|In this week’s parsha we are confronted with the rebellious characters of Korah and his company of 250 “men of renown” who came against Moses and Aaron’s leadership. Korah begins his address against Moses and Aaron by saying, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord? So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face…” It is interesting to note how Korah starts off his accusation. He brings the whole congregation into his argument against Moses and Aaron. Korah makes it seem as though he is speaking on behalf of the nation. However, Korah is really just using the congregation as a means to settle his own personal grudge against God’s appointed leaders. If Korah had truly been concerned for the welfare of the people, he wouldn’t have gone about sowing division and discontent into the hearts and minds of the leaders and nation of Israel. Blowups like these don’t happen overnight. Korah is a good example to us all of what happens when we harbor and allow bitter-angry-grumbling-unsatisfied-ungrateful thoughts to fester and spread to others. The rebellion of Korah started small; it started in Korah’s thought life = his heart. He didn’t guard himself against the poison of bitterness rather he allowed his sour-disposition to be passed around which eventually infected/affected the entire community. Korah created an affirmation club where every person’s supposed “injustice” only added more fuel to his already fiery burning inferno, a fire that had been lit by the smallest of sparks from Korah’s own tongue. As James 3:5-6 tells us, “See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue…sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”
In Numbers 16:3 it says, “They gathered together against Moses and Aaron…” However, in Hebrew it says, “V’yikahalu Al-Moshe v’al Aharon…” which would be better translated as “And they congregated on Moses and on Aaron…” In other words, a band of 250 some men mobbed Moses and Aaron and began accusing them of all kinds of evils. This was a very serious ordeal when you think about 250 angry men who each had a personal “ax to grind” with Moses; yet, they said they were there on behalf of the nation. The Spirit of Korah (which is still around today) says it seeks unity, harmony and equality, but it always brings more division and contention into a community, not less. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks puts it well in his commentary concerning Korah and his Company. He writes that Korah’s rebellion “Was less a vision of the future than discontent about the present.” Korah and his entourage didn’t have a future vision that the nation could aspire to; they just knew they were fed up with the current situation. And because of this they brought death and discord into Israel’s camp. 14,950+ people died because of the bitterness, grumbling and evil-speech of one man. Korah allowed his heart to turn against the leaders of Israel who were chosen by God. Instead of being restored back to the community, he started his own.
|“Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab…” also joined with Korah in his conspiracy to overthrow Moses and Aaron’s leadership. When Moses tried (vs. 12) to send for Dathan and Abiram to reason with them, it is interesting to hear their response. “V’amru Lo Na’aleh—They said (as one) ‘We will not come up.’” What is interesting about this verse is that it doesn’t use the word “Bo, Halach” or any other form of the word “to come.” Rather, the response of Dathan and Abiram was “Lo Na’aleh.” The root word of “Na’aleh” is the word “Aleh” which literally means, “to go up, ascend, or climb.”
It is from this root word “Aleh” from which we get words such as the “Oleh” Offering = the whole burnt/ascent offering, or the word “Aliyah” which in modern Hebrew has come to refer to Jews returning to the Land of Israel. What Dathan and Abiram were really saying in essence was, “We’re not going to ascend to a higher spiritual or physical plain.” Moses was inviting Dathan and Abiram to meet with him so they could be reconciled. But these two men didn’t want reconciliation, and neither did they want to “ascend.” And because they didn’t make “Aliyah,” because they didn’t ascend, we read later in the story that Dathan, Abiram, their families, tents, flocks, herds, and “…all their goods…the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them…So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished.” The offer of reconciliation and ascension were offered by Moses, but because of Dathan and Abiram’s response, “Lo Na’aleh—We will not go up,” they found themselves instead, being swallowed in the earth and descending into the very depths of Sheol.
So we know we should not be like Korah, Dathan or Abiram, but what should we be like? What are our jobs and roles in this world? This is an important idea we must all understand. Our job in the world is to make “Teshuvah, Tikkun and Aliyah—Repentance, Fixing and Ascension.” What does all this mean? Let’s start with “Teshuvah—Repentance/Return.” The first step in each of our journeys is the recognition that we have walked contrary to God. Once we realize this, we must turn back to Him. People may say, “Well, I’ve already repented for what I’ve done;” but repentance is the action of returning to God, and that my friends, is a never-ending process. God even gave us a day of the week to remind us of the importance of returning to Him. That day is called the Sabbath; in Hebrew it is spelled “SHaBaT” What is interesting is that if you take these same letters and switch them around they spell the word “TaSHuV” (The letter Beit in the Hebrew Alphabet can have the sound of ‘B’ or ‘V’) The word “TaSHuV” is the same word as “Teshuvah—Return.” So every week the Sabbath is a reminder to Return to God. As God says to His people in Zechariah 1:3 “Shuvu Alai…V’ashuv Aleichem—Return to Me…and I will return to you.”
|Once we are on the path of returning to God, it is then that we must begin the process of “Tikkun—Fixing” all the mess in our life and the lives of those around us. The word “Tikkun” comes from the Hebrew root word “Takkan” which means “Straighten or Arrange.” In Ecclesiastes 7:13 it says, “Consider the work of God; for who can make straight what He has made crooked?” The word used here is the word “L’takken.” I find this verse to be rather encouraging. For if no one can make straight what God has made crooked, then can anyone make crooked what God has made straight?
There is a concept within Judaism referred to as “Tikkun Olam—Rectifying/Fixing the World.” What this means is that we shouldn’t just see Tikkun/Improvement in ourselves, instead, our individual “Tikkun HaLev—Fixing of the Heart” should bring transformation to the spheres of influence around us, which will hopefully and eventually bring about a complete “Tikkun Olam—Rectifying/Fixing of the World.” Rebbe Nachman in his book “Likutei Moharan” says, “Since each man must say, ‘the whole world was only created for me.’ (Sanhedrin 37) — hence, insofar as the world was created for me, I must at all times see and look into tikkun olam/rectifying the world fill the lacking of the world and pray for them.”
Everyday, Jewish people around the world pray a prayer called the Aleinu (Our Duty). Within this prayer, they pray to see the time when God will destroy all idols and “Takken Olam B’Malchut Shaddai—Straighten the world under the sovereignty of the Almighty.” May it be soon! Until then, it is up to us to bring “Tikkun HaLev—Fixing of the Heart” and “Tikkun Olam—Rectifying/Fixing of the World” into our homes, our workspaces, our spheres of influence and beyond!
Lastly, our job is to bring about “Aliyah—Ascension/Uplifting” in the world. What is the difference between this and “Tikkun—Fixing”? “Tikkun” is about bringing straightening to what is crooked, while “Aliyah” is about uplifting what is common and mundane. For example…when I plant a tree, I am making a “Tikkun” in the world, but when I make a blessing to God before eating the fruit of that tree, I am making “Aliyah.” I am turning the ordinary act of eating fruit, into an act of service to God. Making “Aliyah” in life means that everything in the world ought to remind us of God. It means that we live in a continual state of spiritual and physical awareness of God in and through everything. We don’t just make “Aliyah” ourselves. Aliyah is what we bring to the world. Bringing a heightened sense of God-awareness to the world is what making “Aliyah” is all about.
Micah 2:13 says that a time is coming when, “The Breach Maker (Yeshua) will go up (make Aliyah) before them (His people); They will break out, Pass through the gate, and go out by it; Their King will pass before them, With the LORD at their head.” Who is this King? The offspring of David, “Melech HaMashiach Tzidkenu—King Messiah, Our Righteousness.” May He come soon and in our days!
So, don’t be a Korah…know your role in the world. Don’t be a Dathan or Abiram either…rather, let us all be people who say to God “Hinenu V’Alinu el-HaMakom Asher-Amar Hashem—Here we are! And we will go up to The Place (the Temple Mount) of which The Lord has promised…”(Numbers 14:40) Perhaps this time, Hashem will have mercy, and we will be allowed to enter into the Promised Land of God!
Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,