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 (5765)
This week the Torah teaches us the frightening story of how one charismatic Jew named Korach rallied and united the ENTIRE Jewish people (see Rashi 16:19) against Moses.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that according to the Midrash (Seder Olom Raba chapt. 8) Korach began his revolution over a year after the Jews left Egypt, immediately after Moses' victory over the spies (miraglim) that we read of in last week's section.
Why did Korach wait till then? Why didn't he rebel sooner? Why didn't Moses' victory over the spies cool Korach's evil enthusiasm?
But the real question is; how could all the Jews have followed Korach and opposed Moses, who did more for Israel than any ruler in history ever did for his nation: He led them from abject slavery to wealth and freedom, provided them with Manna, water and protective clouds in the desert, received the Torah from G-d and painstakingly explained it and bore all the problems of the Jewish people.
He was the perfect, flawless leader!
What could have moved in each and every Jewish soul to reject him so abruptly and totally?
And how is this relevant now, to each of us today?
To understand this here is an almost unbelievable story I saw in Otzer Sipori Chabad #18 pg. 66.
The fourth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch was called Reb Shmuel or the Mahara'sh for short.
He lived the shortest of all the Chabad leaders but his life was filled with many open miracles. Here is an example.
The Sabbath had entered hours ago but Rabbi Yerucham was still praying. He was swaying back and forth with his eyes squeezed shut, humming a slow Chassidic tune and occasionally praying a word or two in deep concentration. He wasn't requesting anything from G-d or even praising and extolling His unlimited kindness, power and mercy. The teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, explained by the Rebbes of Chabad in their 'Maamorim' (Chassidic discourses) had conquered his mind and heart and made it impossible for him to pray quickly.
Reb Yerucham was uniting with the infinite; offering up every fiber of his body and soul to his Creator.
An hour after everyone had left the Shul (synagogue) he finished praying and briefly laid down on the old bench he was sitting. His wife was waiting for him at home to partake of the Sabbath meal but he was so exhausted he had to take a short rest.
He closed his eyes and slept.
Suddenly he heard a noise and sat up to see that he was not alone. 'Gevalt!' He thought to himself 'it's the REBBE!' The Rebbe was standing with his back to him unaware that anyone had been there sleeping. “He probably thought that no one was here and came to pray alone!”
The Rebbe suddenly turned facing Reb Yerucham, smiled and said. "Ahh, Reb Yerucham, I'm glad to see you!" (The Rebbe was very fond him)
"You know what I was just doing? I was escorting my father! (The 'Tzemach Tzedik'; the third Chabad Rebbe who had passed away years earlier). "He was just here to visit me. Do you know how I learned how to escort him? Well I'll tell you."
Reb Yerucham couldn't believe his ears. The Holy Rebbe was actually revealing mystical secrets to him as though he was giving the time of day! The Rebbe continued:
"When I was a young boy my father and I had a set time that we would learn Torah every day in his room. These times were very precious to us both and neither of us ever missed or even came late.
"One day, I arrived at the appointed time and found to my amazement that the door was closed! I couldn't figure it out. Usually the door was wide open for me. My father was very punctual and dependable to say the least; it wasn't like him to cancel our daily routine without at least sending a message.
"At first I just stood there not knowing what to do but when I heard people talking inside I decided to take a peek through the keyhole.
"I saw my father talking with two very distinguished looking Jews who were seated around his desk that looked very familiar, but I couldn't place them.
Suddenly I realized who they were and I couldn't believe my eyes!
The older one was my grandfather; the Alter Rebbe and the other, his son the Mittler Rebbe (the first and second Rebbes of Chabad) both of whom had departed this world years earlier!
"I was so hypnotized by the awesome sight that I didn't even move when my father approached the door and opened it.
"'Aha, Shmulik!' He exclaimed joyously when he saw me, 'Come in!'
"He turned to his guests and said 'Here is my Shmulik'! To which the Alter Rebbe replied, 'tell your Shmulik to say a Chassidic discourse. (Ma’amar)'
"I was never shy as a child so I approached the two visitors until I was close enough to touch them, pointed to the older one, the Alter Rebbe, looked at my father and declared,
"I would rather that he says the Ma’amar (discourse) and with G-d's help I will repeat it."
"And saying that, I reached out and grabbed my Grandfather to see if he was really real - and he was! He was actually physically there!
"He said the Ma’amar, I repeated it word for word and after I finished they all agreed it was very good. And then my father 'escorted' them away.
"In fact I still remember it. Would you like to hear it Reb Yerucham? I'll say it to you in a minute.
"Anyway, from how I saw my father 'escort' them away, that is how I learned to escort my father just now."
Although the story is unusual it is not unique. Elijah the prophet appeared regularly after he died (e.g. Brachot 3a), Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi returned home each Shabbat to make Kiddush after he was dead and buried (Ketuvot 104a), we regularly say "Dovid the king of Israel is still alive and real" and the Talmud tells us that Moses did not die (Sota 13b)." Just to give a few examples of the Raising of the Dead.
This is why Korach began his rebellion after the defeat of the spies because they couldn't stand Moses' demanding approach to life.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains (Likutei Sichot 4) that the spies wanted to stay in the desert in order to live a spiritual life; learning Torah uninterruptedly, surrounded by G-d's miraculous protection and provision.
But Moses chastised them: G-d doesn't want only spirituality; He wants us to do the commandments and live in Israel, in a real physical world!!
This is where Korach jumped in.
"Aha!" he exclaimed, "The commandments and living in Israel are the most important?! Why, those things are PHYSICAL. Everyone puts on the same Tefillin, keeps the same Shabbat etc. In spiritual things like Torah you, Moses, are the greatest, but in physical commandments everyone is the same!!
If Torah is not the main thing then neither are you!
But Korach was wrong.
Because, although the commandments are physical, their PURPOSE is infinitely higher and more important than even the highest spiritual levels (See beginning of Tanya Chapt. 4):
That is why the commandments bring a strange thing called “The Raising of the Dead”
The Raising of the dead is the 13th principle of Jewish faith and is the ultimate goal of Judaism and of the entire creation.
Only then will the true infinite G-dly nature of the world …. Especially of the Jewish BODYS that had done the commandments, be revealed (see L'havin inyan Tchiat HaMatim 5746 chapt 2).
And that is why everyone joined Korach against Moses.
Moses was trying to teach the Jews to be holy in EVERY instant of their PHYSICAL lives; to prepare for the raising of the dead. And the Jews couldn't take it.
They were willing enter Israel, do all the commandments and even live according to the Torah. But they wanted to be "normal"; to have some time ‘away’ from infinity. (The word ‘Korach’ also means ‘separate’. Korach proposed a separation between the Creator and the creation) which appeals to everyone! And so they rebelled…. And lost.
But Moses won! Although he didn’t succeed in bringing Korach and all the Jews to the level of truth he wanted to……. Nevertheless he opened the spiritual pipelines for the future revelation of the Raising of the Dead that will come though Moshiach.
That is why all the rabbis in our story were 'alive' long after they died. They were examples of the Raising of the Dead, because they were all connected to Moshiach. (some say that each of them was the Moshiach of his generation): as was Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (Sanhedrin 98b), King David and Elijah the prophet; their entire existence is connected to Moshiach. That is why they were able to live physically even after their 'deaths'.
The lesson for all of us today is not to be followers of Korach; 'normal' Jews who are satisfied with the world as it is.
Rather we must 'enliven the dead' and do all we can to bring (see last chapter of our Moshiach essay at for details) even one more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scales and bring ...
Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.