Last week, we explained two fundamentally different approaches regarding emunah and all of Torah and mitzvos. One approach is simple, perhaps unsophisticated, faith and belief. The other is the type that thrives on an intellectual understanding, with questions, answers, analysis, perception, and knowledge. Korach’s point was that surely Divine Wisdom would teach humanity only a rationalistic Judaism, one where everything makes perfect sense and is logical. He posited that anything beyond that is obviously Moshe Rabbeinu’s own invention. This would explain Korach’s strange mockery of the mitzvah of tzitzis. Tzitzis represent all of Hashem’s mitzvos (“and you shall see them and recall all of Hashem’s mitzvos) and has white strings and the blue-ish techeiles strings as its motif. White symbolizes plain, simple, emunah, while the color techeiles implies the thinking and contemplative state. As the Gemara states, the color techeiles is reminiscent of the ocean, and the ocean’s color is similar to that of the sky, which recalls Hashem’s Holy Throne. This indicates that the role of the techeiles is to make a person think, contemplate, and muse over the beri’ah (creation) and Hashem’s role in it, and to have a person reach emunah and develop a relationship with Hashem through reflection and pondering.
Korach asks, “Why in the world would a garment of techeiles require tzitzis?” Now, besides the mockery of the logic of such a mitzvah (as the correct response is not difficult at all —after all, there is the mitzvah to have strings of lavan as well!), the question is really asking that if you have techeiles, there would seem to be no need for the lavan, the white strings. In reality, Korach was really asking, if a person strives to understand all of Torah in a rational, logical (techeiles) way, and puts all of his energies into the analytic approach —isn’t that all one would need? Does a begged of techeiles need any lavan?
Korach also asked about the need for a mezuzah on a doorpost of a house that is already full of sefarim. Once again, besides the simple meaning of the question, which purports to show the ‘irrationality’ of such a requirement, the deeper meaning is: why is there a need for the simple “Shema Yisrael” declaration of perfect, yet simple faith (represented by the Parshas Shema that is the essence of the mezuzah), if you have a house full of deep, thoughtful, contemplative sefarim? Shouldn’t the intellectual approach negate the need, even the value, of a plain, ordinary mezuzah, which is a declaration of simple, straightforward, faith? This was Korach’s real question; such was the underlying motivation of his mockery. Indeed, mockery and leitzanus are appropriate weapons when one is attacking seemingly irrational, non-seichel attitudes and approaches.
However, Korach’s reasoning was flawed (how ironic!). Hashem’s wisdom is beyond human wisdom, which is tainted with agendas and personal negi’os to boot. Thus, what Hashem wants —nay, demands— is a base and foundation of emunah peshutah (simple faith). Then, indeed, one can spend one’s life attempting to understand the meanings and underlying messages of Torah and its mitzvahs with one’s human seichel. In fact, if we take the mitzvah of tzitzis as being emblematic of all mitzvos, with the white strings and techeiles ones representing the two approaches stated earlier, we will find that the method of wrapping the strings around their base has the white strings, emunah peshutah, as the basic “wrap”, with the techeiles strings as an “extra” beauty and yofi for the tzitzis. This fits perfectly with how we view our obligations to understand and to relate to Torah and mitzvos.
We can now understand many peculiarities about Korach’s philosophies and actions. Why did Hashem command that the pans used by Korach’s followers to burn the incense be made into plates for the Altar? Why perpetuate Korach’s aveirah in such a reverent manner? Put them in sheimos, perhaps, but to make them part of the mizbeiach? Moreover, why do many sefarim hint at the ‘rehabilitation’ of Korach at the ‘end of days? Now, we can understand these ideas quite well. Indeed, there is a place —an esteemed place— for emphasizing seichel, rationality, reason, and dialectic in learning and understanding the word of G-d. The trick is to understand the proper proportions, and not be caught up in a rationalistic world that dictates that if your human mind does not quite “get it,” you should be free to ignore it, even to mock it!
It goes even further. Part of Korach’s mockery, as stated in last week’s column, was the fictitious story of a widow left penniless by a constant barrage of demands made for various tithes that must be given to the poor and to Kohanim. It was a comedy-drama fictional play, and —as is unfortunately true with media-driven dramas— although it never actually happened, it could have happened, and that, as we know, is enough to set off a bombardment of pious platitudes against the potential ‘perpetrator’ of these perceived ‘injustices.’
But why, or rather how, was this story unfair or dishonest, and thus iniquitous? The answer is that if we are able to get beyond seichel, beyond the rational, we are able to live with and internalize Hashem’s promises that one will not lose by giving tzedakah (and, by extension, mattnos kehunah). It will not happen! Ah, you say, but if I have X shekel in my wallet and I give away Y shekel, I will obviously end up with X minus Y. Not obvious at all, says Hashem, and chances are that you will gain! This is but one example of the higher Wisdom of the Almighty that is beyond the limitations of man’s limited rational faculties, which are limited and indeed a slave to his personal unwillingness to part with his hard-earned money. Thus, one will rationalize one’s reluctance to give. However, Hashem commands us to give, and says (Devarim 15:10) “And let not your heart be saddened when you give.” Go beyond the seichel; realize that with all of its emphasis on understanding and intellectual investigation, Judaism is ultimately a manifestation of G-dliness that is beyond human reasoning.