"Likes" or criticism?

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Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

It's fun to hear compliments, much less fun to hear criticism. Korach, in this week's Torah portion, has his gaze fixed on public opinion polls. Seeking strong populist support, he says to Moshe and to Aharon: "All members of the congregation are holy, and HaShem is in their midst. So why do you raise yourselves above the HaShem's assembly?" (Numbers 16:3) According to Korach, everyone is holy, everyone is wonderful, everyone is perfect. There is nothing that needs improvement. We have rights, but no obligations.

Moshe Rabbeinu, on the other hand, is not just complimentary but also demands something from us. When Moshe speaks to the people about holiness, he articulates this divine challenge: "You shall be holy, for I, HaShem your God, am holy." Leviticus 19:2) This is the entire story: Are we focused on "all are holy" in the present or "you shall be holy" in the future? Are we perfect or is there always room for improvement? Do we look only at the "likes," or also at the criticism? Do we rest on our laurels or understand that there is always more work to be done?

It's more fun to listen to Korach, but more instructive to listen to Moshe Rabbeinu.

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