"They descended to the depths alive." (Num. 16:33)

Being truly "alive" is possible only by being connected to G‑d through learning His Torah and performing His commandments. This is why the Torah is called "the Torah of Life".

Nonetheless, learning Torah and performing the commandments for selfish reasons drags down their inherently uplifting vitality into the depths of mundane reality and earthly existence. When the focus is reoriented from G‑d above to the individual below, the Torah of Life descends to the depths.

Thus, although Korach and his cohorts were eminent Torah scholars and observant Jews, their self-orientation doomed them to descend to death together with their learning and seeming piety.

If a person feels alive, he can change for the better.

Similarly, it is possible for a person to be "in the depths" in a state of spiritual decadence, and still be so oblivious to his predicament that he feels "alive". However, there is a blessing hidden in this seemingly lost state. If a person feels alive, he can change for the better.

This is why Korach's sons did not die. Because they were allegorically "alive" (that is, open-minded enough to change, to repent) they remained literally alive as well, and indeed returned to the community later.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 2, p. 329; HaYom Yom, p.65

Copyright 2001 chabad of california / www.lachumash.org