Monday, February 27, 2012

#135 - Tribe of Levi: Levite MATZA (Part 3)

Korach had it all. He was an accomplished Torah scholar, one of the wealthiest people who ever lived, related to the greatest righteous people of all time, and was a Levite. Now, someone in his position would be crazy to throw this all away, or would he?

Was it his Torah scholarship, his wealth, his claim to fame, his genealogy, or something else, or a combination of things that got to him? Whatever the case, what we do know for sure, aside from the Midrash which states that he had an evil wife who encited him to start up, that he felt he was no less worthy of being a Cohen Gadol as Aaron. Perhaps if he would have been elected to a certain position, a leadership position that a son of a younger brother than his father wound up being elected to, he never would have proceeded with his claims against his cousins Moses and Aaron. You see, Kehath son of Levi had four sons - Amram, Yitzhar, Chevron, and Uziel. Now, Korach was never simply greedy or stupid. He would have accepted the fact that Moses and Aaron, sons of Kehath's son eldest Amram, became the leader of the Jewish people and Cohen Gadol respectively, even if Hashem never would have said a word as to who should have what position. However, as the son of Kehath's second oldest Yitzhar, he wouldn't stomach the fact that Elitzaphan, son of Kehath's youngest Uziel, became a Levite leader as instructed by Hashem or Moses, rather than himself. You would think that with his kind of money, aside from his spiritual connections, that Korach would be happy enough. However, this was not to be.

I am not going to start to get into all kinds of details of what took place in the ensuing argument between Korach and Moses/Aaron. Actually, it was a one-sided argument, because Moses merely appointed the positions based on Hashem's words, and not his own decision, so as far as Moses was concerned, Korach was messing with the Big Boss. Now, I should not in relationship to my previous post of the Tribe of Levi series about the watches of the Tribe of Levi, that Korach had Divine Inspiration and foresaw that all 24 watches of the Levites would be descended from him. This was one among other reasons why Korach felt that he was special enough to be no less worthy of being the Cohen Gadol. And while Korach claimed "all of the nation is holy", he chose to believe that Moses, rather than Hashem, called the shots about the leadership positions.

The Zohar compares the fighting or decisiveness of Korach to what took place on the second day of Creation when there was a squabble between the higher waters and the lower waters. You see, following Hashem asking for the firmanent to split the waters up to higher and lower, the lower waters felt that they weren't spiritually lucky as the higher waters who were closer to Heaven, and hence were jealous. Addressing this issue, Hashem assured the lower waters that they would be used for the festivities of the water drawing in the Temple during the Succot holiday. However, because of the discord that took place on this day of the week, unlike all the other days of Creation in the Torah where it states after a stage of creation that "it was good" at least once, this phrase isn't mentioned even once for this day of Creation. To note, the Shir Shel Yom/Song of the Day for Yom Sheni/Monday that the Levites sang in the Temple was composed by the three sons of Korach who repented from the erroneous beliefs of their father at the last minute as the earth started swallowing people.

On Passover at the Seder table, we have three whole Matzot one on top of the other. One of the spiritual reasons given for particularly three Matzot is that they correspond to the three divisions of the Jewish people - Cohanim, Levites, and the rest of the Jews. Anyways, soon after the Seder begins, the middle Matza - that corresponds to the Levites - is divided into two parts; one part which stays with the other two Matzot which will be first eaten when Matza will be eaten for the first time this evening, and the other part is stored elsewhere until it's time to eat the final Matza of the evening. However, when splitting this Matza, we do not attempt to necessarily to split it evenly; rather, we purposely split it unevenly, and it is the smaller piece that stays sandwiched with the other two Matzot, and the bigger piece is saved for later.

So why is this middle Matza split into two in this fashion? It is true that the Matza is the bread of affliction, and hence splitting the Matza is a symbolism of this. But isn't this the precise time, the holiday that celebrates the birth of the Jewish nation being united upon leaving Egypt, that we look for the best way possible to maintain this level of unity rather than making splits, especially uneven splits? For after all, actions represent what we want things to be. We see that the prophets in the Bible at times did certain actions to symbolize an event that was to take place in the future, the action having some resemblance or obvious connection to the event-to-be. So, why would we want to make such an uneven split with the Matza, when unity for Jews is the name of the day?

Sometimes, things happen in life beyond our understanding. We are quick to say that it is no fair. After all, why should rotten people in the government have the big bucks while good, hard working, abiding citizens have to struggle to barely be able to pay the rent or mortgage? This is just one out of so many examples that can be brought that shows what we perceive as "injustice" in this world.

However, each and every one of us are responsible to an extent of what goes around us. To begin with, it starts with the family; and for many, it's the spouse. Many claim that in order for a marriage to work, it needs to be 50-50. This may kind of work in a divorce, which is something that the now exed couple should have practiced a little earlier in their withered marriage. However, upon closer examination, attempting to figure out what is 50-50 itself can lead to arguments because no two people perceive the exact same thing as to what is fair. In fact, only Hashem can know exactly what is truly 50-50. And so, not in all successful marriages will the 50-50 rule work. As a good friend of mine told me, it's what works. For some, it may be 60-40, 70-30, 80-20, or 90-10. You see, both have to be willing to give. But at times, it may be necessary based on certain circumstances to be a bigger giver than the other party. However, what should be the common goal of both spouses or business partners, or whatever other type of relationship is what is for the common good. And so, this is the lesson of the middle Matza, for the small piece of Matza is needed as an accessory to the Mitzva of eating the first Matza of the eating along with the top full piece of Matza, and the bigger piece that is set aside not remaining on the Seder table with the rest of the items gets to be eaten at the end of the meal.

And so, the fact that the middle Matza, representing the Levites, is the one that is chosen to be split, reminds us of what took place with Korach, who felt that the apportionment of leadership positions was done "unevenly". Perhaps if Korach would have looked at his own accomplishments, he would have come to realize that Hashem didn't want him to have a leadership position because he had other accomplishments to make instead, for not everyone can be an efficient leader, or be the type of leader that people will want or be able to relate to. Perhaps being such a wealthy person, people would not feel that he could relate to their physical or spiritual needs for that matter, even if he himself had the kindest soul in the world. And so, the lesson of the unevenly split Matza teaches us this very lesson.

However, this would not be complete if I were not to mention that the word Matza itself technically has the definition of decisiveness, or arguing. However, it won't take long to understand that there are times that fighting for the sake of Heaven can be a good thing; but that's it, if it's for the sake of Heaven. As we see in Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers (5:20), an example of an argument for the sake of Heaven were the arguments between Hillel and Shamai, while an example of an argument not for the sake of Heaven was the argument of Korach and his cohorts. Now, note that the Mishna does not say - the schools of Hillel and Shammai, for Hillel and Shammai themselves only had a handful of arguments between them. And note that it doesn't say the argument between Korach and Moses. You see, for the first case, even though the disciples of Hillel and Shammai were learning Torah and were in the midst of searching for what is the correct Halacha/Jewish Law, it wasn't 100% of the time for "the sake of Heaven". There were some of them who wanted to best the other party for their own benefit or political reasons, and so, it could only be said of Hillel and Shammai, who were great righeteous people, that their arguments between themselves were truly for the sake of Heaven. And as for Korach, Moses wasn't looking for a fight, as I mentioned earlier.

And speaking of Matza, this word is the Gematria of 135, the number of this post. And Chametz, which refers to leavened food that is forbidden to be eaten on Passover, represents what Korach became at the end from such an accomplished person to someone who became leavened, spoiled, soured, and wound up at the end being swallowed alive by the earth. To note, the Gematria of Chametz is 138, one more than the number 137 which represents the Tribe of Levi as the same age of the passing of Levi, ancestor of this tribe, as well as the age of the passing of Amram, father of Moses and Aaron. Hence, Korach in essence attempted not to simply be even with Moses or Aaron, but TO SURPASS THEM, due to his own status which he didn't realize was status enough for himself, along with being a Levite serving in the Mishkan in contrast with the rest of the Jewish people; however, he didn't realize his limits and instead sought to be ahead of everyone else. And even if for whatever reason, Korach would have been satisfied with Aaron being the Cohen Gadol, since after all, he was the son of the older brother of Korach's father, Korach certainly would not have put up with Aaron's son Elazar being the next Cohen Gadol based on Korach's rationale, since Korach, as Aaron's first cousin, would have felt that at the very least, he should be the next one in line pending Moses still being alive. You see, the names of Elazar, Aaron's son and Korach have the same Gematria of 308...

Ultimately, Korach's big problem was his Ga'avah/haughtiness, which is represented by the Chametz, the symbolism of Ga'avah, as the composite of Chametz is dough that rises, which we totally avoid on Pesach, the holiday on which the Jewish people became a nation, who are supposed to be subservient to Hashem as one united nation. Korach with his haughtiness behaved just the opposite of his first cousin Moses, of whom Scripture attests "The man Moses was humble more than anyone on the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3).

One more thing before concluding Part Three of the Tribe of Levi series. Speaking of Number 135, let's turn to Psalm 135. OK, as I just mentioned in the previous paragraph that Matza is the Gematria of 135, in Psalm 135, the events of the Exodus that caused the celebration of Passover, the Feast of Matzot (Chag HaMatzot) are mentioned. But perhaps more importantly, bearing in mind the lesson of the LEVITE MATZA, we see that at the concluding verses of this psalm, it mentions in one verse "House of Aaron - Bless Hashem" and then beginning of the next verse, it states "House of Levi - Bless Hashem". I think this says it all.

And for our next post- Part Four, we will examine another of the Temple duties of the Tribe of Levi, particularly the Levites. Stay tuned.

5 Adar, 5772

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