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Friday, June 18, 2010

Korach's Gripe Part Two

Okay--I think I can do better next week and get something by Thursday. Thanks for the suggestion, Hyla! In the meantime, this finishes off the basic thought I had from last week's parsha:

Now we can understand the midrash brought earlier. In the midrashic version of Korach's claim, the people are represented by the tallit which is made entirely of t'chelet. According to the Torah, a four cornered garment must have one thread of t'chelet in each corner in order to fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzit. Korach wants to say that implies that the t'chelet is special—just a little bit of t'chelet will exempt the entire garment; therefore, a whole lot of t'chelet would certainly exempt the garment! Just like the people are currently led by just two people, Moshe and Aharon, who are holy, but the entire nation is holy so they, the nation, are exempted from this leadership!

Moshe, though, replies by saying that this is not a matter for reasoning and logic. God decreed that a garment must have tzitzit no matter what it is made from, no matter how 'holy' it might be. So, too, God decreed that Moshe and Aharon must lead the nation no matter how much collective holiness is represented by the mass of people.

The challenge of Korach from a Torah scroll is similar but adds a little something to the mix. Whereas the argument with t'chelet and the tallit is questionable because t'chelet is not really inherently holy, a Torah scroll represents the single most holy item in Judaism. It is true that for practical halachic purposes a mezuzah is less holy than a Torah scroll. So the argument is now a bit stronger when he challenges Moshe by saying that if a room is full of Torah scrolls, which are so holy, they must exempt the room from needing a mezuzah!

Here again, though, Moshe tells him that the mitzvah of mezuzah is decreed by God and applies regardless of how much holiness is contained within the room. Moshe is always arguing in these aggadot, just as he does in the Torah verses, that his position as leader is not his idea. He makes no claim to be holier or better than anyone else and, in fact, implies that he concedes the nation as a whole to be more holy.

But being more holy per se is not the point. The point is to fulfill God's will. Korach has simply lost faith that God decreed all of these things. He has come instead to rely on his own reasoning as a basis for challenging Moshe.

But Korach is wrong. It is not about reasoning, it is not even about aggregate holiness. It is about listening to and accepting what God has decreed. 

Shabbat Shalom!

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