Korach: The chasidic thief

Korach: The chasidic thief

This coming Tuesday is the third day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, the 19th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

Many people ask what was the uniqueness of the Rebbe and what is special about chasidism. The answer to this can be found in this week’s parasha, Korach.

Korach was the wealthiest Jew of his time, a cousin to Moshe and extremely wise. So why would he rebel in a tremendous way against Moshe and God? And why would we name an entire Torah portion after such a rebellious person who was swallowed up alive in the earth for his wickedness?

One of the key teachings of chasidism is to not to suppress one’s bad habits and nature, but rather to channel and redirect them in a positive way. All character traits, even those that are evil in name and description, can be used to serve God.

The saintly Rabbi Meshullam Zusya of Hanipoli said that he learned several approaches to divine service by pondering on the work ethic, so to speak, of a thief: a) A thief is modest. b) He is prepared to endanger himself. c) The minutest details are as important to him as greater considerations. d) He labors with great exertion. e) He works quickly. f) He exhibits trust and hope. g) If he fails the first time, he tries again and again.

In a word, he was inspired to act like a thief in his service to God!

The same principle can apply when we examine our own character. Rather than eschew possibly unsavory attitudes, we can determine how they can be used to employ good causes. We can channel aggressiveness and assertiveness by defending a mistreated colleague at work. We can channel levity and frivolity by lightening people’s mood and breeding happiness. We can guide a tendency for anger by protesting unjust governmental or communal policies. We can direct a tendency to splurge and waste by helping the poor and undertaking other good causes. We can channel a natural tendency to critique by serving as an editor of the synagogue bulletin.

Every potential that God has granted man is intended to find expression in His service. If a person finds himself aroused to love, the Torah does not command him to eradicate that emotion, but to direct it to that which is truly worthy of our love – God and the manifestations of Godliness in the world, or simply the fellow Jew whom we are commanded to love just as we love ourselves.

Korach’s desire was good. He desired to go higher in his growth. That is why he asked for leadership. However, his desire was not channeled and utilized in the proper way.

May we all discover our potential qualities and channel them in the right way. Through that, it will make the world a world of righteousness and kindness with the arrival of Moshiach.