Flattery or Toil?

Wise, famous people can make mistakes, big time. Sometime in the middle of life, Korach voiced publicly a statement that sounded very appealing: “The whole congregation is holy”, he yelled at Moshe and Aharon, “And why should you raise yourselves above them?” So much demagogy, so much populism. Of course everyone is holy, but Korach decided to leave the constant self improvement and self correction track that leads to holiness. Everyone is holy, therefore he himself is on the level of Moshe and Aharon. Everyone is holy, therefore there is no point at all in the practical Mitzvot and in learning the Torah, which he started mocking. In contrast to the statement “everyone is holy”, Moshe Rabbenu presents a completely different way: “You shall be holy”, he says to the People, and gives them 613 tasks on their way to holiness.

Korach speaks in the present tense (“everyone is holy!”), as if we have already reached the destination. Moshe speaks in the future tense (“You shall be holy!”), because one has to toil to get there. One speaks about rights, and the other about obligations. One flatters the masses, and the other demands of the People and challenges them. According to Korach, the Torah brought down to the world an automatic form of holiness, whereas according to Moshe, the Torah brought down to the world the potential for holiness, and one must toil to achieve it.
Rav Kook writes that in our generation as well, we must be wary of people who mock the Torah of Moshe like this, and who do not understand that life is one long, thorough workshop for building our personality, step by step.

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סיון רהב-מאיר

Sivan Rahav-Meir is a media personality and lecturer. Married to Yedidya, the mother of five. Lives in Jerusalem. She works for Israel TV news, writes a column for Yediot Aharonot newspaper, and hosts a weekly radio show on Galei Zahal (Army Radio). Her lectures on the weekly Torah portion are attended by hundreds and the live broadcast attracts thousands more listeners throughout the world.
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