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Each week we feature a different outstanding Florida Rabbi.


Rabbi Yisroel B. Spalter
Chabad of Weston

In this weeks portion, the Torah relates how Korach and a band of 250 men rebelled against Moshe and Aaron. Their argument was leveled primarily against Moshe's leadership and against his giving the position of the high priest to his brother Aaron. In Korach's words, "why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem".

This revolt took place immediately after the incident of the spies who were sent by Moshe to scout the land of Israel. The question is, Moshe becoming the leader and the elevation of Aaron to the High Priesthood took place at least a year before that incident, why did Korach wait so long with his revolt? The fact that Korach did wait, indicates that there is a direct connection between these two events.

The spies were the leaders of their tribes and were themselves very spiritual people. They contended that if the Jews were to be a holy nation and a spiritual people, it was important for them to be separate from the material world. In that way they would not be hindered in cleaving to G-d through the study of Torah. They desired therefore, that the Jews remain in the desert, where they would be free from worldly distractions. Hence, their opposition to going to Israel.

Moshe, however, replied that leaving the desert and entering the material world was no contradiction to being a "holy nation". Quite the contrary. He argued that when G-d gave the Jewish people the Torah and its Mitzvot, it was for the purpose of spiritualizing the "material" world and creating a dwelling place for G-d. It is through the performance of the practical mitzvot in a physical world that we make this dwelling place. Hence, the need to leave the desert and enter the land, the physical world.

The difference between Torah study and practical mitzvot is the following:

Comprehension is a fundamental aspect of Torah, in which there are diverse levels. Some people understand more and some less. This is not so in the case of the mitzvot. In this regard, all Jews are equal; the donning of Tefillin performed by Moshe was exactly the same as the donning performed by the simplest Jew. Moshe and the simple Jew may differ in intensity of concentration while performing the mitzvah, but they did not differ in the physical act.

Korach, who knew Moshe and Aaron's spiritual superiority would have never contested their leadership. It is readily understood that Moshe's receiving the Torah directly from G-d put him on a much higher spiritual level than anyone else and his leadership was accordingly to be accepted by all. It is only after they learned, through the episode of the spies, that the performance of mitzvot in a physical environment is what G-d really wanted, that their rebellion began.

If the physical performance of mitzvot is the vital thing, reasoned Korach, then we should all be equal. We all don the same Teffilin, we all eat the same Matzah on Pesach and we all blow the same Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. What makes Moshe a leader when we're talking about performance of Mitzvot? was Korach's real question.

Thus, it was only after the spies had expressed the desire to devote themselves exclusively to spiritual service and were informed that the physical performance of mitzvot is most important that Korach felt justified in his complaint. For with
regard to the physical performance of mitzvot, all Jews are indeed equal.

Where did Korach err?

G-d desires not only the physical performance of mitzvot, but also the proper spiritual intent. A dwelling place for G-d means a place where G-d can "dwell". It must be a luminous dwelling. Just as a physical structure must be illuminated in order to be habitable, so too, G-d's dwelling must be made habitable by providing it with illumination.

For G-d's dwelling to be illuminated, it is necessary that the mitzvot themselves be performed with the proper intent in order to illuminate the person himself and the surrounding world. Mitzvot performed without the proper intent, may create a home for G-d but lacks the illumination and thus leaves it somewhat inhabitable.

Thus, while Moshe's and Aharon's actual performance of mitzvot in no way differed from that of the simplest Jew, the intent with which the mitzvot were performed varied greatly. Hence, the Leadership of Moshe.

The leadership of Moshe and the unquestionable acceptance of him was vital in the spiritual growth of his generation. The same is true in all subsequent generations, the connection to the leaders are of paramount importance in our own spiritual growth and relationship with G-d.

G-d considers the intent as well as the deed.

Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.