Three kids were on route home a week ago and since then we’re holding our breath. There is nothing to say, but pray. May we hear good news soon.
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This week I had the opportunity to participate at a SWAT training, role playing for emergency situations. The reply to my ‘good morning’ as I walked in was, “great, we need a dead female”… I got a torn shirt, “bullet shot” in my forehead, a very “bloody” wig and lots of red paint – which is still in my currently pinkish hair. Over the next 7 hours I “died” and was resurrected numerous times.
Lying motionless with my eyes closed on the (relatively) cool concrete floor in this somewhat macabre pose, listening to the rescue teams training, working hard to figure out how to move in unison, anticipate complicated situations, support each other and save us, I had some extra time to think of this week’s parasha hero, Korach and his 250 people. Korach incites a mutiny challenging Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership. After all, they are all from the tribe of the Levi and the whole nation is “holy”, why should Moses and Aaron tell everybody what to do? Korach is further accompanied by Moses’ inveterate foes, Datan and Aviram. Joining them are 250 distinguished members of the community, who offer holy incense to prove that they are worthy of the priesthood. You might think Moses and Aaron feel relieved to have so many willing helpers, but instead, the earth opens up, swallowing the mutineers and a fire consumes those who offered the incense.
Who is Korach? In my usual manner, and with my extra time (on that floor), I started trying to analyze Korach’s name, the root and the letters. Korach is spelled kof.resh.chet. Rabbi Hirsch points that the same root is used for the word for balding (karcha: check Leviticus 21:5), a smooth interior of a garment (karachto, check Leviticus 13:55) and frost (kerach, Genesis 31:40), which is also the word for ice in Modern Hebrew. The root means “cohere”, which the dictionary says means- 1. to stick together; be united; hold fast, as parts of the same mass. 2. Physics (of two or more similar substances) to be united within a body by the action of molecular forces. 3. to be naturally or logically connected: 4. to agree; be congruous.
I was excited to find a letter by letter analysis of his name (ah, the things that make me excited!):
According to kabala, the ideal balance between thought and action is hinted in the letter heh. The letter heh is made of three parts: the top – for thought; the right side – for speech and the left – for action. Notice, that the left side is shorter than the others and that it stands sort of “under” the top, indicating that action is subject to thought.
Each of the letters is Korach’s name is very similar to the heh, but is different, and how it’s different is significant to what happened and what we can learn.
The letter kof is like a heh except the left line goes down lower than the right, indicating a situation when those who act are not under those who think, which drags the former lower.
The letter resh is like heh except it has no left side at all, parallel to Korach’s dmand to separate thinking from doing.
The letter chet is like heh, except the left side is closed, making all three aspects – thought, speech and action – equal.
Just from his name, we see that Korach demanded often conflicting things: to be “equal” as in “kulam kdoshim”, everybody is holy, and yet, to be a leader, unique above everybody, so which way is it?
In Pirkei Avot (the Sayings of the Fathers 5:20), we’re told: “Any dispute that is for the sake of heaven will have a constructive outcome; but one that is not for the sake of heaven will not have a constructive outcome. What sort fo dispute is for the sake of Heaven? The dispute between Hillel and Shamai. And which was not for the sake of Heaven? – The dispute of Korach and his entire company”.
Wait, if we want to use these role models, shouldn’t the parallel to Hillel and Shamai, two giants of two different opinions and ways of thinking, be Korach and Moses?
But the Mishna chose to say, Korach vechol adato, Korach and all his crowd, to say, the dispute was not at all between Korach and Moses, but rather, it was internal, between Korach and his very own people!
Korach is considered the prototype of divisiveness. His criticism, even if it had some valid points, is not constructive. He is not interested in fixing or improving things. It is all about glorifying himself and only himself. Hence, his priorities are mixed up and messed up; his “gang” is united by who they are opposing, not positive input and desire for anyone’s well being; and their “togetherness” is only temporary. He is a role model for how not to be, how not to do things and thus is not sustainable. Like ice (kerach), Korach and his group break apart and melt away when light shines on them.