Sunday, June 6, 2021

Korach's Mistake

According to Chasidic thought, Korach's rebellion occurred at this point in time since it was prompted by the sin of the spies.  The inner reason why the spies did not want to enter the Land of Israel was because they preferred the exclusively spiritual life of the desert to a life of serving G-d and physical concerns, such as the need to earn a living.  The downfall of the spies thus sent a powerful message that Judaism prioritizes physical action over spiritual and intellectual pursuits.

Upon hearing this, Korach protested to Moshe "Why have you made yourselves elite over G-d's assembly?" [Korach 16:3]  "I can appreciate" argued Korach, "that you are a more spiritual and holy person than us, but since we now see that Judaism makes physical action the priority, how are you better than anybody else? Aren't your actions the same as ours?"

Korach's mistake was that the Torah does not demand lifeless action, but rather deeds that shine with inspiration and spiritual enlightenment.  Thus, the two mistakes of the spies and Korach teach us that a healthy equilibrium is required: One must not shy away from physical life, like the spies.  But on the other hand, Judaism's emphasis on action must never lead to a life of meaningless ritual and spiritual bankruptcy.  Every mitzvah should be carried out with the highest levels of spiritual consciousness.

Our struggle to harmonize physical action with spiritual contemplation is fought on three fronts:

a) the need to ensure that one's intentions do not remain in the realm of wishful thinking and that concrete action takes place;
b) that one's actions should always be dictated by the Torah's value system;
c) that action should never be overglorified, and that one should always aspire to be more spiritual.

Our Sages taught that the world was made with the letter ה.  This is because its shape represents the equilibrium between the more spiritual dimensions of thought and speech, versus physical deed.  Korach's name - קרח - is spelled by letters that are all distortions of the left side of the letter Hei, indicating how he wished to upset this equilibrium in the area of deeds.

In the ches ח the gap between deed and thought/speech is closed, suggesting that the physical no longer looks up to or aspires to the spiritual - which is why Korach rebelled against the spiritual leadership of Moshe and Aharon.

In the kuf ק deed has extended below and is no longer dictated by the thought and speech of Torah.
And in the raish ר, deed is missing altogether.

In short, it is relatively easy to be entirely spiritual and aloof, or entirely physical and mundane.  Our challenge is to harmonize both these qualities in our daily life, thus making a home for G-d below.

Based on Likutei Sichos, Lubavitcher Rebbe

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