Separate is Better than Equal

June 20, 2017 at 7:01 AM , , ,

“…In the morning, G-d will make known who is His, and who is holy, and He will draw [them] near to Him…” – Bamidbar 16:5

בֹּקֶר וְיֹדַע ה’ אֶת אֲשֶׁר לוֹ וְאֶת הַקָּדוֹשׁ וְהִקְרִיב אֵלָיו – במדבר טז, ה

Korach fought for equality, which he believed to be the key to Jewish unity. “The entire congregation are all holy” (Bamidbar 16:3), he argued. Why make distinctions between Jews, singling out the kohanim – and particularly the Kohen Gadol – as superior to everyone else?

Yet instead of going down in history as a great unifier, the Torah regards Korach as a great instigator of conflict, a paragon of divisiveness whom we are cautioned not to emulate (see Talmud, Sanhedrin 110a).

What made Korach’s case for unity the textbook example of disunity? The answer is hinted in Moshe’s warning to Korach and his followers, “In the morning, G-d will make known who is His.” According to the Midrash (cited by Rashi), Moshe compared the separation of roles within the Jewish people to the division of day and night. Moshe said, “G-d assigned boundaries to His world. Are you capable of transforming morning into evening? Such is the possibility of undoing this.”

Equal

With this example, Moshe illustrated to Korach and his followers that the path to peace is paved by respecting the boundaries inherent in creation, not by abolishing them. Beginning with the distinction between day and night, G-d created the world with diversity. One day consists of both morning and evening, but individually, each of these periods serves a distinct purpose. The same is true of all of existence: G-d created every being with a unique identity and a specific role that it must fill. When its energies are devoted to the purpose it serves best, not wasted on a task intended for another part of the creation, then the world functions in harmony. Otherwise, the world becomes a place of chaos and discord.

In order to achieve Jewish unity, said Moshe, the divinely ordained distinctions of Kohen, Levi and Yisrael must not be annulled; they must be maintained and protected. Like the limbs and organs that make up the human body, when a Jew thrives within his intended role, his service complements his fellow Jews’ role in the service of G-d as well, and theirs, in turn, enhances his.

—Likutei Sichos vol. 18, pp. 203-207

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