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Korach

by Rabbi Yaakov Menken


"They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and they said to them, 'you have taken too much for yourselves, for the entire nation is comprised of holy individuals, and G-d dwells among them - why, then, have you lifted yourselves above the congregation of G-d?" [16:3]

In Hebrew, Kedoshim means holy, and also distinct, designated. So in one regard, Korach was right: the Jewish people are indeed a holy nation, designated to serve G-d. But this was no grounds to claim that as a result, the people did not need leaders. Quite to the contrary! Careful guidance is crucial if we are to fulfill our potential.

The best way to learn to use or program a computer is to simply try. If something doesn't work, you just try something else. Eventually, if all else fails, you can try reading the manual, or call up a help screen or manual page on-line. This approach works well because computers provide instant feedback - if something doesn't work, you know almost immediately. In addition, there are usually no consequences if something fails. Nonetheless, even in the computer field, one always benefits from asking others who have greater expertise.

Imagine trying to practice medicine the same way. If someone came in with a serious ailment, you would simply try one medicine after the other until one appeared to work. Is there any doubt that the patient would die? The feedback is not fast enough, and the consequences of wrong decisions are too grave, to attempt such an approach. In medicine, careful training and expert guidance are that much more important. One who approaches this field with the arrogance of a hacker is likely to find himself on the wrong side of a malpractice suit in short order.

In spiritual matters, most of us are not sufficiently in touch with the higher realms to recognize immediate feedback from our actions. Are we doing G-d's will, or not? How do we know? The answer, of course, is through our teachers. If everyone decides how he or she will interact with G-d, then the result is no dialogue, but a monologue. Such a person ends up worshipping himself!

The Chapters of the Fathers, Pirkei Avos, teach us [1:6]: "Yehoshua ben Prachya says: make a teacher for yourself." This even precedes acquiring a friend or partner in learning and growth. Rabbeinu Yonah explains in his commentary that you should even acquire a teacher if you know as much as he. Make someone your teacher nonetheless, he says, for a person is more likely to remember that which he has been taught, and may find that the other party has better understood a topic.

Moshe and Aharon did not lift themselves up; rather, G-d placed them in that position. The nation needed teachers, and we need teachers and guidance today. May we have the necessary humility, and be willing to set aside our own arrogance, to recognize our need for mentors.

Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.


 


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