"And Korach took…" (Num. 16:1)

Took what? The verse does not say!

Rashi explains that Korach "took" himself away to one side. (That is to say, he distinguished himself and his followers as a separate group in opposition to the authority of Moshe.)

The continuation of the verse recites Korach’s lineage. "Korach son of Yitzhar son of Kehat son of Levi." Why does the verse stop with Levi without continuing, by saying, "Levi son of Jacob?"

...Jacob prayed that his name not be mentioned in association with the dispute of Korach...

Rashi explains that Jacob prayed that his name not be mentioned in association with the dispute of Korach, as he had said in the blessing to Levi on his death bed nearly two centuries before, (Gen. 49:6) "let my spirit not unite with their meeting." (Jacob meant to say, when Levi’s descendant Korach and his followers meet to oppose Moses, let my name and spirit not be associated with their gathering.)

In contrast, in the First Book of Chronicles (6:23) when the verse recites the lineage of the Levites whom King David established as singers in the Holy Temple, we do find the names of Jacob and Korach mentioned in the same lineage. Here the verse says, "And these are the men who served…. Of the sons of Kehati, Heman the singer, son of Yoel, son of Samuel…son of Korach, son of Yitzhar, son of Kehat, son of Levi, son of Israel." (Israel is Jacob). Why can the names of Jacob and Korach be mentioned together concerning the songs of the Levites, but not concerning the dispute of Korach in the book of Numbers?

To answer this we first have to define the concept of ‘dispute.' A dispute is based on two sides and two opinions, where according to one side, his approach is a much better way to arrive the goal. When each side understands and honors his opponent, a dispute in this fashion sharpens one’s wisdom and has the potential to enhance the development of the world. The wisdom of the Torah as found in the Talmud developed precisely through this method of dispute, which enabled refining the adjudication of the law in all its details.

It is written in 'Ethics of the Fathers/Pirkei Avot': "Every dispute that is for the sake of heaven is destined to last, while every dispute that is not for the sake of heaven will eventually wither away. What is [an example of] a dispute that is for the sake of Heaven? The disputes between Shammai and Hillel. What is a dispute that is not for the sake of Heaven? The dispute of Korach and his followers."

Why does the Ethics of the Fathers say, "the dispute of Korach and his followers," and not, "the dispute between Korach and Moshe"?

The answer to this question depends on the way we define the term 'dispute'. A proper dispute occurs when there are two sides, and in the merits of both opinions issues become clear and wisdom is developed. Neither side seeks to suppress the view of the other side. This is why the Mishna mentioned the disputes between Hillel and Shammai, because even though one would say permitted [for marriage] and the other say forbidden, still we are told that the families of the students of Shammai and Hillel would marry amongst each other.

[Korach] wanted his opinion to be the sole opinion.

This is not so with Korach. As we quoted at the beginning, "Korach took himself to one side." He wanted to be the sole ruler. He wanted his opinion to be the sole opinion. This kind of dispute gives way to hatred and division. This is what Rashi meant when he said that Korach took himself to one side. Therefore the Mishna says, "What is a dispute that is not for the sake of heaven? The dispute of Korach and his followers." That is to say, a dispute which has only one side. That is why the Mishna did not say, "the dispute of Korach and Moshe."

Now we can understand why Jacob prayed that his name not be mentioned in connection with the dispute of Korach. It is known that Abraham is the embodiment of the attribute of benevolence (chesed), Issac is strength/strictness (gevura), the attribute of Jacob dialectically unites both chesed and gevura in the attribute of beauty, harmony or splendor [all translations for] "Tiferet." Since when chesed and gevura are isolated they can produce something negative, we find that the correct path is to combine the two qualities together.

This is like fire and water. Fire as a separate force can cause damage. So too with water. Yet a vessel filled with water that is placed on fire can have a beneficial result that can be enjoyed. We find also with electricity, where there is a positive current and a negative current, which when joined together, we can benefit from the light.

This is the quality of Jacob, who is the golden mean, or in the language of Kabbalah, the middle column which receives the two opposing forces and blends them [beautifully, harmoniously and splendorously] together. There is a hint in this in the Hebrew word for vessel, "KeLI," which is an acronym for the three divisions of the Jewish nation, "Kohen, Levi, Israelite."

Peace joins together two sides. This is the attribute of Jacob.

This is what the Sages said at the end of the Talmud, "G‑d found no vessel better suited to holding blessings for Israel than Shalom." Peace joins together two sides. This is the attribute of Jacob. Therefore Jacob could not have his name mentioned in connection with the dispute of Korach, because Korach took himself over entirely to one side.

Why then does the verse mention the names of Jacob and Korach together in the book of Chronicles when mentioning the lineage of the Levite singers in the Holy Temple? First, let us understand the term, "song" in its ultimate sense. Furthermore, why were the Levites, whose main attribute is gevura – Strength, appointed as the singers in the Holy Temple?

In music, there are different voices, such as drums and trumpets, which produce loud, powerful sounds. Yet when they are blended together with the more melodious sounds of, for instance, the piano and the violin, sounding the correct timbres and flowing to suitable rhythms, then they form a harmonious whole of beautiful song.

This is also perceived when the forces of gevura are sweetened by those of chesed, and similarly when chesed is tempered by gevura. Then we see that each vessel or instrument has its own unique function. This is also like a beautiful painting, where when each color is found at the proper place and intensity it creates a wondrous image, as our Sages said, "there is no rock/tsur like our G‑d" – do not read tsur but rather tsayar/painter, - there is no painter like our G‑d."

Like the verse in the Psalms, "Sing to G‑d a new song, sing to G‑d, all the earth!" In the future, the whole creation, with all of its different colors and characteristics, will all sing to G‑d in wondrous harmony. This will be able to happen because all shall see that every man and every opinion has its function and its need.

According to this, we now can understand why the book of Chronicles mentions the name of Israel (who is Jacob) in the succession of generations. Generations are like a chain made of many links, where every link ascends and descends, and is connected to the next. This is the nature of the chain of the generations, for even if there is a wicked generation, it can produce a generation of the righteous.

...harmony creates a wondrous song.

It is the same with music, where the rhythm ascends and descends (that is to say, the rhythm changes), but the harmony creates a wondrous song. When you see the entire chain as a whole, then it is possible to sing truly.

Therefore, in the case of the song of the Levites, where you have a chain of generations, you can mention Israel's name, since Korach is but one link in the chain, a lineage that generated the prophet Samuel, of whom the Psalms say is equal in weight to Moshe and Aaron. And the line of Samuel would produce singers in the Holy Temple.

Delivered orally; translated by David Devor from his notes and extensively edited by KabbalaOnline.org staff.

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