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Parshat Korach (5766)

This week's section holds the ultimate lesson in self-improvement: Unless you are Moses, you can never really be sure of yourself.

Throughout history there have been myriads of inspired trailblazers, geniuses, dictators, philosophers, holy men, etc. who convinced millions, even billions, they were right . . . but were totally wrong.

But, on the other hand, it isn't surprising; they didn't follow the Torah .

. . and the Torah is the only source of truth and true success.

But here, in this week's section, we learn that the Torah is also not enough!

Korach knew and observed the entire Torah. He succeeded in convincing the entire Jewish nation, including the rabbis, to follow him and he even had the power of prophesy. And nevertheless he was completely wrong!

What is this coming to teach us? If he was wrong . . . then what hope have we got?

To understand this, here is a story:

Yona (not his real name) was sitting in chair behind the counter looking sadly out the window of his meager store at nothing. Occasionally a cat would stray in, look around, and leave. But except for that, since he opened two months ago, no one entered.

He looked back into his Talmud and tried to concentrate on the words but tears welled up in his eyes.

Less than a year ago he had been the chief manager of a large match factory in the city of Dvinsk. He had good wages and good friends. His two boys got the best Torah education possible. He had a nice house and his wife also made good money sewing and repairing expensive clothes. So they were well-off. Money was never lacking for giving to charity and his Shabbat and holiday tables were always packed with guests.

But then suddenly it all crumbled to pieces . . . as though someone had put a curse on him. First the match factory burned to the ground. Then, after he recovered from that, as hard as he tried, he couldn't find another job.

Then, on top of it all, his wife fell sick and the doctors said there was no cure. Needless to say, debts started piling up and it wasn't long before they had to sell their house and move to a small shack to stay alive. In fact, poor Yona had to take to begging just to keep his family alive.

One day, one of his old friends who happened to be a follower (Chassid) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (at that time, the fifth Rebbe, Rebbe Shalom Dov Ber, nicknamed the Rebbe Reshab) saw him and couldn't believe his eyes.

"Yona! Is that you? What happened? Begging? OY!" He gave him a nice amount of money and said, "Listen, Yona, you have to see the Rebbe! I mean, the Jewish people aren't orphans. I know you aren't a Chassid but just as Elijah and Moses did miracles to help Jews, so can the Rebbe. Yona, you have to at least ask your wife!"

Poor Yona was so desperate he was ready to do anything, except for this.

True, he wasn't a misnaged (those who oppose the Chassidim and their

philosophy) but he was far from a Chassid! He would ask his wife, just as the Chassid suggested.

That evening he went home and quietly closed the door behind him so as not to disturb his wife's sleep and cleared his throat until she opened her eyes. She smiled and asked how it went today, if there were many donors, and the like. He told her what the chassid told him and surprisingly, she agreed.

The next day he traveled to Lubavitch with mixed emotions, On the one hand, he didn't like the idea of putting such trust in a human being; on the other hand, the Chassidim compared the Rebbe to Moses, and you have to trust Moses.

It took a few days but finally he got a private audience (called "yechidut"

by the Chassidim). When he entered he understood why they compared him to Moses. He had never experienced such a thing in his life. It was as though he was in another dimension--the dimension of certainty.

The Rebbe listened to Yona's story and replied calmly. "I suggest you move with your family to the city of Kovna and open a hat store. Your wife can make the hats and you can sell them."

"Hats?" thought Yona to himself, "did the Rebbe say 'hats'?" He had never sold anything in his life and had absolutely no knowledge of hats except that they are worn on the head. And his wife was sick, she couldn't make hats! And why Kovna, which meant moving hundreds of miles?

"Rebbe," he stammered and cleared his throat several times. He had a lot to say but all that came out was. "Errr . . . why Kovna? Maybe, that is . . . I live in Dvinsk. Maybe Dvinsk, a hat shop?"

But the Rebbe just repeated his suggestion, looked down at some papers, and Yona knew it was time to leave.

He returned home, told his wife what the Rebbe said and, to his amazement, as soon as she heard what the Rebbe said, she sat up in bed and declared, "Well, I have to get to work on those hats. What type of hats should I make?"

And in moments she was sitting behind her sewing machine and working.

A week later they had rented both a house and a small shop in Kovna. They made a few shelves in the shop, Yona constructed a sign to hang outside, put a mezuzah on the door, and they were open for business! Now all they needed were customers.

But days, then weeks, passed and no customers came.

"Could it be that the Rebbe was wrong?" Yona thought to himself. "All his chassidim said that it's impossible for the Rebbe to be wrong. But after all, he's only human! Why did he pick Kovna? It's so far away. If he was going to be wrong, then at least he could have picked somewhere closer to Dvinsk? And why hats?"

Suddenly his dull reverie was broken by the sound of horses and a carriage stopping before his shop.

He straightened himself, put on a smile, and in walked a wealthy looking, heavy-set gentile.

"Is this all you have?" he asked. I never saw this store before? You must have just opened. Hey, is everything all right? You look like you've been crying? Is everything all right?"

Yona wanted so badly to talk to someone that he poured out his heart to the stranger -- how he used to manage a huge factory and became a pauper, how the Rebbe sent him to sell hats, of all things, here in Kovna, of all places.

"Match factory?!" exclaimed the visitor. "You managed a MATCH FACTORY? Why this is wonderful! Your Rebbe or whatever you call him is a genius! A prophet and a genius! I desperately need you! Listen, I have a brother that owns a huge match factory in Kiev. If you worked in matches you certainly heard of it. It's five times a big as the one that burned down in Dvinsk.

"Anyway, one of his machines, the biggest and most expensive one, broke down about a month ago and, well, he brought the biggest experts and no one can fix it.

"Listen my friend, you weren't sent here for nothing! What do you say? Fix it and you will be a rich man."

Yona explained that he had been a manager and not a mechanic, but it didn't help. The next day he was in Kiev looking at the machine. It took him three days to take it apart and figure out the problem and another three to put it back again.

But it worked!

Yona got a huge reward. He was hired as manager of the Kiev factory and became richer than ever. His wife completely recovered and a lot of people, especially Yona himself, realized the G-dliness of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

This answers our questions. Korach believed that Moses was no more than a great, inspired, wise, spiritual leader but certainly NOT a different type of human . . . not a G-dly man!

This, explained the Lubavitcher Rebbe, was the real point of the argument:

Moses wanted to reveal the essence of G-d in this physical world something like how it was in the Holy of Holies and on Mount Sinai when the Torah was given.

And this begins with the Jewish people. This is what they were "chosen" by G-d for! So he pushed them to constantly raise themselves to higher levels of love, fear, belief, and unity with G-d.

In other words, Moses had succeeded in taking the Jews from Egypt but now he had to take the Egypt (Mitzraim, which also means "limitation") from the Jews. And this means accepting that he (and the Moses of every generation) is THE example of G-d's Unity with the world.

While Korach (his name means "division") had a much easier and more "practical" plan: "Leave the Jews alone! The Jews are holy enough as they are. And leave G-d in Heaven, far from the world! There is no such thing as G-dly men . . . only spiritually inspired ones and they will deal with spiritual matters, not every simple Jew!"

That is how he convinced everyone to rebel and follow him instead of Moses.

But he was wrong. The purpose of the Jews is to follow the Moses of each generation and unite G-d with the world.

All this is preparation for (and something similar to) Moshiach, who is the goal of Judaism and of all Creation. Moshiach will be the greatest leader ever -- a king that will succeed in filling the world, including all mankind, with the awareness of the Oneness, Greatness, Kindness, and Awesomeness of the Creator of the Universe.

It all depends on us to learn the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and do all we can to bring...

Moshiach NOW!!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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