Korach-The name

The name Korach means “bald” in Hebrew.  Like a talit (“prayer shawl”) without fringes (tzitzit) and like a house without a mezuzah, Korach symbolizes the disconnect between transcendent Godliness and the physical world.  This disconnect can express itself in three different ways, corresponding to the three letters of Korach’s name: the kuf, the reish and the chet.

The world was created with the letter hey, composed of a vertical line, a horizontal “roof” over it, and a third short vertical line disconnected from the horizontal “roof.”  The upper horizontal line represents thought, the vertical line on the right side represents speech, and finally the disconnected left line represents action, which takes place in a manner that is separate and disconnected from our thought.  Nevertheless, it must be sufficiently close to thought to be informed and directed by it.  Also, the disconnect must still be close enough to the “roof” so that our actions demonstrate our longing and desire to be connected with the thought that is above us.  The problems begin when our actions take on “strange” forms…

1) Sometimes, we slip up and do things that are completely forbidden by the Torah.  This is symbolized by the letter kuf, which drops completely below the line, corresponding to action which is beneath what is permissible by the Torah.

2) Sometimes, we act “spiritual,” in a way that bears no connection whatsoever to the physical world.  It is as if we wish to escape from the physical realm and live in the purely spiritual realm of thought.  This is symbolized by the reish of Korach’s name, which contains no left line whatsoever.

3) Sometimes, we assume we are already connected with the realm of thought and spirit, and need do no more work upon ourselves to get connected with the one Above, because we feel that we have already done all that is necessary and there is no longer any distance between us and God.  This mistake is symbolized by the final letter chet of Korach’s name, in which the left side is connected to and touching the “roof.”

The three distorted states correspond as well to the three questions that Korach asked Moshe Rabeinu:

1) Why does a tallit that is entirely made up of turquoise threads need fringes?  Here, Korach assumed that whatever is transcendent (turquoise, like the sky) should remain transcendent and permeate the physical world from a distance.  But Moshe informed him that the physical world must be close enough to the spiritual so that it won’t “fall” and become purely physical, like the letter kuf that dips below the line.

2) So, Korach tried again, asking, if one’s physical actions must be permeated with Torah, then does a house full of books really need a mezuza?  Let the books alone provide the spirituality, what does the mezuza add?  That is, let us be entirely spiritual, why do we need the physical mtzvot at all (similar to the reish of Korach’s name)?  To which Moshe Rabeinu replied that we cannot ignore the physical world, we need the mezuza and other physical mitzvoth in order to refine and elevate the world.

3) Again, Korach came back to Moshe Rabeinu: “Okay, so the entire congregation is holy, we are all “connected,” so why do we need you, Moshe, to bring down holiness to us?”  Here, we see the symptoms of the third letter of Korach’s name, the chet, in which the left side is touching and connected to the top of the letter.  This is the syndrome that occurs when we feel so connected that we no longer feel a need to work upon ourselves and do teshuva.  It is at this point that we must make ourselves “small” and recall that we are not even close to where we should be, which is like the left side of the chet that is unattached, but close enough to feel the influence of spirituality.

For a more detailed and lengthy version, go to www.jerusalemconnection.org

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 8, page 102

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