Down to Earth Spirituality
of Gimmel Tammuz
In this weeks Torah portion Korach leads a mutiny against
Moses. End of story: He is proven wrong and the earth swallows
him and his fellow mutineers.
Why such a strange punishment? Is there no other
way to penalize them? Indeed, we are told that the mouth
of the earth that consumed Korach was created at the beginning
of time! (at the end of the six days of creation, on Friday
at dusk). What makes the mouth of the earth so important
that it had to be formed at the outset of Genesis waiting
thousands of years for the day that it would open to welcome
Korach and his cronies!
This takes us back to Atzilut and materialism
the theme of the previous episodes in the last two
Torah portions (see
last two articles).
Korach did not arrive in a vacuum. Lets
put ourselves in his shoes. As a sharp man (a pikach)
he was obviously closely following the discussions (debates)
and events that came before him. He first heard that the people
demanded meat. They were questioning the possibility of integrating
G-dliness and the material world. Then Korach listened closely
to G-ds response the revelation of Atzilut, which
would bridge the two worlds of spirit and matter, of the Divine
and the human.
Korach then witnessed the sin of the scouts, who
challenged the very notion of being able to conquer a land
that consumes its inhabitants. Materialism is just too
strong for us, they argued. Korach saw how they were severely
punished for defying the very purpose of existence to
make a home for G-d in this lowliest world, in the world of
the gross matter.
So now the stage is set. Here is a reenactment
of Korachs argument:
Korach: Ok, we now know that we cannot avoid the
material world. On the contrary, we must engage it and transform
it. We cannot escape into spirituality. Within the material
universe is embedded the deepest spiritual energy and the highest
level of the Divine Essence. Indeed, G-d Himself desired a home
in this world.
So how do we tap into meat and all
material matter and release this powerful Divine energy? What
options do we have? Lets see: We cannot remain locked
and insulated in synagogues and other spiritual oases. We cannot
rely on prayer to G-d alone. He insisted that we enter the universe
and use our own faculties. What else is there left to do?
We must whether we like it or not
immerse ourselves into the material world and give it all we
So Korach argued: Why did you Moses and
Aaron lift yourselves above all the rest of us? Is not
the entire nation holy? Is not every one of us able to access
G-d and our own inner spirituality to connect to G-d?
Strong argument there, Mr. Korach. Korach simply
drew a logical conclusion from the events that he just witnessed.
Had G-d told the people no, you cannot have meat,
or had G-d in some way acknowledge that the scouts had a point
when they argued that we cannot enter a land that consumes
its inhabitants, then Korach would not have made his case.
But Korach clearly saw that G-d wants us to immerse into the
material world, so he drew the next logical step, namely: We
can and must follow G-ds command and take on life, because
we have all the power to do so. The exact opposite argument
of the scouts.
The mere fact that you exercise leadership
Korach argues to Moses demonstrates that not every person
has the necessary sanctity and power to transform the universe.
Which goes against the events we all just experienced with the
meat and scouts stories.
What was Korachs error?
Yes we need meat, we need the material world.
Ahh, but the meat has to come from Moses. And Atzilut does not
mean that the lower worlds (all the way to the lowest stage
of Asiyah) are G-dly. It means that the lower worlds could become
G-dly if they allow Atzilut to connect them to the Divine.
What he apparently didnt listen to closely
enough was the consequence of indulging in meat consumption,
which ultimately ended up choking its very consumers. Or perhaps
Korach felt that he knew how to overcome the challenge.
He also missed the point of Caleb and Joshua,
who were nor seduced by the scouts arguments because they
were connected to above to Moses and to G-d (see last
This explains the weird punishment of being swallowed
by the earth. Ok, you think that that you can conquer a land
that consumes its inhabitants without the conscious connection
to Atzilut. Here, look what happens to them: The very earth
that you wanted to conquer ends up consuming you, exactly as
the scouts had predicted. The scouts were wrong because instead
of believing in G-ds promise, they chose to question the
entire premise of conquering the material, and they cowered
in fear of the prospect. But Korach was equally wrong because
he was arrogant in his confidence of being able to take on the
world without the connection to a Rebbe, to Atzilut.
And indeed, from the very beginning of Genesis,
the earth was endowed with this power and message, as if always
reminding us: G-d has sent you to earth to transform it
into a Divine home. But never, ever forget the pitfalls of material
earth, the difficulties and cruelties of existential loneliness.
Never forget how vulnerable you are to the seduction of material
desires as a result of G-ds concealment on earth. Do not
succumb to the illusion promised by the temptations and pleasure
of this world. Transform it, but never, ever join it. From the
beginning of time I carry inside of me the earth tells
us the power to instantaneously consume you should you
ever make that grave mistake.
So, in this triad of events, Korach illuminates
for us yet another dimension of Atzilut and its importance in
our lives. Atzilut serves as mediator between heaven and earth,
between the Divine and the human. The scouts erred by leaning
to far toward the Divine side and disregarding the earthly
dimension of Atzilut; Korach erred by opting for the earthly
and losing touch with the Divine, ultimately resulting in being
consumed by the very earth that he immersed in.
Korachs challenge is our very own challenge
today: Will the shrouds of our material existence cause us to
lose sight of the Atzilut within?
This challenge is especially apropos people grappling
with Gimmel Tammuz: Will Gimmel Tammuz be seen as a day when
Atzilut was unplugged from us (G-d forbid), or will it challenge
us to dig deeper and find Atzilut in deeper and newer ways.
Korachs message is that Atzilut never can
be unplugged; it is only we that can become unplugged,
or more correctly, perceive ourselves as being unplugged,
when in truth Atzilut is always plugged into us and we into
it. Our challenge is to recognize and acknowledge the connection,
and then reveal it and act on it.