(Torah Portion Korach) Precision!
This week’s portion is similar to the previous portions which describe some of the shortcomings of the Jewish people. These incidents which are critical of the Jews’ wayward behavior are included in the Torah reflecting on the honesty and transparency of the Torah. In fact in the blessing we recite after reading from the Torah we refer to the Torah as, Toras Emes – the Torah of Truth.
No one is perfect. Every one of us is a work in progress. Personal growth is what Judaism is all about. We have an obligation to continually strive for higher levels of spirituality and to work on refining our character traits towards our fellow man.
One reason the Torah includes incidents that reflect unfavorably on us is so that we learn a lesson from the underlying faults that led to the bad decisions and thus try to avoid such pitfalls.
The majority of this week’s Torah portion deals with the incident of Korach, a very bright and holy person, who led a rebellion challenging Moshe’s authority to appoint his brother Aaron as the High Priest.
Although G-d attested to the fact that Moshe was His most devout and trustworthy servant, Moshe took Korach’s argument very seriously because it was an attack on the authentic transmission of G-d’s Torah. Moshe at first tried to reason with Korach, however, when he saw that Korach wasn’t interested in amiable dialogue he put Korach to the test.
Moshe challenged Korach and his group to perform an incense offering along with Aaron and through this it would be determined who was appointed High Priest by G-d, and Korach took up the challenge. A fire came down from Heaven consuming Korach and his followers and the earth swallowed up Korach and his family. Aaron was spared, thus proving that Aaron was indeed the Kohain Gadol appointed by G-d.
If Korach was so devout and bright, what led him astray? Korah had a grievance. He felt he was overlooked when a position of leadership was given to his younger cousin and expressed his displeasure by rebelling against the authority.
To entice others to his ridiculous claims, Korach began publicly mocking some of the Mitzvos.
The Talmud explains that Korach donned a four cornered garment – a Tallis that was dyed completely blue and did not have any Tzitzis fringes attached. He came to Moshe and asked, “Does this Tallis require Tzitzis (fringes)?” Moshe responded, “Yes.” Korach began mocking Moshe, “That doesn’t make any sense; doesn’t the Torah state that you need a strand of blue wool on the fringes to remind us of the commands of Hashem? Now, since this garment is totally blue, won’t it surely remind us of our obligations?” Moshe remained resolute that the blue Tallis still required the tassels, and Korach made fun of this.
Another baseless argument Korach posed to Moshe went as follows: Does a house full of holy texts require a Mezzuza on the door? Korach argued that if the house is host to holy texts which include the portions that are written in a Mezuzah, why should the doorposts need a Mezuzah? When Moshe responded that the house still required a Mezuzah, Korach made fun of him.
Korach was not interested in intellectual honesty only in undermining Moshe’s authority.
My uncle, Rabbi Moshe Saks of Jerusalem, asks, what was Korach’s claim? After all, the Torah specifically obligates us to place the Mezzuza on our doorposts of our home and that blue dye be placed on the tassels of the Tallis.
He explains that the reason for the Mitzvos is to connect us to the Almighty. The Talmud teaches us that the blue strings of the Tzitzis serve to remind us of G-d’s Throne and the Mezzuza is placed on our doorpost to remind us of G-d’s presence when we come and go.
Korach felt that since Mitzvos are there to connect to the Almighty, wouldn’t it be better to connect with a completely dyed blue garment rather than just a strand? And as long as I am connected to G-d through the texts in my bookshelves, why do I need an actual Mezzuza on my door?
Moshe countered that in order to be truly connected to G-d one has to follow the rules and the system of G-d’s law. Ignoring the law by basing one’s connectivity to G-d on his own perception is contrary to G-d’s will and is harmful and destructive.
Interestingly, these two laws of Tzitzis and Mezzuza that Korach chose for his arguments, both require that they be constructed or written in a specific order. A Mezzuza must be written in order, therefore if there is a mistake in a word or letter the Sofer can only correct it if he erases everything written after the mistake and begins anew from there. If G-d’s name was written after the mistake it cannot be repaired because erasing G-d’s name is a sin and the script can never be used. Accordingly, a Sofer needs to be a G-d fearing person.
Regarding Tztizis, the tassels have to be knotted to the garment only after it already has four corners. If the four corners were created after the tassels were attached it is disqualified. Similarly, the tassels must be knotted on the four cornered garment; one cannot take an already knotted tassel and attach it to a garment.
Thus a Mezzuza or Tzitzis can appear perfect, yet, if they were prepared in the wrong order, they will be unable to be the conduit to achieve Kedusha – a connection to the holiness to the Almighty.
It is imperative that we act with precision and care in the performance of our laws if we want to become elevated and feel, experience and reach our relationship and bond with the Almighty!
Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks