Korach “Despicable Minyan? No Way!
Korach, 5777/2017~ “Despicable Minyan? No Way!
Last week we read about the devastating effect of those 10 “spies”-“Mraglim”. As the Talmud tells us, the cries of those spies foreshadowed the day of our ultimate collective cries: Tisha Bav. This week we learn about more devastation: the divisive challenge of Korach against Moses and Aaron, viewed really by the Torah as a fight against Hashem who selected them as our leaders. Both events are recorded for posterity, read and re-read every year teaching us-but haunting us until this very day. Tisha Bav is a day of sadness for generations. The “divide of Korach and his gang” is the penultimate example of the danger of Jewish disunity which has caused us so much damage over the centuries (continuing sadly until today).
Here is my problem: it is precisely these two events from which the idea of a “Holy congregation” is derived. The very laws of the “Minyan”, the foundation for our Synagogues and communal service, where nothing really “happens” without the requisite quorum of ten men are sourced from these two events! To understand how this works, please put on your “Gemara Kop”-your Talmudical “hats”. Here is how it goes:
There are two operative words and three verses in play:
“Edah”-which means “congregation” and;
“Mitoch”, which means “from within”
Leviticus 22:32: “Vnikdashti B’TOCH Bnai Yisrael” (and I will be made
holy from within the Jewish people) and;
Numbers, 14:26: “ Ad Matay LaEDAH Haraa Hazot”—Reacting to the negative
reports of the ten “spies”-Mraglim, Hashem tells Moses and
Aaron: “How long will I tolerate this EDAH/Congregation?” and;
Numbers, 16:21: “Hibadlu MITOCH HaEDAH Hazot” in our Parsha. Reacting to
Korach’s challenge Hashem tells Moses and Aaron: “Separate your
selves from WITHIN the Edah, the congregation”.
As you can see, the third verse, dealing with Korach, combines the words “WITHIN” and “Congregation”. Through all of this the Talmud (Berachot 21b) derives that items related to “Kedusha”, or holiness, cannot be said without a Minyan (Like Kaddish…). As the analysis proceeds, the term EDAH, congregation, is used to describe a group of ten, and the term “MITOCH” is used to describe gathering to sanctify Hashem. When these two words are combined in one verse, Voila! We derive the rule that to sanctify Hashem requires a gathering of Ten.
So, there you have it. The Minyan, The literal life source for Jewish existence throughout the ages, the foundation for Shul, Davening, Torah and our Jewish congregational institutions throughout millennia, stems from two of our lowest points in history. How can this be? Could the Torah not have found another more seemingly respectful and/or appropriate setting for imparting the Halacha of “Ten makes a Minyan”? Why should the Law relating to our earthly connection to G-d be so intimately tied to events reflecting our very rejection of Hashem’s supreme authority?
My fellow “Minyannaires”, I believe the Torah is teaching us a profound lesson: Hashem cares more about us loving each other and finding a point of unity than us paying lip service to his greatness-and fighting amongst ourselves in the process. It’s as if Hashem is saying: “If you guys can get together and achieve togetherness -any kind of unity—to me that’s the essence of G-dliness. To me that is the expression of Neshamot, sparks of Hashem-pieces of me-that are joining together in one flame. And that achievement rises even above your own rejection of me. Yes, you may have done terrible wrong and punishment may result. I don’t condone your rebellion, but your ability to come together is a statement than even if you outwardly rebel against me, you truly know you are my children, as you recognize that you are all brothers and sisters”. In other words, our mere gathering together as one unit is a declaration that we all have one father, share one soul. And thus, Hashem can even forgive treacherous rebellion, as he knows we will ultimately return to him as our collective parent, our one creator.
That is what a Minyan and Shul is all about friends. We may all have different backgrounds-even beliefs, but each one of you is welcome in Shul, at Minyan. And if we can indeed come-and stay-together, we will alwyas know Hashem will be on our side.
So there may be a despicable Me,but there never is a despicable Minyan!