This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Korach (5771)
This week we read a story that should not have been told. It is about an evil man called Korach, who turned the entire Jewish nation against Moses and Aaron and almost succeeded in ending Jewish history (G-d forbid).
The Torah is not ashamed to tell us that Korach was an earnest G-d fearing Jew of impeccable credentials who had reached the peak of spiritual achievement. He was beloved by all, had genuine prophetic powers and unmatched charisma.
How and why did he turn everyone against, of all people, Moses?! What did Moses do wrong? And what did he do right?
Rashi (16:1) tells us that one of the arguments Korach used was about the commandment of 'Tzitzis' and 'Tchailes' (before wearing any four cornered garment, adult male Jews are commanded to tie on each of its corners, four specially made strings (Tzitzis) one of which must be dyed a bluish color called 'Tchailes' (today, according to most opinions, this color does not exist).
So Korach publicly challenged Moses and asked; "Does a garment (Talit) that is totally 'Tchailes' legally require an additional blue string?" When Moses answered yes Korach and followers scoffed, "Aha! How can one string of 'Tchailes be required for a garment that is totally Tchailes?"
After this, the people were his!
At first glance this is totally not understood. What was his point? And why was this argument about the Tzitzis so convincing
To understand this here is a story I just read (HaYidion HaKfar #613)
This story takes place some 150 years ago in Poland as Reb Eliahu, a wealthy salesman in Krakow, discovered that he had lost his 18 year old son Itzik.
At first the boy seemed to be a wholesome, enthusiastic observant Jew like all the others but then something happened.
Itzik had been drawn into the snare of the 'enlightenment' movement that was spreading like wildfire throughout Europe and Eastern Russia.
Especially appealing to the youth, groups of 'enlightened' young men preached that faith and trust in G-d were ideas of the past while today intellect and culture were supreme. Philosophy and science, they claimed, proved beyond any reasonable doubt that man was created to have pleasure and there was no such thing as a Creator to limit our deeds or to believe in or pray to.
Itzik ate it up. He was free! Finally he could be 'himself'. He returned home late one day in unusual garments and announced before his mother and father with a far-away look in his eye that the Torah and Judaism are not for him. He found new, truly open-minded friends and was beginning a new life.
After a few seconds his mother began to weep and his father stood stunned and tried meekly to argue with him but to no avail. "Why didn’t you talk this over with us?" his father tried to think of something to say. "Do you really think that all these genius Rabbis; Moses, Isaiah, Rabb iAkiva have been wrong all these years??"
But nothing he said helped. Itzik had tasted 'freedom' and nothing would convince him to leave it.
Hoping and praying that he would change his mind his parents said nothing and waited. But, a few months later when Itzik announced that he had proposed marriage to the local druggist’s daughter it was the final straw. "The druggist’s daughter?! But the druggist isn’t Jewish?" both his parents shouted in unison.
His father totally lost his temper and told him to leave the house while his mother began crying even more intensely than the first time. But Itzik was not in the least moved. He just shrugged his shoulders, smiled and said "I knew you wouldn’t understand." Went to his room, packed a bag and left.
But his parents did give up. They asked around until someone gave them advice to go to the holy Rebbe Yhoshua of Belz and ask for a blessing.
They took the advice; traveled to Belz, got an audience with the Rebbe, told their pathetic story, the Rebbe asked a few questions, then became silent for a minute or so and finally answered. "Give him love! You must invite him back home. Ask him not to transgress anything in front of you and … just trust in G-d. Don’t worry, everything will be alright. But try please to bring him here; I want to give him a present."
Meanwhile, all this time Itzik didn’t have an easy time. At first he lived with friends for a week or two but he felt he was intruding so he rented a room. But after a week his money ran out and, ashamed to ask his bride to be for money, he found himself on the streets sleeping on park benches. So when his parents located him and invited him to return home he jumped at the invitation.
It worked just as the Rebbe said; Itzik kept his gentile 'friends' but was so grateful to have a warm bed to sleep on that a few weeks later when his father suggested that he accompany him on his next trip to Belz he actually agreed.
A few days later Itzik found himself entering the Rebbe’s room together with his father. His father had been so friendly that he almost forgot the differences between them… but as soon as he stood before the Rebbe he remembered. "Oh oh!" he thought to himself. "For sure this old man is going to threaten me with fire and brimstone if I go through with the wedding!"
But it wasn't so. In fact the Rebbe received him very cordially, blessed him with good news and ended by saying, "I understand that you are about to make a big move and are heavily involved in the world. Well I’d like to give you something to wear that will protect you." And he handed him a small package.
After Itzik and his father left the Rebbe’s room they opened the package to reveal a 'Tallit Katan'; a four cornered garment with tzitzis on each of the corners designed to be worn under one’s shirt or jacket.
Itzik put the garment in his pocket and was grateful that the Rebbe didn't mention anything about his upcoming wedding.
A few weeks later Itzik's big day arrived. He thought about it for a few seconds and finally decided to take the Rebbe's advice. He wore the 'Talit Katan' under his shirt, dressed up in his tuxedo, put on his high hat and headed for the wedding hall.
His parents were broken, the only thing that comforted them was that the Belzer Rebbe did not seem worried, but they did not sleep that night.
Then, at three in the morning, their door burst open and Itzik staggered in like a wounded deer. His garments were dirty and torn, his face was swollen and bloody and he was obviously drunk.
He went to the sink, rinsed his face repeatedly with cold water, sat down heavily on a chair and began to explain what happened while pressing a towel to his bleeding face.
"After the ceremony we started drinking and dancing, things were pretty wild and suddenly some of them started saying things against the Jews. I thought these people didn’t care but I was wrong. I began thinking that it would just die down but it didn’t. The women were laughing and well I just kept quiet and pretended to be one of them.
Then someone saw the tzitzis on that present the Rebbe gave me and just came over, called me a dirty Jew and gave me a punch in the face. Then another did the same. Someone knocked me to the ground another called me another name. It was a miracle but somehow I found myself outside the hall. I hid from them for a while and, well, thank G-d, I escaped. Wow! Did I make a mistake! I mean, if the Rebbe hadn't given me that garment I might have become one of them!"
This answers our question.
The purpose of the Tzitzis, especially the blue string, is to show that G-d cares about details.
The Jews were 'chosen' to tell the world about G-d, first, how G-d is 'above' and totally encompasses and ‘negates’ all being. And second; that He also is very close and cares for and provides for every detail of creation.
The first, 'encompassing' aspect is symbolized by the 'Tallit' garment while the second, 'caring' aspect is symbolized by the 'Tzitzis' strands.
Therefore Korach scoffed at the idea of putting one string on a garment that is totally 'tchailes; he wanted to stress the first aspect: that everyone is equal and Moses has no right to reign supreme.
But he was wrong. The fact is that G-d is involved in and cares for all the details of the world as well and He WANTS Moses (and the Moses of each generation) to be 'above' and guide the Jewish people.
This is especially relevant to us today; we are (as the Lubavitcher Rebbe said many times) the generation of Moshiach. True all men are equal but Moshiach (who will be a great guide like Moses) will bring out the differences in each of us as well.
Moshiach will be the opposite of Korach: he will show how each human is unique and possesses some special quality that is essential to the world.
Then, when we see that each person is precious and necessary for the welfare of all mankind, there will be true appreciation and love between each and all members of the human race. The opposite of the strife and contention caused by Korach (see Avot 5:17).
But it all depends on us! We must learn the ideas of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (see your local Chabad House for details) and do even one more good deed, say one more positive word or even think one more positive thought.
Even this is enough to tile the scales to bring
Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.