The story of last weeks Torah portion evokes concepts such as distinction, argument, social divide and miscommunications. But it begs the question, where did it come from? Why did Korach approach Moshe with so much contempt?
In hebrew קרח has multiple meanings. Each hebrew letter is comprised of its own meaning. ק Kuf: Refers to the קוף: The monkey, the one that mimics, imitates, impersonates because they aren’t comfortable with being themselves. ר or Resh: comprised or ראש: to be a leader of the masses. and ח of Chet: referring to transgression/missing the mark and or innovation.
Put them all together and what do you have? “The impersonator of leadership through his misguided innovation or transgression”. This is a phoney individual, a sham.
Korach picked a fight with Moshe and asked him not only about his rights to distribute authority to his brother Aharon, but challenged him with questions laden with mockery.
The Midrash relates his sardonic inquiry. “Why would we need a mezuzah in a house filled with holy books that especially contains the passages of the mezuzah…Why would we need the “Techeilis (blue tinted string derived from a unique sea creature connoting the infinite nature of Hashem) on a 4 cornered garment that is completely the material of Techeilis?”
These weren’t questions in pursuit of truth, these were challenges to undermine the authority of Moshe. When one is consumed with jealousy, the deep seated desire to acquire what someone else possesses, they don’t only desire. They allow their desire to dictate their actions. It draws them toward the person they loath and simultaneously wish they can become. Then, they ambush their target, longing to remove from the other party the exact thing they desire. Instead of finding a way to acquire independently what they long for, they assail and are only “satisfied” when their target no longer has what they want.
The cornerstone for leadership is knowing how to empower, delegate, bestow peace and cooperation among a community. The opposite of love is not hate, its indifference (Elie Weisel). Korach’s initiative implied that he didn’t care for Moshe’s well being. If he did care, he wouldn’t approach the leader of Israel with 250 men to form public accusations.
Who is Korach? Is he just a famous foe in the Torah narrative? Is he just someone we are supposed to remember so we don’t accord ourselves in the vein of his tyrannical tirade?
Let’s take a look at his name:
Korach: Like “Kerach” translated to ice: as I indicated: apathy, ice like dry and analytical, unfeeling way of assessing situations. Not seeing deeply into a person, but making rash evaluations strictly from his personal schematic reality.
Korach turned around to the work רחק: Same letters “Rachok”: translates to distant. One must assert emotional distance in order to perform ruthless acts.
חקר or Cheiker: Translates to examination: to examine another person in a linear strictly surface manner, not trying to understand that individual or situation a deeper way.
רקח: To be mixed or compounded: a compounding of thoughts, torn and indecisive in their conviction. Not confident in the way one approaches things.
So who is Korach? Korach is every one of us.
We are never the “number one” because there is always someone above us. We examine our reality with our limited perspectives. We distance ourselves from things we don’t understand and make judgements absent of compassion. We can be apathetic if we feel someone is wrong or undeserving.
How can we transcend these tendencies?
Korach is our assessment that aligns with the path of least resistance. It takes resistance to be compassionate with someone you don’t trust or dislike, it takes resistance to accept a reality that you feel is unjustified, it takes resistance to invoke feelings of love and acceptance with someone you abhor.
That said, it is the Korach within us that enables this kind of growth. The plague of divisiveness challenges us to mend the rifts in spite of our negative assessments. Even when the situation seems irreparable and decadent, it is the divine spark within us that allows us to form forests from deserts, white from crimson red, light from darkness, and good from evil. This is a challenge we face that does not relent. Each day we must remember that מחדש בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית: we are renewed as it is the recreation of the world once again. As we are refreshed, so are our trial and inclination to judge.
When Hashem created the world, the famous Midrash goes: He had to balance “Judgement with Love”, because the world wouldn’t survive with a king who only judges others. You can see this balance in King David’s words emanating from his psalm “Mizmor Shir Chanukas Habayis (a song sung for the inauguration of the Temple). He states כי רגע באפו חיים ברצונו: “That in a blink of an eye Hashem’s wrath comes forth, in life He desires. Although there are moments where Hashem is angry with us, simultaneously He can wrap his arms around us with love and compassion even when we go astray. So too it is our imperative to demonstrate that kind of love in the most deplorable situations. We should always long to build one another up with compassion as Hashem does for us.
We should have the strength to face the Korach within us bearing in mind that sometimes, counterintuitive compassion, a.k.a LOVE must transcend our judgements. Shavua Tov, a good blessed week to all.