Dvar Torah for Parshat Korach

Based on Likutey Halakhot, Hodaah 5:8

“The earth opened its mouth, swallowing them and their households, along with all the men who were with Korach, and their property” (Numbers 16:32).

“A tempest passes in a sudden and the villain is gone, but the tzaddik is the foundation of the world” (Proverbs 10:25).

Last week we talked about some benefits of hiskashrut l’tzaddik, being “bound” to a tzaddik. This is a good week to talk about a disadvantage, perhaps the disadvantage, of being dis-connected from tzaddikim.

My chavruta (Torah-study partner) recently reminded me, we cannot study Torah, even (or especially) the weekly reading, superficially. We must realize there is much more than what meets the eye. We must probe as deeply as we can in order to have even the faintest glimpse of what is really taking place.

I’m no linguist, but as a native English speaker there is something I find curious about Hebrew: all its letters are consonants. When you see a word all by its lonesome self, you cannot be certain of how it is to be pronounced. Even in a sentence, when the word has context, the correct reading may not be obvious. The correct pronunciation and proper meaning of a word depends on its nekudot, vowels. The nekudot are to the letters what the soul is to the body: they give it life.

A Torah scroll has many, many letters, but no nekudot. Nu? So what gives life to the letters, to the words and to the Torah? It is how well one lives by the Torah in general, and especially how kadosh, holy, one is in regard to his moral behavior. “How well” and “how holy” depend on “how much”—how much, how truly and sincerely one desires to live according to the Torah.

The desire and desires one has, for the Torah or for anything, are the life and soul of the Torah. When you study Torah, the conclusions you reach depend very much on what it is you want from life. The letters, the body of the Torah and how it is intellectualized, cannot be safely separated from the nekudot, the soul and desire to live it as it should be lived, the way the genuine tzaddikim live it.

That was Korach’s fatal error. He thought the letters, which all Jews and every Jew has equally, were also the soul of the Torah. “I have the letters. I—anyone who uses his mind—can know the life these letters contain and how to live it. We are all holy enough. We do not need a tzaddik!”

But it isn’t so. The letters of the holy Torah receive their life, their soul, only via the nekudot. The nekudot themselves are the positive desire and longing of the tzaddikim, and of us ordinary Yidden, who want (or at least, want to want) to live up to the Torah’s ideals. We know that just as we need a Moshe Rabbeinu to give us the Torah’s letters, the body, we need him for the nekudot, the soul, in order to have a Torah that lives.

Without such a tzaddik, God forbid, we have nothing to stand on and the entirety of our lives gets swallowed up. We’re as good as dead.

Where is Korach today? The Talmud (Bava Batra 74a) tells us that he and his community are still in the hole that swallowed them alive. Every rosh chodesh (first of the Jewish month), they rise close enough to the surface so that those standing nearby can hear their message: Moshe and his Torah are true.

May our attachment to genuine tzaddikim be kosher and sincere, so that we live the Torah the way it ought to be lived. Amen!

agutn Shabbos!

Shabbat Shalom!

© Copyright 2011 Breslov Research Institute

Author: Ozer Bergman

Ozer Bergman is an editor for the Breslov Research Institute, a spiritual coach, and author of Where Earth and Heaven Kiss: A Practical Guide to Rebbe Nachman's Path of Meditation.

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