PARSHAS KORACH 5774
A stormy night, off the coast of Newfoundland, on the bridge of the USS Lincoln; a dim green blip suddenly appears on the radar screen:
USS Lincoln to Canadian Naval Authorities: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
USS Lincoln: This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I repeat, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I repeat; you divert YOUR course.
USS Lincoln: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES’ ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS, AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE FIFTEEN DEGREES NORTH, OR COUNTER-MEASURES WILL BE TAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call….
Korach incited an overt rebellion against the authority of Moshe and Aharon, the selfless leaders of Klal Yisroel. Korach posed as a champion of the masses, in order to rouse the masses to join his cause.
He began his tirade with an exclamation intended to put Moshe and Aharon on the defensive, accusing them of selfishly garnering all of the nation’s power for themselves. Then, in order to curry the favor of the public he demanded that, since all Jews were equally holy, Moshe and Aharon had no right to usurp the highest positions for themselves.
Despite the fact that he was baselessly attacked, Moshe did all in his power to make peace with the rebels. But it was to no avail. They were bent on rebellion and would settle for nothing less.
The greatness of peace is constantly underscored by our Sages. “How great is peace; for prayer does not conclude with anything other than peace, and the Priestly Blessings do not conclude with anything other than peace.” “Hillel said: One should be from the disciples of Aharon - love peace and pursue peace; love the creations and bring them closer to Torah.” “Great is the blessing of peace which G-d granted Pinchas because the world runs on nothing other than peace. The Torah is solely peace as it says, ‘its ways are wars of pleasantness and all of its pathways are peace’.”
In the tractate called Derech Eretz Zutah, the entire final chapter is dedicated to speaking about the greatness of peace and its importance. Among the other qualities mentioned is that the Name of G-d is Peace, the name of Moshiach is peace, and the name of Klal Yisroel is peace. The verse in Tehillim (29) states, “G-d will grant strength to His nation. G-d will bless His nation with peace.” In addition, the kaddish prayer concludes with a prayer for peace, “He who makes peace on high, He will make peace upon us, and upon all of Israel, and we will state: Amen!”
What is the great merit of peace and why is it so important?
Nesivas Shalom explains that the need for peace was built into the very fabric of creation. The Koznitzer Maggid explains what it means that G-d’s Name is Peace. Every object in this world is composed of one, or some combination of more than one, of four base substances: Fire, spirit, water, and dust. The enigma of creation is that these four substances all oppose each other. Fire consumes, water floods, wind extinguishes, and dust conceals. Yet, when a precise measure of these substances is combined in perfect balance they create a world which sustains and nurtures life.
Truthfully, every force within creation stands in direct contrast to another opposing force. Night contrasts day and winter is the opposite extreme of summer. Every time a wave crashes against the shore, it threatens to consume the land and devour it into the infinite ocean. The world of science has demonstrated that all matter is composed of a balance of negatively charged electrons, neutral neurons, and positively charged protons which form the structure, depth, form, and density of all matter. It is that precarious balance - i.e. the peace – that exists between these diverse forces that enables the world to exist. Whenever G-d, in His infinite wisdom, decides to upset that balance, untold destruction and chaos ensues, bringing with it a wave of destruction and loss of life.
It is for this reason that peace is so vital; for without peace the world cannot function! The continuity of creation and the perpetuity of life in our world are dependent on peace and harmony.
It must be noted that peace does not mean that every diverse component within creation must nullify itself by forfeiting its own uniqueness for the sake of peace. In fact, if that would occur the world would cease to exist within a short time. If winter and summer would both “compromise” so that there would be but one warm season, if night and day would “compromise” so that there would be only one elongated period of dusk, or if ocean and land would merge into one vast shallow body of water, nature would be destroyed.
Peace is not the result of disregarding individuality. Rather it is the result of the combination of all diverse forces uniting together, the synergy of all its parts.
Stephen Covey writes: “What is synergy? Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It means that the relationship which the parts have to each other is a part in and of itself. It is not only a part, but the most catalytic, the most empowering, the most unifying, and the most exciting part…
“Valuing the differences is the essence of synergy – the mental, the emotional, and the psychological differences between people. And the key to valuing those differences is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are…
“And unless we value the differences in our perceptions, unless we value each other and give credence to the possibility that we’re both right, that life is not always a dichotomous either/or, that there are always third alternatives, we will never be able to transcend that limit of conditioning.”
Nesivos Shalom continues that so many things bear the title “peace” because peace is a prerequisite for all creation and life, both in the upper worlds and in the lower worlds. Peace is the great unifier, the combiner all of forces into one incredible force dedicated solely to increasing the Glory of Heaven.
In one of his classic discourses, Rav Shimshon Pinkus zt’l explained the Torah’s viewpoint about marriage. A husband and wife are often viewed as a single entity. The Torah states, “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife, and they shall become one flesh“.However, it must be understand that the whole concept of marriage as two halves equaling one whole is true only in regards to soul and purpose. On a spiritual level a husband and wife become one unit. On a practical and physical level however, marriage is a union of two separate individuals.
Rav Pinkus explained by relating the following anecdote: “I am the Rav in a community called Ofakim in the south of Eretz Yisroel. The community has about two hundred families, where literally almost half are of Sephardic descent and half are Ashkenazic. When the community was ready to build a shul I instructed them to build two separate shuls in one building. Each shul would daven according to its own traditions, but both would be housed under the same roof. When people heard my idea they countered that it would cause divisiveness. I replied that the opposite is true; for nothing leads to peace like diversity!
“In order for two people to fuse into one single entity each must forfeit half of its self. To be “one”, which implies that two halves have become enjoined and enmeshed, each side must ‘shed’ part of itself. To forfeit half of one’s essence and personality inevitably breeds resentment. If my wife and I are each only half of one whole, then if my wife purchases an expensive dress, I will have acrimonious feelings because my “half of our whole” doesn’t care about freely spending hard-earned money on an expensive dress.
“However, if each of us remains as an individual, albeit with the goal of uniting and helping each other meet our needs and grow as people, then there will be no resentment or ill-feeling. Although I as a man may not care for that dress, but my desire to preserve our union requires me to value what my wife values. The result of such as perspective will be true peace and harmony.
“As another example, I see my father as the father of our family and her father as the father-in-law of the family. If we are one entity there is no way to resolve that issue. But if we are two units living together in love and devotion then we are able to respect our differences and accept our diversities without contention. I can see my father as ‘the father’ and accept the fact that she sees her father as ‘the father’.
“It was for that reason that I told my community to build two shuls. When each shul is able to follow its own traditions and customs and thus maintain its uniqueness, then we can live together in love and peace.
“In order for there to be peace one must recognize that the other ‘half’ is, in reality, its own whole!”
Rabbi Gedalyah Schorr zt’l explained that malchus (kingship/monarchy) is the unification of all different factions within a kingdom.
When everyone is rendered ‘intellectually sterile’, i.e. where their ability to think for themselves is stunted and they known nothing more than a bunch of facts dictated to them through a little red book that is not true malchus. A true monarch is a king who reigns over a group of diverse individuals each with their own thoughts and ideas, yet who have recognized for themselves the legitimacy and greatness of their king and have accepted his leadership upon themselves.
True malchus is a result of shalom. That is why the name of Moshiach is peace. The Messianic era will be a time of spiritual bliss when all will recognize the truth and see that G-d is the true king. It will be a time of peace, under the united monarchy of King Moshiach.
On the other hand, when one allows his own personal feelings and differences to cause strife and divisiveness, and when one sees dissimilarities as a sign of inferiority, that is the antithesis of peace.
The debacle of Korach tragically symbolizes the dangers of man’s insatiable jealousy and quest for prestige, as well as the deleterious effect of dispute and quarrels. Korach was a prestigious and wealthy individual. But his envy caused him to see himself as inferior to Moshe and Aharon and not that he was simply playing a different, but equally vital role.
. By challenging the authority of the great leaders of Klal Yisroel, Korach and his followers sealed their own fate. The fact that they were willing to compromise their own lives as well as the lives of their families is proof that they were wholly confident that their cause was justified and that they were acting properly. Once they convinced themselves of the validity of their cause and that their behavior was warranted and justified there could be no rectification without harsh and painful retribution to squash the rebellion.
Maintaining peace is not always easy, especially with difficult people and in challenging situations. The debacle of Korach and the Torah’s prohibition, “You shall not be like Korach and his congregation”, reminds us why it is so vital and well worth the effort!
“The world runs on nothing other than peace”
“G-d will bless His nation with peace”
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 Bamibar Rabbah 11:7
 Avos 1:12
 Bamidbar Rabbah 21:1
 Parshas Naso, “gadol hashalom”
 The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
 see Berachos 24a
 Bereishis 2:24
 Often romanticized by the refrain that marriage is “one plus one equals one”)
 The “little red book” was the title given by the West to the book that was required reading in China under the communist regime of Mao Zedong until his death in 1976.
 Bamidbar 17:5
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