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Home » Education, Korach

Korach: Resenting Direction

Submitted by on June 12, 2018 – 10:11 pmNo Comment | 5,401 views

Korach, who resented direction, led a popular rebellion. Like all rebels he purported to take up the cause of the people. And like all rebels, his cause was neither real nor beneficial to the people.

Korach, “assembled against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire congregation are all holy, and G-d is among them. So why do you raise yourselves over G-d’s people?”[1]

At Sinai, G-d didn’t choose Moses and Aaron. G-d chose us all. If we are each holy, why do we need a Moses and Aaron? Why do we need teachers to tell us what to do? This sounds like a populous cause because it appears to raise the banner of the ordinary person. Yet, it is a false clarion call. Moses did not raise himself over G-d’s people. On the contrary, Moses raised up G-d’s people.

Can You Accept Instruction?

To understand this let me ask you a question. Do you take direction well or do you see it as intrusive; an insult to your wisdom and independence? Do you thank those who teach you or do you berate them for treating you like a child?

Korach resented being told what to do. He was a smart and proud man. If anyone dared to show him the way, Korach would chaff and complain. He wanted to garner support, so he encouraged the people to join him. You too can think for yourself, he told them. You can be trusted to know right from wrong and holy from profane, why do you need Moses?

Will You Learn?

In general, those who take well to instruction tend to absorb the information and use it as a spring board to the next level of talent or understanding. If you make good use of what you were taught, you are grateful to those who taught you and don’t complain that they didn’t trust you to figure it out for yourself. You figured out plenty by yourself, but you recognize that if you hadn’t been taught, you would likely never have been pointed in the right direction to figure it all out. You feel good about yourself and you feel grateful to the teacher.

If you are lazy and don’t use the information you were taught to help you reach the next level, you are left only with what you were taught. And under those conditions it makes sense that you chafe under the collar and complain that you didn’t get the chance to figure it out for yourself.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad movement, once offered his grandson, Reb Menachem Mendel, who would become the third Rebbe of Chabad, the spiritual gift of Torah wisdom. The grandson refused the gift wanting to labor over the Torah and achieve his understanding on his own rather than receive it freely as a gift. When Reb Menachem Mendel grew older, he regretted his choice. I should have taken what my grandfather offered, he said, and labored to expand my understanding.

Korach tried to convince the people that Moses was raising himself over the congregation by offering a teaching that they were savvy and holy enough to arrive at on their own. Why should Moses and Aaron hold these coveted positions in return for giving us what we can achieve on our own, he asked? Why should they raise themselves above the people?

Whether Korach realized it or not, his argument was a red herring. Moses was not depriving the Jews of developing the strengths they had. On the contrary, the role G-d had assigned to Moses was to help them see their own potential. Indeed, the people are holy, but if they don’t know it, they would need to be told. And once they were told, they could develop their strengths to no end.

Moses didn’t raise himself over G-d’s congregation. Moses raised the people to the level of G-d’s congregation. He helped them understand who they were and how to fulfil their potential.

Depends on the Teacher

It doesn’t all depend on the mindset of the student. It also depends on the mindset of the teacher. If the teacher insists on showing the students everything and never teaches them how to figure things out for themselves, the teacher does indeed deprive the students.

That was not Moses’ way. When the Jews wanted to send spies, Moses did not tell them it would be wrong. He gave them a chance to do it their way and hoped they would do it right. Moses did not want to spoon-feed his students to the point that they could not do anything on their own. Instead Moses set a standard for the people, and then stepped aside so they could live up to it on their own.

A true teacher identifies the student’s strengths, sets a standard for them, and urges them to figure it out for themselves. The student tries and fails, tries again and succeeds partially, tries again and finally succeeds completely. This student takes pride in learning and is motivated to continue.

Moreover, such students don’t need anyone to show them the way because the teacher showed them how to find it on their own. The teacher taught them how to walk, pointed them in the right direction, and stepped aside as they learned how to sprint. When they arrive to where the teacher has always been,[2] they feel victorious because they know they arrived on their own strength.

This was Moses’ formula as a teacher. In other words, the very thing that Korach accused Moses of not doing, is what precisely Moses did.

In Our Times

This week will mark the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. The Rebbe personified this trait. He always encouraged people to grow in their relationship with G-d and in their Jewish observance. Yet, rather than resenting the intrusion, Jews flocked to the Rebbe in great numbers. Chabad Houses around the world are filled with Jews who continue to study his teachings.

One of the reasons for this success is that the Rebbe never told anyone that they were not good enough. He always taught us that we were the best. He empowered us to seek a deeper relationship with G-d, assuring us that our souls are every bit as bright as his. If he could devote himself to Torah, then so could we. Hearing the Rebbe compare himself to ordinary Jews, empowered us and gave us confidence.

We can learn from this. If we want to impact others, we need to see them as Divine gems, filled with holy souls. Only when we truly believe in the potential of others, can we empower them to realize their potential on their own. If we cast ourselves in the role of perennial teacher, we will fail to reach their hearts. If we empower them to learn on their own, there is no limit to how much they will learn and to how far they will go.

[1] Numbers 16:3.

[2] The ultimate growth is when you don’t need your teacher to tell you how to think because you are already thinking the way the teacher does.

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