In this week’s Parsha, Korach challenges Moshe and Aaron’s leadership. Together with Datan and Aviram, he gathers 250 men to offer an incense sacrifice to God. This seemingly pious act is actually a rebellious attempt to claim the priesthood from Aaron.
The holy Zohar makes this story relevant to each and every one of us today by looking at the first two words of the Parsha in a new light: “וַיִּקַּח קֹרח” – “And Korach took” (Bamidbar 16:1).
This is a story about Korach attempting to take something that does not belong to him. When we run after things that are not really ours, the Zohar explains, not only does that which we are chasing run away from us but also that which rightfully belongs to us.
Our Divinely gifted portion in the world looks at us and says, “What? I’m not good enough for you? You want more? You want something else? Fine! I’ll leave too.” And just like that, our raison d’etre slips from our grasp. We are left with nothing.
Korach’s punishment was as dramatic as it was symbolic: the earth opened up and swallowed him whole. When you attempt to usurp someone else’s place in this world, you lose your own.
It is so easy to look at those around us with jealous eyes and an envious heart, and I’m not just talking about wanting someone else’s wife or car. We long for the relationship our neighbor has with his/her children, the respect our colleague has from other coworkers, the passion our friend has for his/her job, the faith our sibling has despite challenges. Isn’t it natural to want these things? Doesn’t it motivate us to become better?
In many ways, Korach was a righteous man trying to get closer to God. All he wanted was to lead the nation in their Avodat Hashem. But the role he sought did not belong to him, no matter how holy it was. And perhaps his motivations were not driven solely by a burning passion for Divine closeness, but also by ego and a lust for power. But that is not for us to judge; only you have the ability to discern what truly drives your deepest desires.
If we want to discover our place in this world, we need to turn inward and upward, not from side to side. We need to look deep into ourselves and up to Hashem, not around at everyone else.
I bless us all with the gift of uncovering what we’re truly made of, while spending our lives bringing that to fruition, instead of trying to be like everybody else. And when we unearth our personal blessings, I pray that we fall in love with them, become one with them, and tap into the beauty of all the unique dreams that Hashem has imagined just for us.
When each of us is living out our unique purpose in the world, bringing down the particular ray of Divine light that only we can reveal, and recognizing that profundity in the lives of those around us, peace will follow naturally. Instead of breaking apart and consuming us, the world will shine in a wholeness that raises us all closer to God.