Topic: Kabbalistic Concepts | Posted:June 17, 2015
There is, some would say, a challenging understanding and teaching about this portion. If you read the literal story, Korach comes out as a very bad guy. He’s jealous, it seems, of the leadership of Moses and the priesthood of Aaron. He’s jealous of the leadership of another one of his relatives, Elitzafan, because Korach believes he should have his job. And therefore he leads a revolution against Moses. He gathers 250 other people as his core group, and amongst them begins to get more and more people to believe that Moses’ leadership is not ordained or directed by the Creator. That is the uprising Korach leads in the literal reading of this week’s portion.
But when the kabbalists view this story, they view Korach as a tremendously elevated soul. It’s known that, for instance, one of the great kabbalists, Rabbi Naftali of Rufshitz, was a descendent of Korach. And whenever he mentioned Korach he would say, “My holy grandfather, Korach.” So clearly when the kabbalists look at this story, which in its literal reading looks simply like a story of some base jealousy from one man to other, they see something else.
So, what was going on here?
There are times when openings come to this world, and you either grab them or you lose them. Sometimes, they come once in 1000 years, sometimes they come once in 40 years. But if you don’t grab the opportunity, certainly if you are not aware of it, you don’t know if it will ever come back again. And we know that Korach had Ruach Hakodesh, Divine Inspiration. He was receiving messages from the Creator. Korach was connecting to an opening that existed at that moment when the Israelites were in the desert. He saw that it was possible at that time to bring the End of the Correction, he saw at that time in the desert there was an opening for the end of pain, suffering, and death in this world, and he was right.
So he goes to Moses and tells him that if they are going to bring the entire world to enter through the opening that will bring an end to pain, suffering, and death, they have to begin acting and living in the world of what’s called the World of Igulim, the Perfect Vessels. He tells Moses that not just they, Moses and Korach, have to act in that way, but that all the Israelites have to begin awakening true certainty in the fact that this opening is available for them. He says to Moses that in order to do this, they have to make it so that there is no higher and lower, no leader and follower, it’s all one.
Again, Korach was right. There was that opening, and the way to enter into it was by living in the realm of what’s called the kelim d’igulim, where there is no higher or lower. He says, ki kol ha'eda kulam kedoshim, uvtocham Hashem, “All of the Israelites, are all holy. And amongst them resides the Light of the Creator.” He asks Moses, “Why do you want to remain in the leadership position? Don’t you realize we all have to start living in the realm of the machol le'tzadikim, the circle of the righteous, where everybody is equal?”
We come to see from this that Korach did not want this because he was jealous or wanted Moses’ position. He wanted this because he knew there was a cosmic opportunity that may never come back for them. And he was right, there was that opening, and this was the way to achieve it. So, what went wrong?
The problem was that Korach had some jealousy. But it’s important that we understand what kind of jealousy we are talking about. When we hear stories of the righteous people, we view them with our own eyes. As such, when we hear that Korach had jealousy, we think it’s the way we feel jealousy towards other people. But it’s not even close. If you asked Korach why he was coming up with this idea, he would promise you - and it would be completely true in 99.9% of every fiber of his being - that he was doing it because he knew there was an opening that they had to grab now; that if they didn’t, it would never come back. Korach was 99.9% pure.
However, the kabbalists teach that somewhere deep in his unconscious there was a speck of jealousy, what’s called the negiah, a tiny unconscious jealousy that ruined the Divine Inspiration and the opening. And, as we know, when there is an opening for great Light, if you mess up that opening, you bring great darkness. So because of that .01% of Korach’s consciousness that wasn’t pure, because he had not purified all levels of jealousy completely, it ruined everything; that’s why pain, suffering, and death did not end through the work of Korach, but rather people died through what is known as the uprising of Korach.
And as pure as Korach was, we are not even close. When we help other people, our egos are involved. Our Desire to Receive for the Self Alone is involved. Think about it for a moment. Is there anything that you can say that is done completely from a place of pure, perfect charity, with no Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, no ego involvement? If you even think that you could say that, the reality is that you are wrong almost 100% of the time. We have to realize that our actions and work, while they are still infused almost completely with our Desire to Receive for the Self Alone and ego, cannot manifest the Light that we desire for them to reveal. And therefore, in learning from Korach, we have to understand that we need to change the focus of our work.
There is a statement Rav Ashlag uses, rachmana liba ba'ei, which means, “the Creator desires the heart.” I believe the way most of us understand this statement is that we need to make sure there is a level of purity of heart in every action that we are doing, because the action itself isn’t enough; how we view our work now is maybe 95% action, 5% purity of heart. But it has to be reversed - 99.9% purity of heart, and .01% action.
Rachmana liba ba'ei, the Creator desires the heart; the focus of our work must be the heart. It must be - how am I removing my ego and my Desire to Receive for the Self Alone from my actions of sharing? Yes, we also have to do the actions, but that is negligible when compared with the question of the purity of heart. We might be doing spiritual actions and sharing in great ways, but if our heart, the purity of our intention, does not increase at all, if we have what is called negiyot, all of those ego attachments to the work that I am doing, it cannot reveal the Light.
So, on this Shabbat we have to look inside, and truly take the time to realize how so many of our actions of sharing, of revealing Light, of connecting to the Light of the Creator are infused with ego. We need to realize that the way many of us are gauging our spiritual work and elevation is all wrong. We have to gauge by purity of the heart, not by action.