, it was his issue with Moses, the brother of Aaron, that really messed with his id – or shall I say, his Yid (sic):

He came from oil, whereas Aaron was only anointed by it. His lineage suggested a naturally imbedded transcendence, like oil, which mixes not with the “inferior” species; however, Aaron received the oil as an anointment, not an inheritance, and was thus not, at least in Korach’s eyes, intrinsically inclined to the High Priesthood. Couple this with Aaron’s involvement in the Golden Calf, while the Levites remained pure, and Korach seems to have a pretty bona fide argument.

He lived in a “deserted” area, a desert. Esoterically speaking, the desert, that is, the Inner Desert, is a place that knows no challenges: it represents a place above physical labor and beyond deadlines; it is a place where one eats “heavenly bread”, sleeps in “clouds of glory”, swims in a “split sea”, receives the “blueprint of life”, and, plain and simply, lives it up. Korach lived in an environment that bred complacency. It was the greatest of generations, a “generation of knowledge”; but along with greatness comes one of the greatest challenges: realizing that this greatness is a G-d given gift, nothing you’ve earned, and, therefore, if one were not to capitalize on its vast potentials, it evolutes into a conceited self-righteousness, one that causes a complacent smugness.

Korach, a descendant of Levi, was a cousin to Aaron and Moses. He sees their power – one a Leader, the other a High Priest – and says, ‘why not me’. How would you feel if one of your cousins was a Leader appointed by G-d himself, and another was the only one allowed to enter the Holy of Holies? There would definitely be some feelings of envy there – if not down right animosity.

All of the above has, no doubt, shed some light on Korach’ behavior. But the thing that really got Korach was Moses. He simply could not fathom of a person with absolute Bittul – a person who knows that every gift that he has, every talent he possesses, in fact every breath that he emits, comes solely from G-d – so Korach says, ‘why should you decide who is to be the High Priest, why should it be your brother and not me?’ He saw it as some kind of family mafia with Moses as its don. So Moses replies: ‘I too want this High Priesthood, but there is only one G-d and only one High Priest’. He continues, ‘it is G-d sending me to do all these things, it is not from my own heart’. Korach was skeptical; he just could not understand someone doing something “not from his own heart”. And all of his complaints of why we, the Chosen, are not equally holy, stemmed from his lack of trust in Moses.

But, if you notice, the Medrash quotes Moses not as denying Korach's claim, but, rather, as acknowledging and, furthermore, agreeing with it, “I too want this High Priesthood”. Why does Moses not deny Korach outright; why does he say, ‘I too wish to be a High Priest”?

Herein lie the beauty of the Torah and the extent of Moses’ Bittul: a man who opposed the very essence of Torah, Peace, was not incorrect in his intentions; he was incorrect, down right wrong, in his method. Yes, Moses is saying, personally every single human being must strive to be a High Priest, more, he must be a High Priest for himself, but as for the general High Priest, the one who enters the physical Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur to pray for all the people, there is only one. We must strive to be a High Priest, a person beyond the mundane world, but, in actuality, there is but one High Priest – and he is Aaron.

By Korach creating a rift, an argument, within the Jewish People, he was demonstrating the exact antithesis of a High Priest and the Torah: Aaron, the Kohen Gadol, was a man who exuded Peace, a High Priest cannot leave the holy city of Jerusalem, a city whose very name is made of Shalom, Peace; the Torah was only given to bring peace into this world, and anyone or anything that opposes peace, that is, true peace, opposes the Torah. By Korach it was a vicious – literally – cycle: he opposed Moses, thus disturbing the Peace, which, in return, caused him to oppose he who exuded Peace – Aaron – leading to his unavoidable opposition to that which was given to keep the Peace – the Torah – and, inevitably, it’s creator – G-d.

As the Torah is eternal, each and every one of us has this opposition to Peace within ourselves, the Inner Korach. But, we also have within ourselves the power to transcend differences, the Inner Moses. As the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya: this thing, this power of Bittul, is very close to every person; why, because each of us has a piece of Moses, a piece of the leader of the generation within our own souls.

The Moses of our generation, the Rebbe, gives us the power to transcend any differences that the physical body inevitably creates. True, Judaism believes not in intermediaries – that is, intermediaries that create G-d in their own image – however, a Rebbe, a Moses, is what is called a Memutza Hamechaber, a Merkava, a conduit through which G-d shines, whose mouth G-d uses as a vehicle. When one strives for a state of Bittul that a Rebbe has, where there is nothing besides for G-d, then there is no place for any outside influence – in fact, there is no outside – all is G-d and G-d is all.

This is what Moses tells Korach, and what Korach failed (or chose not) to see: everything that “I” do comes not from my own heart, only, it comes from G-d.

One can – and must – strive for this Bittul, to be a Rebbe, a Moses, a Kohen Gadol, over himself, a man of Peace in the truest sense of the word; but one can only strive for this Bittul: you see, there is only one Rebbe. One exclaiming, ‘why should we all not be equally holy’, is like one exclaiming ‘why should we all not be the captain of the ship’. We all have our extraordinary job on this boat named life, but there is only one captain. We all play our unique instrument, but there is only one conductor.

May our Inner Moses, the power of Bittul, influence the “opposition”, our Inner Korach, until the whole world will resound with “Moses is True and His Torah is True”.

May there be Shalom, Peace, upon all humanity.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

beautiful article~~~

7/04/2005 2:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stumbled upon this blog through a link on mentalblog.

Great stuff!

Is this kind of writing, or "insight" effected by a larger change in the minds of OT graduates? Seems you guys are beginning to derher as opposed to the age old "let's learn the Rebbe's ma'amer" type of learning, where pages upon pages are devoured -- literally.

Jakeyology, would you care to comment on a bit on this issue?

-a contenplating fan

7/04/2005 9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice one, marg gave me the link.
Hows the holy land?


7/04/2005 7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

its great that you started blogging so often now:)
I love your blog?

7/05/2005 7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


7/06/2005 1:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any way you can make your posts shorter, just a bit, for us folks who just can't stick around for so long?

7/07/2005 6:44 PM  
Blogger Dovid said...

Great post.
Gut shabbos

7/08/2005 1:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey RAL where is your blog?

7/12/2005 9:29 PM  
Blogger Dovid said...

plan on updating?

7/14/2005 11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

are you gonna update???

7/17/2005 12:37 PM  

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