Monday, June 11, 2007

Korach 5631 First Ma'amar

Why did Korach challenge Moshe Rabbeinu’s authority? Korach himself explains, “The entire community is holy and God is among them so why do you raise yourselves above the congregation of God?” Korach is right. The entire nation is holy and God is among them. What was his mistake?

Korach believed that each person can come close to God on the basis of his own merit. While individual merit is important, it is a mistake to think that it is adequate. The nation of Israel is one organism. Each part of the organism – each Jew – can only reach his potential within the context of the entire organism. We learn this from a Zohar which describes God’s revelation on Shabbos. The Zohar teaches us that God only sits on the throne of glory on Shabbos, a time when the entire Creation is elevated towards its singular source. That singular source is, of course, God Himself. God’s sitting on the throne of glory represents His revelation. So, God’s revelation is dependent on each part of the Creation striving towards Him.

When we say that each part of the Creation strives towards God we mean that each part is doing its unique function. A creation brings honor to its Creator by doing that for which it was created. When every part of the Creation is accomplishing its unique task, the entire Creation is complete and can be said to be at peace. This happened for the first time on the first Shabbos, Shabbos Breishis. This is why the Zohar in this week’s parsha says, “… the Creation could not exist until God came and brought peace to it. What is peace? Shabbos.” With the advent of Shabbos, each facet of the Creation automatically was elevated towards the Source. God, in response, sat on the throne of glory.

The Sfas Emes explains that if this is the case regarding the relationship between God and the Creation, that each created thing only comes close to God (and God to it) as it performs its unique task within the context of the Creation as a whole, then surely each individual Jew can only come close to God within the context of the nation of Israel.

The Midrash makes this very point when citing the difference between the nation of Israel and the other nations of the world, “The other nations of the world have many priests and many different ways of worship. We have one God, one Torah, one law, one altar, one high priest and you 250 men all want the high priesthood?” The Midrash is telling us that we need only one high priest. His contribution is for all of us. The nation’s job is to connect to him and through him to achieve a closeness to God. An organism has many parts, each of which has its own unique function for the benefit of the entire organism. Each individual’s service benefits the whole and the whole, in turn benefits the individual. Korach, though, believed that each individual could approach God on his own merit. This is why the Zohar says that Korach contested peace and Shabbos.

Just as God chooses each of us for a unique task, He chose Aharon HaCohen for a unique task. Aharon HaCohen was chosen for holiness. The pasuk in Divrei HaYamim states this clearly, “... וַיִבָּדֵל אהרֹן להקדישו קֹדש קדשים הוא ובניו עד עולם .../… Aharon was set apart, to sanctify him as holy-of-holies, he and his sons forever …” Korach was right. The entire nation is holy. However, he missed the point. The nation receives holiness through Aharon and his sons.

Korach was jealous of Aharon because he thought that Aharon received his position on the merit of his service to God. Korach thought that others were just as worthy if not more worthy than Aharon. He did not understand that God assigned Aharon a unique mission that only Aharon could accomplish. This assignment was not a reward. It was not based on anything Aharon did to deserve this mission. Aharon was simply an agent just as we are all agents to accomplish our own unique missions. This is what Moshe Rabeinu meant when he told Korach, “לכן אתה וכל עדתך הנועדים על ה' ואהרֹן מה הוא כי תלינו עליו/Therefore, you and your entire community assemble against God, for what is Aharon that you complain against him?” Korach’s jealousy of Aharon indicates that he entirely missed the point. The greatness of Aharon was in that he completely subordinated himself to his assigned mission. Chazal praise Aharon specifically in that he did not change anything that he was asked to do. He considered himself a tool ready to do God’s will.

God assigns each of us a unique task within the context of the entire nation of Israel. There is a symbiotic relationship between each individual and the nation of Israel as a whole. Each individual, by performing his unique task, contributes to the entire nation and is elevated, too. Each of us benefits as well, from the unique contributions of every other individual.