Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann
This week's sidrah centres around the story of Korach, son of Yitzhar,
Moshe Rabbeinu's first-cousin. Korach became overly ambitious and
tried to overthrow Moshe, our beloved leader. Yet Chazal, our sages,
admit that Korach was a very great man. How did a rational and
intelligent person come to make such a blatant error as to challenge
the G-d granted leadership of the greatest Jewish leader of all time?
Rashi apparently addresses this question: "Korach, who was an
intelligent person, what did he see that caused him to err such? His
eye fooled him: he saw a great lineage coming forth from him..."
Rashi's choice of words is certainly unusual: His eye (eyno) fooled
him. One would usually say that his vision fooled him, since we are
not talking about physical sight but about his "seeing" into the future.
It is no coincidence, explains the Yismach Moshe (Rabbi Moshe
Teitelbaum zt"l), that man was created with two eyes. Had Hashem
so desired, He could no doubt have created us with only one eye. By
giving us two eyes, He indicated by way of symbolism that our
"vision" must be concentrated in two different directions: One eye
should be used for seeing and beholding the greatness of G-d. With
the other eye we should focus on perceiving our own faults,
shortcomings and insignificance.
A person who sees with one eye is severely vision-impaired. If he sees
only from his right eye, then things from that direction will be clearly
perceived and noticed, but most everything happening on his left side
will pass him by. So too, one who focuses his vision on only one of
these principals will experience severe difficulties in serving G-d
One who concentrates too strongly on his own faults and
insignificance becomes easily dejected and has a very difficult time
serving Hashem, "with joy and with goodness of heart
(Devarim/Deuteronomy 28:47)." We all know people who spend too
much of their time agonizing about things they've done in the past,
or about their lack of character or intelligence etc. They spend their
hours and days wallowing in lowliness and self-pity, and see very little
positivity in their lives. Such people are lacking in the "greatness of
G-d" aspect of their vision. They fail to perceive that, relative to the
greatness of Hashem, of which we have only the tiniest comprehension,
we are all - even the greatest of us - sorely lacking and full
of shortcomings. In spite of this, perhaps even because of this,
G-d has let us know in no uncertain terms that He desires our
devotion to Him, that we serve Him with joy and exhilaration, and do
our best to elevate ourselves and become the greatest people we can
It is equally shortsighted to focus on Hashem's greatness without
stopping to remind oneself of one's own deficiencies and unworthiness.
Such people, while strongly focused on serving G-d with all their
might and souls, often sadly perceive themselves as G-d's gift to the
world. If G-d is so great, then doesn't it follow that I must do all I can
to serve Him and come close to Him? Often this comes at the
expense of others. One who steps back and takes the time to
perceive his own insignificance in relation to Hashem has no problem
with the concept that ultimately we are all equal in His eyes, and that
my service of Hashem is no more nor less worthy than yours. We
each have our own place and purpose in life. It is pointless to try and
serve G-d by taking away from others. Dare we presume that what we
may be capable of doing is any more significant than what someone
else has to offer? The main point is that we all serve Hashem, and if
His will is being done, then it is of no significance whether it is I who
am now having the opportunity to do so, or whether I step back and
allow another to have his chance. (Anyone like to take a turn writing
this column?) Whereas the first person had a severe lack of self-
esteem, this person has an over-indulged self-esteem to the point of
self-centredness and lack of sensitivity to others.
One who makes sure that his "eyesight" is equally distributed, striving
constantly to grow in his relationship with G-d and perceive His
greatness and omnipresence, while at the same time stepping back
and remembering that he is truly insignificant and unworthy and that
it is only by the supreme kindness of Hashem that He even desires
our service at all, will have no problem leading a healthy and
balanced spiritual life. He will connect with both his Creator, and with
his fellow man. He will do much, and encourage others to join him
Korach, says the Yismach Moshe, was misled by "his eye" (singular).
His vision was lopsided. He spent too much time dwelling on
Hashem's greatness, without giving enough thought to himself and
his own insignificance. He was so focused on serving G-d that he
came to think it must be he who takes the highest position, which
would, in his warped version of reality, enable him to give Hashem
the "greatest" pleasure. He failed to see that all of us, from the
leaders of the nation right down to the water-carriers and wood-
choppers, give G-d equal pleasure when we find our place in serving
Him and doing the best we can. This is how Korach, a highly
intelligent and spiritual person, came to challenge Moshe's leadership.
Perhaps, also, this explains how Korach and his bunch could have
been so foolish. After all, even if they were G-d forbid correct, and
Moshe had somehow acted in a self-serving manner, at any rate
all agreed that there was only going to be one leader and one Kohen
Gadol (High Priest). How absurd it is that Korach managed to round
up 250 people and convince each of them to challenge for the
position of High Priest together with him! But perhaps this itself
emphasizes the shortsightedness of his position. Instead of each of
them looking for his own way to be good and bring good to the
world, they had become so self-centred that only "the best" would do.
Each and every one of them felt he could not fully serve Hashem
unless he was at the helm; the very pinnacle of power, glory and
recognition. So, absurd as it seems, they all had to be leaders.
So from Korach we learn that we have to balance our vision. To
make sure that both our "eyes" are functional and focused.
(Remember too that one can have equally balanced vision,
poor in both eyes (10/10, or something like that), and still walk into
walls. So if we're balanced but unfocused we're still missing the boat.)
Had a check-up lately?
Text Copyright © 1998 Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann and Project Genesis, Inc.