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A Dvar Torah for Parshah Korach

Our Dvar Torah: What is Your Wealth

A Dvar Torah for Parsha Korach

By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman ben Ya'akov © June 26, 2020

In this week's parsha we read of the rebellion Korach, Dathan, Avirim and their co-conspirators. As we considered the account in our Thursday evening parsha study, we kept thinking how similar that rebellion was to the attempted coup that is currently underway in the United States.

As far as we know we know from Scripture, Korach and his band had a critical misunderstanding that we see today. But the error in their ideology was factually based within the heart of our beliefs as Jews! To that degree, Korach was correct!

Consider, Judaism has always taught the equality of all people. We affirm that all lives matter because all lives arise from the same Divine Source. No life matters any more nor any less than any other. This is true from the moment of human conception to the moment of the final breath.
Korach essentially says to Moshe Rebbeinu, “Yes, we all acknowledge your religious acumen. We know that G-d speaks with you. BUT, We also affirm that everyone is equal in the eyes of G-d. Like the spies we discussed last week Korach rejected the authority of Moshe on the grounds that everyone is equal. He said, in effect, “If we are all equal, as we teach, why are you setting yourself up as our king? I can make my own choices and so can everyone else! We need no social structure, no elders, no police...” This is what he was charging.

The Globalists and Stalinists burning down our cities, terrorizing and murdering innocent people are charging: “Why should we respect and abide by the votes of the American citizens? We should take things into our hands, we should destroy this system and its traditional authority and replace it with our own! In a way, Korach can be thought of as an ANTIFA anarchist!

Here was Korach's mistake: God's Law, like civil law, is not static. The Torah does not demand lifeless action, it demands honorable deeds performed with wisdom that shines forth hope and general betterment. The rightful purpose of Law is not unquestioning rote acceptance, as some teach, but as tools for advancement. Korach wanted to tear the system down, not advance it for the good of the people. He sought POWER, Wealth and Fame. Moshe wanted to establish a system through which Klal Y'israel could advance, generation after generation towards ever greater inward-lightenment.

Likewise the rioting mobs in our streets. Like the Taliban and other groups these terrorists are destroying statues, dishonoring the sacrifices that gave them their freedom, as they seek to create a reign of global tyranny. We've seen this show before. They results are always devastating. Here we go again.

On the one hand traditional Rabbinic Judaism focuses on the here and now. How to perform positive actions of tikkun olam for the good of all people right here and now in the Olam Hezeh, the world as it now is and, on the other hand, to perform actions of spiritual advancement for the good of all far into the future, even into the Olam Haba, the Messianic World to Come.

How to do this? There are so many ways! Each of us have the opportunity and the calling to be the blessing we were individually and collectively created to be while never allowing the perfect to defeat the good. BUT we must determine what really matters. Consider this from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov as excerpted from Sipurey Maasiot:

Once there was a Tzaddik who was constantly engaged in prayer, songs and praise to God. He would regularly visit the towns and villages. He would enter a home - usually that of a poor person or someone of little status - and talk to him heart to heart about the purpose life and how to progress. He taught that there is no other purpose in life than to devote ourselves to serving God and to investing our time in prayer, songs and praises to Beloved.

The Tzaddik would speak to the person with inspiring words until his words entered his ears and the person agreed to join him. As soon as he was willing, the Tzaddik would take him to his chosen place far away from the city. That place had a flowing river and trees and fruits of all kinds. They lived off the fruit. As for clothing, the Tzaddik didn't mind what they wore.

And so it was, the Tzaddik would take whoever was ready to the place outside the city, and there they engaged in nothing but prayer, songs and praises to God, confessions, fasting, self-discipline and repentance. More and more people gradually came closer to God.

The people he called came out of a certain very wealthy country where many of the people were rich. However, they had the strangest customs. For them, everything depended on wealth. Each person's status depended on how much money he had. Someone who possessed a given sum, perhaps thousands or tens of thousands, had a certain rank, while a person who possessed a different amount had a different rank. Their entire system depended on how much money each person possessed. Such an odd society this was!

The one who possessed a vast sum was declared king but the others, on account of their wealth, invested their time in usurping the throne, or to outdoing one another in various ways. This they called civilization.

In time these people instituted a policy that a person having only a limited sum would be a “mere human,” whereas if he possessed even less he would be considered an animal or perhaps a bird, but no longer a human due to his lack of money. Such a person was a no-body. There were several different kinds of no-body beasts and birds. Someone possessing no more than a given sum might be labeled a human lion while another was considered some different species of animal according to the amusement of the wealthy rulers. But anyone who had very little property or money was considered a mere animal or bird.

The wealthy decided they wanted to have planets and stars so whoever possessed a certain sum would be acknowledged as planet. Having become a planet he was thought to possess the same power as that planet, or a constellation and so on. The greatest among them were viewed to be Corporation Gods.

These gods came to the conclusion that in order not to become defiled, they should not breath in the air of this world nor mix with lower people. To them, everyone else in the world was impure and expendable. They therefore decided to seek out the highest mountains in the world and live there, so as to be above the dirty common air of this world. In time the best people, the higher gods, migrated there and established their fiefdoms.

Different fiefdoms lived on each mountain. Each built huge fortified walls around their mountains and dug deep moats in order to make it impossible for inferior people to get there. Each mountain had only one secret path so that no stranger could ever reach them. They posted guards at a distance from each mountain so that no stranger could even get near. They lived there on these mountains, practicing their customs, and they had numerous gods depending on how much money each possessed. And their disdain for all things considered common grew.

Since the main thing for them was money and great wealth made a person a god, the country was plagued with murder and robbery, killing and stealing in order to gain wealth. This was because the most important thing in life for them was money, since money buys every kind of food and clothing, and man needs money for his livelihood. Money was the foundation of their belief and religion.

They had officers whose task was to check each person to see if he had as much money as he claimed. Everyone constantly displayed his or her wealth in order to maintain the rank he had been awarded on the basis of his wealth.

Sometimes an animal might become a man or a man an animal. If a person lost his money he turned from being a man into a penniless animal. Conversely, when even a most base person made a profit through any endeavor, he turned from an animal into a man and into a god and was praised. Many of the gods lived like animals and treated their fellows in ways no real animal ever would.

One day some of the Tzaddik's virtuous followers visited this country of wealth. Some of them joined the people of that land and became gods, while others returned and told the Tzaddik how deeply enmeshed the people of that country were in their lust for wealth. The Tzaddik had great pity on them and decided to go there in person to try to persuade them to give up this error.

Ben Zoma teaches that the popular conception of each of these four categories is erroneous:
People are impressed by a teacher with many students and draw the conclusion that he is a chacham — a wise person. According to Ben Zoma, a chacham is not one who teaches many, but one who learns from many and gains from their experiences.

People assume that a gibor — a strong person — is one who can lift heavy weights. However, Ben Zoma teaches that a true gibor is one who conquers his inclination, which in actuality is “weightless.”

People think that being an ashir — a rich person — requires vast amounts of money. Ben Zoma says that money does not make one rich; one can have very little and be extremely rich if he is content with what he has.

Many think that a mechubad — an honored person — is one for whom dinners and testimonials are given. Ben Zoma says this does not prove that he is honored! One who finds value in every person, giving them honor and respect, is truly honorable.

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