In this week’s Torah portion, Korach instigates a mutiny against Moshe Rabbeinu. Throughout history, Korach has been vilified as someone who was corrupt and had no fear of God. However, if we look at his argument, it doesn’t seem all that bad.
Korach asked Moshe: “The whole nation of Israel is holy; why do you exalt yourself over the congregation of God?” Seemingly, Korach was not corrupt, but was fighting elitism, which could very well have been a noble cause for him to champion.
As an American, I love the statement in the Constitution that “all men were created equal.” It’s something ingrained in Jewish ethics, in the way we were brought up, that all human beings deserve equal opportunity.
Korach, the Midrash tells us, asked Moshe: “Does a tallit that was made entirely of techelit (special blue wool) need to have strings made of techelit as well?”
Korach was saying that all the Jewish people were holy, so there was no need to make a distinction between them (white vs. blue). I doubt this is what the Founding Fathers meant when stating that all men were created equal.
Tomorrow, Shabbat, is the 18th anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s (R’ Menachem M. Schneersohn) passing. The Rebbe, as he was lovingly known, taught that Korach’s error was that although all men are created equal, we each have an individual mission in changing this world into a place of goodness and kindness. We’re all equal yet distinct, and each one of us is unique.
Nelson Mandela is quoted as saying, “There is no passion to be found in playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one that you are capable of living.”
In Ethics of our Fathers (Chapter 4), it states: “Do not scorn any person, for there is no person without his/her hour.” Every human being, every creature, every object, has its unique purpose. Let us learn from Korach’s mistake and treat every human being as an equal, yet respect our differences, and help one another reach the goal of making this world a place that God would be proud of.