Food For the Soul
The sixteenth chapter of Numbers tells the story of the mutiny led by Korach, a cousin of Moses who challenged Moses’ authority. In the end, Korach and his henchmen were swallowed by the earth in a divine display of rather unearthly justice.
The Midrash reveals some of the behind-the-scenes dialogue between these men. Remember, Korach was no pushover. Besides being of noble lineage, he was clever, wealthy and quite charismatic. One of the questions Korach put to Moses was this: does a house full of holy books still require a mezuzah? Moses answered that it did. Korach scoffed at the idea, ridiculing Moses. The little mezuzah contains the Shema—but two chapters of Torah. A whole houseful of books with the entire Torah won’t do the trick, and a little mezuzah will? It doesn’t make any sense, argued Korach.
Why was Moses’ answer correct? What indeed is the significance of a small parchment on the doorpost in relation to a library inside? The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that it all depends on location. The books are inside. The mezuzah is outside. When there are Jewish texts inside our study and living rooms, this indicates that the home is a Jewish home. This is good, and as it should be. But what happens when we leave the comfortable confines of our home? Do we cease to be Jewish?
The mezuzah is at the threshold of our homes, at the juncture and crossover between our inner lives and outer lives. As we make the transition from private person to public citizen, we need to be reminded of whom we are, and that we take our identity with us wherever we may go. There is only One G-d, says the little scroll, whether in our private domain or in the big, wide world.
From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman
Joshua Stops the Sun
July 2, 2022 – the third of Tamuz – commemorates the third of Tamuz of the year 2488 from creation (1273 BCE) when Joshua was leading the Jewish people in one of the battles to conquer the Land of Israel. Victory was imminent, but darkness was about to fall. “Sun,” proclaimed Joshua, “be still at Giv’on; moon, at the Ayalon valley” (Joshua 10:12). The heavenly bodies acquiesced, halting their progress through the sky until Israel’s armies brought the battle to its successful conclusion.
Mind Over Matter
Even the most sublime strivings of the spirit must be restrained when its passion drives a wedge between ourselves and others. We know our passion is misdirected when it prompts us to look down on others who have achieved less than us or begrudge those who have achieved more…
True love for G-d should not drive us from each other; G-d loves others as much as he loves us. Now we understand where Korach went wrong. Korach’s zeal for the high priesthood led him to a rebellion that was bitterly divisive. This was the first indicator that his passion for G-d was misguided…
From an article by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow
“Korach the son of Yitzhar… assembled against Moses and against Aaron…” (Korach 16:1-3)
Korach erred by assembling his followers to rise and rebel against Moses. He thought that by doing so he could, as it were, force the realization of the redemption before its time. He did not realize that it could not happen until the refinement of the world would be completed.
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
The Greenest Grass
A rabbinical colleague tells me that he’s had extensive contact with one of the most popular and renowned entertainment celebrities of our time. This star is not only hugely famous, wealthy and successful, but has been acclaimed around the globe for his rare talent and genius. Hundreds of thousands of fans wish they could have his life, that they could be him. In the course of their conversations, the rabbi asked this man what it is that he constantly wishes for in life. His answer: Obscurity. His dream is to fade from the limelight, and lead a simple, anonymous, man-on-the-street, white-picket-fence existence.
In this week’s Torah portion, Korach, we meet a man who by all accounts was a very intelligent, affluent and gifted individual. A Levite by birth, he already occupied a position of prominence and prestige within the community of Israel. Yet he rallies together a band of fellow Levites to challenge the leadership of Moses and the priesthood of Aaron. “The entire community—all of them—are holy, and G-d is among them,” Korach protests, “so why do you [Moses and Aaron] exalt yourselves over the congregation of G-d?”
How virtuous. How egalitarian. After all, every soul, bar none, is a spark of G-d. How then can distinctions be drawn between Jews—whereby this one is a tribal prince, this one a Levite, this one a priest and yet another a high priest? Let us all stand as one without separation or distinction.
Righteous indignation is often nothing more than envy with a halo. Indeed, for all of his “man of the people” posturing, Korach was not nearly as unselfish and altruistic as his words might suggest. The man felt rebuffed in that Aaron, and not he, was granted the high priesthood, and could not abide this perceived snub to his own standing and stature.
In responding to Korach, Moses says: “It is too much for you, O offspring of Levi.” In other words, can you not recognize the beauty and uniqueness of the gifts you do have? You are a member of the chosen people. As a Levite you are a keeper of the sanctuary. You are a respected dignitary. You have so much going for yourself. How could you possibly be discontent? Why must you seek the priesthood, when G-d clearly gave that to somebody else? Korach’s begrudging spirit gave him no peace, and ultimately led to a fatally disastrous end for him and his group.
The sages teach us: “There is no man who does not have his place.” If that’s the case, the commentaries ask, why is it that there are so many people who are so unhappy with their lot? The answer is that instead of savoring their own special place and flourishing therein, they futilely crave the place that belongs to somebody else.
The reason G-d created man as a single unit rather than as an entire species (as He did with the animal kingdom) is to show you that one man equals the world, says the Mishnah. Every individual is unique. You were handpicked to fulfill a specific mission, a mission that only you can perform. That mission is to enhance and perfect your world. And what is “your world”? It’s whatever you wake up to in the morning: your life, your family, your community, your personality, your problems, your circumstances—that’s your world. That’s the life you were put into, and that’s where your purpose can be found. We don’t sit around saying “if only.” “If only I had kids like those . . . if only my mother wouldn’t have married my father . . . if only I were better looking, more intelligent, more talented . . . ” It makes for nice fantasy, perhaps, but a total waste of time and energy when it invades reality.
When you live with a sense of divine purpose, you recognize that you are who you are, your life is what it is, because that’s what it’s meant to be. And it is within your own life that you are called upon to serve your Creator and fulfill your very distinctive mission and purpose.
Korach would have done well (as would we all) to heed the profound words of the serenity prayer. The key to living a good and happy life is to have the courage to change those things which can be changed, the serenity to accept those things which cannot be changed and the wisdom to know the difference. A person who sees the essence of life as serving the will of His Creator does not expend useless energy craving places where the grass is greener. He finds meaning, purpose, joy and fulfillment in the place where the grass is greenest of all: his own.
From an article by Rabbi Moshe Bryski