June 18, 2004


Quantum leap to evil: Hidden in the ancient words of this week's Torah (Bible) portion are timeless lessons about reaching human perfection (Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, 6/18/04, Jewish World Review)

When one reads the account of Korach's rebellion (Numbers 16:1-35), one is astounded by the incident. Not only was Moses the one who led the Jews from Egypt, but all the Israelites were eyewitnesses to the many miracles that were wrought through him. They saw him wave his staff over the Reed Sea, causing the waters to divide. There could be no doubt that he was commissioned by G-d to be the leader. How could anyone question the authenticity of Moses' leadership? It simply defies all logic. [...]

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz (Sichos Mussar 5731:21) helps us understand this. He cites the Talmudic statement, ''Envy, lust and pursuit of acclaim remove a person from the world'' (Ethics of the Fathers 4:28). The expression ''remove a person from the world'' is rather strange. Rabbi Shmulevitz explains that the usual deviation from proper behavior is a very gradual one. The Talmud says that the tactic of the yetzer hara (Evil Inclination) is to seduce a person to commit a very minor infraction, then lead him on to progressively more serious transgressions (Shabbos 108b). That is the nature and order of the world. The yetzer hara will not entice a person into doing something patently absurd.

However, if a person is overtaken by envy, one escapes the natural order of the world. One is no longer bound by logic. The passion of envy can be so great that it can overwhelm all rational thought, and leave one vulnerable to the yetzer hara's seduction to behave in the most irrational manner. Envy indeed removes a person from the natural order of the world.

That is what happened with Korach. Moses understood this, and delayed the trial until the next day (see Rashi to Numbers 16:5).

The Korach episode conveys a most important teaching. We are all vulnerable to envy, and envy is not a difficult emotion to identify. If you feel yourself being envious, do nothing for a while. Envy can suspend all logical thinking and make one do things that one will regret.

The desire for liberty can lead, at one extreme, to a monstrous selfishness and a return to the animalistic state of nature. So, at the other extreme, the desire for equality, which proceeds from envy, leads to a complete departure from nature and the murderous imposition of dystopia. Sadly for Man's recent history, two powerful prophets came along in the mid-19th century to justify these two anti-human extremes: Darwin on the one end and Marx on the other. Our awesome task is to return to being human again and: Love one another. The evidence of Europe suggests this task will be too much for most.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 18, 2004 9:54 AM

Can't find much evidence for loving one another in your text, Orrin.

Having a Chosen People requires also an Unchosen People.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 18, 2004 2:15 PM

Check the quote

Posted by: oj at June 18, 2004 2:37 PM

Harry: The question never asked by those who make comments like yours is, "Chosen for what?"

Posted by: David Cohen at June 18, 2004 2:43 PM

God's friends and menials, I always thought.

However, the question is meaningless. The Unchosen were marked for destruction.

Why should we care what the Chosen were up for?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 18, 2004 6:32 PM

The Unchosen were marked for destruction.

What the heck Book were you reading?

Posted by: David Cohen at June 18, 2004 8:12 PM


Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 18, 2004 8:46 PM

The Henry Ford Authorized Version

Posted by: oj at June 18, 2004 9:54 PM

OK, Harry, where in the Torah does it say that everyone but the Jews is marked for destruction?

Posted by: David Cohen at June 19, 2004 8:08 PM

Did I say everyone?

Just us Canaanites.

The older I get, the more persuaded I am that nobody actually is capable of reading the Bible.

The archaeologists tell us that the story about the Phoenecians sacrificing children was a libel. The cemeteries of infants turned out to have been stillborns (this from Carthage, but the religion was most likely the same).

In other words, the Phoenecians seemed to have had a tenderer spot for wee babes than most anybody anytime.

It turns out it was not Moloch who could demand a child sacrifice and have his believers think he meant it, but Jehovah.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 21, 2004 8:12 PM