The art of rebellion

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

The Torah passages and Israel's holidays are full of important messages that are relevant and empower our day-today lives. Rabbi Shai Tahan, head of the Sha'arei Ezra community and head of the Arzi HaLebanon teaching house, opens the gates for us to understand these messages, from their source, in a clear way. This week: The Art of Rebellion

In the story of the rebellion led by Korah against Moshe Rabenu, Korah employed various techniques to challenge Moshe's leadership and authority. One of these techniques involved mocking Moshe Rabenu and his teachings.

According to the Midrash (brought by Rashi in the beginning of the Parasha), Korah gathered 250 leaders and dressed them in blue garments. They approached Moshe Rabenu asking whether these blue garments required Tzitzit on the corners, seeking to challenge Moshe Rabenu's commandment.

Moshe Rabenu responded affirmatively, stating that the blue garments did indeed require Tzitzit. The rebels then proceeded to ridicule him, arguing that if a person wears entirely white clothing with just one blue string, that single string would suffice to fulfill the mitzvah of Tzitzit. They questioned why, then, if their entire garments were already blue, an additional blue string was necessary for Tzitzit.

After challenging Moshe Rabenu's leadership, the rebels proceeded to ask whether a house filled with holy books required a Mezuzah. When Moshe answered affirmatively, stating that it did, they again mocked him by questioning why a house filled with holy books would need a Mezuzah when an empty house would suffice with just a single Mezuzah.

This mocking response from the rebels implies a sarcastic criticism of Moshe's interpretation of the commandments. They suggested that if one Mezuzah could adequately fulfill the commandment for an empty house, then a house filled with books should not require any additional Mezuzot. Their intention was to undermine Moshe's authority and teachings by using this argument to challenge the necessity of Mezuzot in specific scenarios.

According to the interpretation of Rabbenu Bechaye, the rebels' question about whether a house full of books requires a Mezuzah was intended as a subtle hint to Moshe Rabenu. They aimed to convey that just as a tallit that is entirely blue and a house full of books are both considered holy, so too, the entire nation should be regarded as equally holy. They wanted to emphasize that Moshe should not elevate himself above the people and claim a higher level of holiness or authority.

In this perspective, the rebels were not simply mocking Moshe, but rather using a symbolic comparison to convey a deeper message about the nature of holiness and leadership. They sought to challenge any perceived hierarchy or superiority within the community and remind Moshe that the entire nation, like the tallit and the house filled with books, possessed inherent holiness and deserved equal recognition.

But why were they repeating their point twice, once with the Tzitzit and another time with the Mezuzah?

Perhaps they were trying to prove that the nation is protected spiritually and physically.

The Tzitzit hold a remarkable purpose beyond their visual appeal. They serve as a spiritual shield, guarding our inner selves from moral vulnerabilities. A fascinating tale recounted in the Gemara captures the essence of this protective function. It tells of a man tempted by desire, intent on engaging in sinful acts with a woman. Yet, in a turn of events, the Tzitzit unexpectedly struck him across the face, deterring him from his misguided path.

This powerful story portrays the profound influence of the Tzitzit as a safeguard for our spirituality. Like Divine Intervention, the strings act as a physical reminder of our moral obligations, preventing us from succumbing to temptation and transgression. Through this story, we witness the Tzitzits’ ability to redirect our focus, guiding us toward righteous actions and protecting our spiritual well-being.

When asked about the requirements for a Mezuzah, the intention was to demonstrate to Moshe Rabenu that the primary purpose of a Mezuzah is to serve as a guardian for the home and its inhabitants, providing protection not only when they are present but also when they are away. This emphasizes the idea that they are safeguarded physically at all times.

Did Korah make a mistake in his claim regarding the garments and the Mezuzah? If so, where did he go wrong? We've already clarified that it's not the books or the garments themselves that provide spiritual or physical protection, but rather the fulfillment of the actual Mitzvah. A Mitzvah is only considered valid if performed correctly; this includes attaching the strings to the corners of the garment and placing the Mezuzah on the door.

When we perform a Mitzvah in the precise manner that Moshe Rabenu taught, we elevate ourselves to higher spiritual realms and, in return, receive the necessary protection from Hashem. It is through the meticulous observance of the Mitzvot, following the detailed instructions, that we connect with Divine forces and attain the safeguarding we seek from the Almighty.

This article was written in cooperation with Shuva Israel