"They gathered together against Moses and Aaron and said to them, 'You have gone too far! All of the nation is holy; G‑d is amongst them. Why do you raise yourselves above G‑d's nation'?" (Num. 16:3)

"…against Moses and Aaron": The sages labeled Korach and his faction as the archetype of strife and conflict, i.e. "What is a controversy…that is not for the sake of Heaven? It is the controversy of Korach and his whole faction." (Avot 5:17) An endeavor against G‑d…attacks the essence of unity and seeks selfish concerns…

Furthermore, the sages do not describe this controversy as one between Korach and Moses - for Moses did not quarrel with them - only "They gathered together against Moses and Aaron". The sages' statement implies that the controversy raged between "Korach and his whole faction", that is, between themselves. An endeavor against G‑d (or Moses) always becomes strife-ridden, for it attacks the essence of unity and seeks selfish concerns and personal gratification.

Korach's controversy was "not for the sake of Heaven". Our purpose in life is to give G‑d recognition in the earthly realms, to manifest the Infinite in a finite world. Korach's principles thwarted this process; he was divorcing G‑d from His world.

It appears that Korach himself wished to replace Aaron as High Priest, while his followers wished to be High Priest in addition to Aaron. (See Rashi; cf. Panim Yafot 16:1) They did not, however, doubt that all that Moses had instructed came from G‑d. After all, they had seen with their own eyes that G‑d spoke to him at Mt. Sinai. Furthermore, G‑d had promised Moses that "they will believe in you forever!" (Ex. 19:9) (Only Moses, in his immense humility, assumed that their rebellion stemmed from their lack of belief in him.)

See below, verse 28. Despite G‑d's guarantee to the contrary, Moses thought - as Jacob did (Rashi on Gen. 32:11) - that he was not protected by G‑d's guarantee because of his perceived sins.) They believed that certain aspects of G‑d's instructions were subject to change…

But although they trusted that Moses spoke the word of G‑d, they believed that certain aspects of G‑d's instructions were subject to change. They had seen G‑d "change His mind" when Moses prayed for his people after the sins of the Golden Calf and the Spies. Indeed, the priesthood itself had originally been the domain of the firstborn and was transferred to the descendants of Aaron. Hence, they felt that changes could be made regarding Aaron's status, especially since, unlike the Levites, Aaron had been involved in the sin of the Golden Calf.

Korach's rebellion took the form of an attack based on logic. Among his questions: "If a house is filled with holy scrolls, would it require a mezuzah on the door?"

"Of course," answered Moses.

"That makes no sense," scoffed Korach. "The mezuzah contains no more than two holy passages. If there are so many more holy passages contained in the books that are in the house, what purpose could the mezuzah serve?" (the Midrash). It is not enough to be filled with holy books, ideas, and thoughts…

Korach felt that it is enough to acquire spirituality. Once all the books are sitting on your shelf, once you've become knowledgeable and well-read, there is no need for anything more. The mezuzah is no longer necessary.

Moses insisted, however, that a mezuzah is still needed. The mezuzah contains the first two passages of the Shema. The first passage describes the requirement to constantly remember, wherever one may be, that everything is G‑d's - that G‑d is "our G‑d" and in control. The second describes the result of the first: a complete adherence to all of G‑d's commandments and directions.

We affix the mezuzah in the doorway between the home and the street. In this way, the teachings of the Torah are not confined to the dusty bookshelf. Our declaration of devotion to the Torah's teachings accompanies us out into the world and becomes a part of our everyday lives.

It is not enough to be filled with holy books, ideas, and thoughts. We must affix a mezuzah upon the "gates" of our minds and hearts, reminding us to live up to our ideals, motivated by the threefold love: love of G‑d, love of the Torah, and love of our fellow Jew. This love must permeate all that we do, so that it is immediately noticeable that we are people with mezuzahs on our "doors". When this mezuzah is in place, we are assured of the blessings contained further in that same passage, i.e. that G‑d will provide all our physical and spiritual needs.

Based on Likutei Sichot, vol. 18, pp. 188-90; vol. 4, pp. 1316-8; vol. 13, pp. 203-4

Copyright 2001 Chabad of California / http://www.LAchumash.org