by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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And Korach the son of Izhar the son of Kehas the son of Levi took himself and Dasan and Aviram the sons of Eliav and On the son of Peles, the sons of Reuven.
On this verse Rashi has a long comment beginning with the words "And Dasan and Aviram." In that comment he tells us how Korach rallied the people to his side for his rebellion against Moses. Korach clothed 250 members of Sanhedrin in robes that were made of pure turquoise wool. Then, in order to bait Moses, Korach presented him with an halachic question: Is a robe that is made completely of turquoise wool "techailes" obligated in Tzizis (with its turquoise thread)? Moses answered that such robes, if worn, are obligated to have the turquoise thread in them. Korach ridiculed this answer by asking mockingly "If a plain garment (without turquoise in it) needs only one thread of turquoise, why then, should a garment which is completely turquoise need any additional thread? In this way Korach wanted to expose Moses' inability to decide basic Jewish law in any logical manner and thus to show the people that Moses wasn't fit to appoint people to various positions of power within the community (as he had done by appointing his brother, Aaron to the position of High Priest.).
Why do think Rashi (and the midrash) assumed that Korach asked this particular question of Moses?
Understanding the Analogy
An Answer: Certainly Korach had chosen an apt halachic question. His point was to emphasis (in his demagogic manner) the equality of all Jews. As he says (verse 3) "For the whole assembly, all of them, are holy and Hashem is in their midst, so why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of Hashem." He was implying that "Just as a garment which is completely techailes (completely holy) shouldn't need an additional thread, so too our congregation which is completely holy doesn't need an additional "holy person" to rule over it."
The specific halacha regarding tzizis was chosen because this was the last law discussed in the Torah at the end of Parashas Shelach.
Korach's cynicism didn't carry the day, although unfortunately it did seem to convince many Jews in the congregation. The halacha is that such a "completely turquoise" garment is obligated to have this additional thread. Perhaps we can say, by way of analogy, that while the additional thread may be no different than the others, the mere fact that it is outside the main garment (i.e. the congregation) gives it a perspective on matters that the other threads (other people) don't have. It is this necessary distance and viewpoint that is necessary for a leader. Korach didn't have that distance and that impartiality and therefore his personal crusade was doomed.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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