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By Rabbi Heshy Grossman
"What did he [Korach] do? He gathered together two hundred and fifty heads
of Sanhedrin, most of them from the tribe of Reuven, his neighbors....and
he dressed them in Taleisim that were completely Techeles."
"They came and stood before Moshe, saying to him: Is a Talis that is
completely Techeles obligated or exempt from the requirement of Tzitzis? He
responded: It is obligated. They laughed. 'Is it possible that a garment of
any other type can fulfill its requirement by one strand of Techeles, yet
this garment that is completely Techeles will not be exempt?
Korach stages a rebellion against Moshe Rabbeinu, denying the very basis of
Torah and prophecy. By ridiculing the Mitzvos, Korach hopes to achieve his
objectives, rallying others to his personal crusade. Why then, is it this
particular Mitzva that warrants his ire, rather than any one of numerous
others that he could similarly object to? Certainly, as with all acts of
rebellion, his point of critique is not an intellectual objection, nor is
it a coincidental choice, but one that reflects Korach himself, and his own
Let us explain.
What does Techeles represent?
The Torah commands us to place one strand of Techeles upon our
four-cornered garments, and this is meant to be a reminder of all the
Mitzvos. In explaining how Techeles sparks this memory, Rashi points to the
numerical symbolism of the Tzizis; its knots, loops, and strands.
Ramban however, has a different approach:
"The reminder is the string of Techeles, which alludes to the trait that
incorporates everything.....'for Techeles is similar to the sea, and the
sea is similar to the heavens, and the heavens compare to the Throne of
Glory.' (Menachos 43b)....this similarity is in name [the word Techeles
compares to 'Tachlis'], and in color, and from a distance everything
appears in that color, therefore it is referred to as Techeles." (Ramban,
Techeles is a kind of blue that reminds one of the sea and the sky, the
clean, crisp image of an unbroken horizon. In actuality, both the sea and
sky are not really blue, but they appear to be, and this is for good reason.
In the spectrum of colors, white is the original hue, and it serves as
background and source for all subsequent images. Every picture that we
perceive can only be assimilated through a mix of colors and contrast, and
it is white that makes this possible. When contrast is removed, and when
all that remains is an unlimited view, uncluttered and undisturbed by
images that hold back our perception, man suddenly has a glimpse of the
Tachlis, the goal towards which he was created to strive. Looking at the
sea, and towards the sky, he sees blue, Techeles, the infinite eternity.
White is "MeiAyin Basa" and Techeles is "L'An Attah Holech."
Man's life, and indeed, the entire creation is an ongoing process of
revelation, with each person and every moment serving to actualize a
different aspect of the Divine plan. It is incumbent upon man to be aware
of this awesome responsibility, and to henceforth direct his attentions
towards fulfilling this goal and purpose.
While the strings of the Tzitzis keep him connected, it is the blue strand
of Techeles that reminds him of the goal that lies beyond the horizon. With
this in mind, man can travel the world and never get lost, anchored to the
Torah that gives him direction.
"And they gathered against Moshe and against Aharon, saying to them: 'You
have enough! For all the congregation is holy, and the presence of G-d is
in their midst, and why should you lord over the assembly of G-d?' "
By what strength does Korach stage a protest against the leadership of
Moshe and Aharon? Does he truly believe that he should have been chosen
The truth is, Korach did serve an important role. As a member of the family
of Kehas, he was among the Levites that carried the precious vessels of the
Mishkan, and he personally was one of the chosen few who carried the Aron
Kodesh in its travels through the desert.
It is this quality that connects Korach to the Kehunah, filling him with
delusions of grandeur. The high priest as well, is also involved with the
Aron, and only he is permitted to enter the Holy of Holies. Because he
carries the very same ark, Korach believes that he and Aharon are
colleagues and peers.
What differentiates the two?
Korach carries the ark through its journeys, while Aharon sees it at rest.
Korach is part of the process, and Aharon embodies the goal.
Other than Aharon, no man alive is permitted to enter the Kodesh
HaKodashim, for in this world, man must struggle to reach his objective,
never to rest or take respite. Man's destination is the world-to-come, and
until that moment arrives, he should be aware that he remains forever
unfulfilled, his life replete with imperfections.
But Korach senses that G-d is with him, and becomes enamored with his own
capabilities, convinced that he is on the right side of eternity. He
mistakenly believes that he has already arrived, and that holiness and
sanctity are his rightful due. He puts himself on equal footing with Moshe
and Aharon, the agents of Heaven.
He feels the Torah is his, and he has no use for Moshe Rabbeinu and his
"At all times, your garments should be white...." (Koheles 9:8)
Man is ordained to wear white, but Korach feels certain that he deserves
Techeles, a garment of pure blue, with no further need to be reminded of
"Ani Hashem Elokeichem - I am destined to determine and take payment from
the man who hangs blue dye on his garment and claims that it is Techeles."
(Rashi, Bamidbar 15:41)
In modern times, numerous pretenders presume to be Techeles, asserting that
the world has finally achieved true redemption, or at the very least, is
well on the way towards doing so. To the untrained eye, blue dye and
Techeles are remarkably similar, and therefore it is only G-d Himself who
can reveal the truth.
Techeles alludes to a world beyond our own, and until the time that it's
found, our physical life is incomplete, bereft and wanting. In the absence
of Tzitzis, the bond attaching man to the hereafter, mortal man begins to
believe that his own existence is self-sufficient, and he rebels against
Moshe Rabbeinu and the message he brings down to earth.
Though man continues his drive towards progress, and though the information
at his disposal grows daily, we are witness to ever-growing levels of
apostasy. As man deludes himself into a sense of complacency, confident
that his world is secure, he begins to believe that there is no need for
any dimension beyond his grasp.
It is this very world that he finds so comforting that is destined to
swallow him alive.
With the advent of stronger and more efficient machines, the man who longs
for self-reliance instead begins to disappear, swallowed by a world with
little time for ethics, ideals, or conscience.
It is time to don our Tzitzis, a four-cornered garment with white strings,
and remember why we are here, never to forget where we are headed.
"....and you will see it, and remember all the Mitzvos of Hashem, and
JerusalemViews, Copyright (c) 2000 by Rabbi Heshy Grossman and ProjectGenesis, Inc.