Parsha sheet: Korach – Squaring the Equality Circle

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Mezuzah & Tzitzis

Korach wages a revolution against Moshe. The “cause” is “equality”. His claim is that the whole nation heard at Sinai Hashem speak and reveal himself onto the whole nation as Hashem’s nation and therefore no Jew should be considered “holier” than his fellow Jew. Strangely enough, to advance his “cause” and to question the credibility of Moshe he concocts  strange talking points. He wraped himself in a Talis that was all blue and asked whether that all-blue Talis is obligated in Tzitzis. Moshe replied that it was to which Korach scoffed and retorted “it is all blue! One more string of blue will make a difference?!?” He then raised another similar sounding point of contention and asked “is a house full of Torah scrolls  obligated in Mezuzah?” Moshe replied that it is obligated in Mezuzah. Korach retorted “The house is full of Torah scrolls one little excerpt from the Torah is needed on the door post?!?”

There are so many other questions that Korach could’ve raised, why these two? How does the idea of it being “all blue” or “the house being full of Torah” support  the point that he was really driving at? How does this support his “cause” for “equality”?

Surrounded & Square

There are two similarities between the two contentious points that Korach raised: Firstly, there is the idea of “full” whether a Talis that is all blue or a house that’s full of Torah scrolls. There’s another interesting parallel in these two issues: for a Talis to be obligated Tzitzis it must have at least four corners Which means it must be square. The same is true as far as a doorway being obligated in the mezuzah: even if it doesn’t have to be a perfect square, it definitely must have two parallel door posts –“Mezuzos” and on top of them a side bar called the “Mashkof”. These are clues to ponder to understand what Korach was driving at.

Natural formation

The Yerushalmi (Maaser sheini) makes a sharp observation: “There is no square from the six days of creation”. Meaning to say all-natural formations including lifeforms are “curved” (even if not perfectly circular) nothing is perfectly squared. If you would find something square off evenly, even if made from the simplest material, you would assume it is man-made by conscious design. Whereas if it’s “curvy”, even if not perfectly circular, you would assume that that’s how the rock, piece of wood, or chunk of metal has been since the six days of creation. This is even more true about the larger formations like hills, the earth itself, the stars, the heavens, and now modern-day physics has taught us that space itself is curved. “Curves” are natural, being “square” is definitely man made by design. what is the message in that?

The Circle

The books of the Izbitza-Radzin dynasty explain: Consider the difference between the circle and a square, in the circle all the points on the circumference are equidistant from the center and for that reason in a circle there really isn’t a “up and down” or “right and left” because every point on the circumference can equally be considered the top or the bottom, the right or the left, there is no difference. The opposite is true in the square which emerges from the straight-line formation. Beginning with a straight line we have the idea of a “top and a bottom” or a “right and a left” and when we construct the square out of the straight lines very few points are equidistant from the center and the corners are the most distant from the center. Philosophically, the “circular” represents the “undifferentiated”. An example of an application would be to give to everyone equally, regardless of whether they deserve it or not, is represented by the circle. It is a metaphor for Hashem, represented by the “center” upholding all that exists equally. It is not a merit-based system, nobody makes a difference. Another application of this idea is alluded to by Chazal who note that it rains upon both the righteous and the evil alike.

Straight & Square

In Hebrew the word for “straight” is “Yashar” which also means “Justice”. Justice demands that each individual get exactly what he deserves “measure for measure” and therefore there will be distinctions in what is distributed, each get as they deserve. Distinctions are made in straight lines, to go up or down, right or left. These differences actually enable “achievement” in the first place – achievement is to make a difference. In a “square system” created by straight lines  you can choose wisely and move closer, move to the right, raise yourself higher, and get closer to Hashem. The opposite is also true, you can choose badly, move to the left, lower your level, and distance yourself from Hashem.

The Visible External System

Hashem is equally the “Makom”- the place that holds all of reality. He is equally the Creator, Provider, and Supervisor of all. Implicit in this truth is the idea that nothing can deviate from His Will as it equally surrounds all so nothing could ever really distance itself from Him. No evil man can truly choose to derail the world from the course that Hashem set for it. The living  metaphor for this aspect of reality is that everything is curved: the heavens above, the orbits, and all formations are “curvy”. We live in a “circular reality” equally provided and sustained and guided by Hashem and no one can deviate from the central plan that Hashem has for reality. This is the visible this is the visible aspect of reality, but it is not the only one nor the main one, as we will explain in just a few paragraphs.

Korach’s ideology

Chazal revealed to us that the root of Korach’s rebellion, whether consciously or subconsciously, was jealousy and a false conviction that he would definitely come out victorious over Moshe because he knew he was going to have a descendent Shmuel. To further his rebellion, he needed a “cause” that would attract followers and he needed an ideology for that “cause”. Chazal point out that Korach was not only a very sharp person, but he was also from those who carried the “Aron”. What is the significance of the fact that he carried the “Aron”? Chazal tell us “the ‘Aron’ carried those who carried it”. Korach actually experienced one aspect of the truth that comes from the “circular mode of reality”: Hashem carries all, seemingly we do nothing, and we don’t make a difference. So, what is the difference between Jew and Goy? What happened at Sinai that according to Korach made all Jews equally ‘holy’? the Jewish people are different from the other nations because of the great event of the revelation at Sinai and according to Korach the nature of that ‘holiness’ is knowing this truth that Hashem is equally master of all and equally controls all that is the difference that makes the Jewish people holy from all others. We know the truth and the others don’t and with knowing and internalizing the truth is what makes the whole nation is equally ‘holy’ relative to each other.

Mezuza

The “house full of Torah scrolls” represents being surrounded with the clarity that the Torah gives us, which was revealed to the Jewish people at the time of the giving of the Torah, that Hashem surrounds us all equally as the sole creator and supervisor of everything. Therefore, the person living  surrounded by that clarity has nothing to gain by adding a mezuzah to his doorway. It goes deeper than that: since he is surrounded by the clarity of Hashem surrounding all – that “squared” doorway which represents deviation from the center and distance doesn’t exist for him. If he’s in touch with the reality of Hashem surrounding all, there’s nothing that can be added to that, and with that recognition he realizes there’s nothing that he can truly contribute to Hashem’s world, and there’s no difference that he can make.

Tzitzis

Chazal teach us that the significance of the blue string and of the Tzitzis which is called “Techeles” is that it resembles the sea that resembles the sky that resembles the heavens where the Divine Throne is. It is to remind us of Hashem and that’s why by no coincidence the “Techeles” with the other Tzitzis  strings are to be tied on the corners of the garment. It is no coincidence that humanity started wearing clothes after they succumbed to the sin of the tree of knowledge and lost their Clarity of perspective. The truth of Hashem’s absolute mastery became “cloaked”  and parallel to this mankind has to wear “clothes“ This is further accentuated by the “squareness” and the “corners” which are most distant from the “center” that represents Hashem. Therefore, we need a reminder on the corner of the garment to “remember Hashem and all his mitzvahs”. Korach claimed that when the whole garment itself is blue reminding you of the Divine Throne  you do not need that extra blue string on the corner. He was saying that in fact now it’s as if the “corner” doesn’t really exist.

Hidden Mainframe of Reality

Korach’s jealousy blinded him and warped his thinking and he missed out on the mainframe  of Divine Justice and Providence- The invisible framework of the “square configuration of reality”. One should ask, if everything is circular and the planets go and set circular orbits why are no two winters or two summers identical? Why is the weather different every year and not simple go simply go in set cycles that repeat themselves perfectly? Why does the economy fluctuate? What is causing change if everything just goes in cycles? There is a hidden framework of justice where we make a difference and that hidden framework is like the soul behind the revealed circular framework! That’s why even though the laws of nature seem the same and unchanging, life changes anyway. In response to our good deeds or our bad deeds Divine Justice decrees whether it’ll or rain or not, whether there will be hurricanes and earthquakes or not. This is not just a self-evident reality; it is philosophically necessary to arrive at this conclusion. Hashem doesn’t need anything for Himself and He created the world to bestow goodness upon us. He doesn’t need anything that we do, not the actions that we choose and not the actions by which we serve him even above our knowledge. He wants to do this all for us and we are taught that to make a complete goodness we have to earn it, and only then do we feel that it’s not charity. Only then do we feel that we are meaningful, and we made a difference. In the words of the Mishna in Makos: “Hashem wanted to increase the merit of the Jewish people and therefor gave them much Torah and Mitzvos”. Hashem wants a “Merit based system” and therefore there is the invisible framework of straight lines and squares where there are differences between the good and the bad there is the higher and the lower, to be closer to Hashem or further away. Although Hashem is omnipotent and needs nothing and His Will is in absolute control, nonetheless  our actions make all the difference for us. We are “graded” on those actions and based on that Hashem will manipulate the “seemingly unchanging laws of nature” to give us what we deserve in this world either as punishment or to help facilitate our mission and more importantly allow our actions to create our portion in the world to come.

Our Dual Mission

All this is true on the basis  that Hashem creates all and His will  protects all and there is no deviating from Him. Because His Sill surrounds everything that’s what insures that inside the “circle” there is the square just like the soul is inside the visible body. Having the framework of Divine Justice  surrounded by Divine  Will and makes it as such that even when we choose wrong we still can be saved, and we don’t derail the universe from the tracks of Destiny. Our Mission as Hashem’s “chosen people” is to access and use the internal system of justice in which all actions make a difference to the fullest! This is the secret behind why we are called “Yisroel” and “Yeshurun” – both from the root “Yashar”! We are expected that in addition to our clarity and faith that Hashem is all powerful and controls to also make every difference we could make, each and everyone with their different skill set that they were granted for the own unique mission of climbing the scale of Divine justice and merit and getting closer to Hashem by our own efforts.