Where Did The Rebellion Start?
Where Did The Rebellion Start?
Rabbi David Fohrman
Founder and Lead Scholar
In Parshat Korach, there’s a sudden rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Korach, the leader of the rebellion, argues that all Israelites are holy, not just Moses and Aaron. But where did his distrust of Israel’s leaders come from?
Join Rabbi Fohrman and Ami Silver as they re-examine Korach’s family origin, which is recorded in the text, and see how his upbringing may have played a significant role in the rebellion.
Rabbi Fohrman: Hello everybody. This is Rabbi David Fohrman and welcome back to Parsha Lab. I have with me Ami Silver this week. Ami?
Ami: Hi everyone. Good to be learning with you again. Rabbi Fohrman, great to be here on Parsha Lab with you.
Rabbi Fohrman: Delightful. I think this is the first time, Ami, that you and I have done this podcast so I'm looking forward to all the exciting ventures that will await us on our journey and I understand that you have a bit of a journey for us.
Ami: So I have the beginnings of a journey, but just before we jump into the content, I just want to remind all of you listening out there that if you like what you're hearing, subscribe to Parsha Lab. You can find it at iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, anywhere you get your podcasts. Obviously, if you want to go deeper into material and hear a lot more of what we have to offer, check out alephbeta.org and we've got tons of great stuff for you there.
Rabbi Fohrman: Ami, you said that so enticingly that I myself feel myself enticed to go check out Aleph Beta and see what wonderful content is there.
Ami: Well if we could get you to subscribe that would be a real achievement.
Rabbi Fohrman: That's true. Then we could maybe get paid this week and get fed. That would be wonderful.
Ami: This week we're going to be looking at Parshat Korach, one of those really exciting Numbers parshiyot where stuff gets really messy and ugly really quickly. We know Korach has this big rebellion that he launches. He gets 250 people on his side and basically starts to stand up to Moses and say hey, who put you in charge? So Rabbi Fohrman, remind our listeners, what is that bizarre story of what ends up happening to Korach and his followers. Let's just jump to the end. What's their punishment?
What Happened to Korach and His Followers?Rabbi Fohrman: They get swallowed up in the ground among other things, but that's the one that gets the most press, I would say.
Ami: So in reading through the Book of Numbers, there's actually a couple of things earlier on that I think give us a little more background to this story. One of the mysteries that the rabbis discuss at length is where did this whole idea for this rebellion come from? The parsha just starts off with Korach standing up to Moses and this strange word vayikach Korach and they're not even sure what exactly it is that moved or drove Korach to fight against Moses.
Rabbi Fohrman: Again, just to elaborate on that. The strange thing about vayikach Korach is that it's a verb without a direct object so Korach takes, but usually takes is a transitive verb. You got to take something and there is just this dangling verb. What is he taking? It's almost as if his name is that which is taken. Vayikach Korach, he takes himself, which really I think is where Rashi comes from when it says lakach et atzmo, he takes himself. He takes himself away from the community.
Ami: What are some clues? What can we find out about Korach that might give us indication where is this guy coming from?
Rabbi Fohrman: Because his motivation isn't really absolutely clear. By the way, I would just say that it's not just you and I that are puzzled by it. If you look at -- Moses expresses a kind of frustration to God which is that he just doesn't know where this is coming from? Is there some sort of personal grudge here? I never did anything to these people. I never hurt them. Moses seems befuddled by what's happening here.
Ami: When we look at Korach, just his introduction here, what do we know about him?
Rabbi Fohrman: We know his lineage and we know his tribal affiliation.
Korach's Family Tree... Back to the KohathitesAmi: He's from the Tribe of Levi. He's from the family of Kehat and he's the child of Yitzhar. The thing is if we go back a couple of chapters in Numbers to Chapter 4, we actually hear some very specific things about the family of Kehat among the Leviim.
Rabbi Fohrman: So in other words, what you're doing is you're looking back and seeing that it's not just any family, but it's a family that we know something about. There's a whole almost chapter of text that's devoted to this specific avodah service of this family and that might be of interest to us here.
Ami: I mean if we're asking the question where is this guy coming from, biologically we know where he's coming from. Actually, the Torah tells us a bit of a story or a window into what that family's role was here in the desert. So if you don't mind just turning to the beginning of Chapter 4 and maybe read the first couple of verses there describing what it is that Kehat does in particular around the Tabernacle.
Rabbi Fohrman: "Vayidaber Hashem el Moshe v'el Aharon leimor." God speaks to Moses and Aaron and by the way just FYI if this is going to be the beginning of the specific serve of Kehat, it's interesting, Ami, that God is speaking to Moses and Aaron inasmuch as later on Korach is going to come and complain specifically about the roles of Moses and Aaron.
Here it is God speaks to Moses and Aaron about the family of Kehat and says "Naso et rosh b'nei Kehat mitoch b'nei Levi l'mishpichotam l'veit avotam miben shloshim shanah vama'alah v'ad ben chamishim shanah kol ba l'tzava la'asot melachah b'Ohel Mo'ed." So naso there can sort of have two meanings. Naso is one of those words whose meaning can sort of change based on context. It literally means to raise up. Raise up the people of Kehat from among the Tribe of Levi. They're part of Levi, but somehow separate them. Raise them up for some sort of special service in the Ohel Mo'ed, in the Tent of Meeting.
Then the other possibility is naso, particularly in the beginning of Numbers, can also mean to count. Presumably both are true. Take a census of them because they have some sort of special job to do. What's the job?
A Closer Study of the Duties of the KohathitesRabbi Fohrman: "Zot avodat b'nei Kehat" this is their job. Their job is in the Tent of Meeting, Kodesh Kedashim. Their job has to do with the part of the Tabernacle which is the most sacred, sanctified part.
Now it's interesting also. If you think about the Kodesh Kadashim, the only people allowed in the Kodesh Kadashim is actually going to be Aaron, the very person that Korach is going to go up against really. Aaron is the one who can alone enter the Kodesh Kadashim. But interestingly, what you're about to see is that the children of Kehat have a special job with reference to the Kodesh Kadashim which is that when the Kodesh Kadashim is actually operative, in other words, when it's serving as a Tabernacle, so only Aaron can go in there. But when it's not being operative, the Tabernacle of course was a portable Tabernacle. When it's being moved, that's when the children of Kehat jump into motion. They are the packers, the U-Haul movers, and that's what we're about to see. The specific ways that they pack everything up.
Ami: Also the image here that we're about to see and that you're describing, Rabbi Fohrman, it's almost if you can imagine a play. The only actor in the Kodesh Kadashim is Aaron, but then there's stage crew. Those are the people who are packing and moving and setting everything up. That, as we're about to see, is going to be the job of the Leviim.
Let's see just a few verses describing the Kehat Family's job there. Numbers, Chapter 4, Verse 5 "U'va Aharon u'vanav binso'a hamachaneh" when it's time for the camp to travel, Aaron and his children come "v'horidu et parochet hamasach" the first thing they do is they take down this dividing screen that basically demarcates the place where the Kodesh Kadashim begins, where nobody is allowed in except under special circumstances. "V'chisu bah et Aaron Ha'eidut" they take that dividing screen and they cover the Ark with it. "V'natnu alav kisui or tachash" and upon that they put another special kind of leather cover "u'farsu beged klil t'cheilet mi'l'ma'alah v'samu badav" and they spread out above that leather covering another garment of all t'cheilet. T'cheilet is this special kind of blue, a kind of indigo dyed fabric that was used in the Tabernacle.
As we read through the next few verses, I'm not going to read them inside, but basically we see a similar thing play out with the shulchan hapanim, the table and the showbreads, where the showbreads are placed. They also kind of take that down and cover it with special coverings. They do the same thing with the menorah and with the candle holders and all of the different vessels that are in that most sacred space of the Tabernacle, the priests are covering with special covers in order to prepare it for transport.
Rabbi Fohrman: Okay, Ami, I think I see where you're going here if I can anticipate a very intriguing inference which you seem to be making with this beged klil t'cheilet language. This interestingly resonates not with another parsha in the Torah, but with something that our sages say, which is that the beged klil t'cheilet which you so aptly translated as the article of clothing which is complete t'cheilet. Remember those from Kehat are using these t'cheilet, these blue coverings for all of the implements. They're using it for the shulchan. They're using it for the menorah. They're using it for the Ark. But the first time it's mentioned and the first time it's mentioned only, it's called a beged klil t'cheilet, a garment that's all of t'cheilet. That language, a beged klil t'cheilet, really resonates with something that our sages say.
A very famous thing the sages say about Korach when they talk about a beged shekulo t'cheilet, an article of clothing which is made completely out of t'cheilet. Fascinatingly, you're pointing out that they're not just taking something out of the air when our sages talk about that. They're actually borrowing from the family lineage of Kehat. It's fascinating that perhaps the resentment of Korach somehow goes back to this beged klil t'cheilet in some kind of way.
Ami: Since you brought it up, I'll just speak it out a little bit. The rabbis say on that strange, ambiguous "Vayikach Korach v'Datam v'Aviram." He took him and these other people and 250 members from the Tribe of Reuben. The rabbis there say it wasn't just that he took himself or took nothing or took these people, but that he dressed them all in a garment that's all dyed indigo and says to Moses, Moses, you taught us that if you have a four-cornered garment, you got to put tzitzit on it and there should be a knaf ptil t'cheilet there should be some kind of twist of t'cheilet on its corner. But what if the garment is made all of t'cheilet? Does it still need tzitzit there on the corners? Does it still need some kind of sign there on the corners?
Moses says, yes, of course, it needs – a four-cornered garment still needs – the ritual fringes. And Korach says, Moses, that's ridiculous. This is one of the things that the rabbis say Korach was arguing with Moses about. But, when we just read it, on the face of it, it's a Midrash that sounds a little bit strange and puzzling. Like, okay, he's what? He's hung up on one kind of garment with ritual fringes. It doesn't really make sense.
Let's just have that hovering in the back of our minds. And let's read on a little bit more.
Rabbi Fohrman: (Interposing) The reason why you're saying it's haphazard, Ami is because we're out of the blue. Pardon the pun.
Ami: "Out of the blue."
Rabbi Fohrman: Right, he is coming up with this little magic trick of getting everybody dressed up in this all blue garment. But, once you see that that was his family's job, that this was the family heritage, this beged p'til t'cheilet, this garment made entirely out of blue.
Ami: As we read on now, back in Chapter 4, when we hear about the job of Kehat, we're going to see really what the function of this blue garment was. I mean, so far we're seeing, the kohanim come in and they cover all of those holy vessels in the Kodesh Kodashim. All of those really special vessels get covered with this beged t'cheilet, this indigo garment.
Come with me to Verse 15 there. "V'chilah Aharon ubanav l'chassot et haKodesh", Aaron and his children complete the job of covering all of the holy vessels, all of the area of the Kodesh; " v'et kol k'lei haKKodesh", and of all of the holy vessels; "binso'a' hammachaneh", " v'acharei-chen yavo'u B'nei Kahat laseit", and it's only after the kohanim, Aaron and his children, cover all of the holy vessels of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, that Kahat steps onto the scene. Then they come in to carry all those vessels.
"V'lo yiggu el haKKodesh vameitu", they won't make contact with the Kodesh. They won't touch it! Which would cause them to die.
Rabbi Fohrman: Is that because of the indigo garment? Is that the reason they're not touching it?
Ami: What it sounds like is that the kohanim are covering all of the holy vessels with different things. Right? The leather and the indigo. And only then, the Kahatim can come and carry those vessels. Remember they're carrying this – Kahat in particular carried these vessels – on their shoulders. They're coming into close physical contact with all of these sacred vessels. But, somehow, if they were to touch them directly, the Torah seems to be implying that they would die.
Rabbi Fohrman: So, basically, what you're saying is that when the Tabernacle is in service, so the only one who is allowed in the Kodesh HaKKadashim is Aaron.
Then there is this transition period, which is taking the Tabernacle out of service and carrying it. They could affect this transition by spreading this indigo garment over all of the things. Only then can the movers come and do their job. Which is the People of Kahat whose job it is laseit, to carry.
Again, there's that word, to carry. It's not just "Naso et rosh B'nei Kahat", as we talked about before to take a census of them. But there's also this sense of which that you're lifting them up for a special job. But this special job involves lifting up itself. The lifting of these implements, which are only available for lifting after they're taken out of service. Only then can they be lifted in such a way that they will not die because they're not coming into physical contact with the Kodesh. Because there's this beged t'cheilet, which is this completely dyed blue garment separating them from the Kodesh.
Ami: Somehow their job is really dangerous. The Torah a couple of pesukim later actually seems to emphasize the danger of their job. If you don't mind reading a couple pesukim down. Yud-Chet, Verse 18 there.
Rabbi Fohrman: "Al tachritu et Sheivet Mishp'chot HaKKahati", do not cut them off; " mitoch haL'vi'im", from among the Levites. "V'zot asu lahem v'chayu v'lo yamutu", you should do this for them so they should live and not die; "b'gishtam et-Kodesh haKadashim", when they come close to the Holy of Holies. They had to take special precautions. Skipping: "V'lo-yavo'u k'valla' et-hakkodesh vameitu." They cannot go and see. Now what does k'valla'" mean there? It's a strange word.
Ami: Well, it sounds to me like the verse is saying, the Family of K'hat will not come to see "k'valla' et-haKKodesh", when the Holy is swallowed; "vameitu", which would kill them.
Rabbi Fohrman: It's interesting because it's almost like there's this degradation that happens to the Holy of Holies; in the sense that everyone sees and relates to the Holy of Holies with awe, and with fear and with trepidation when it's in service. Yet, what's happening is that it's just being packed up like so many boxes that go in a U-Haul. Which is almost like a swallowing.
That's also that Hebrew word. The word "to dissolve" or "to swallow". They shouldn't see what's happening. It's almost as if they should avert their eyes. "K'valla' et-haKKodesh vameitu." When the Kodesh is being swallowed. Then, turn into these U‑Haul boxes "lest they die".
Ami: Just imagine, the most sacred thing that the whole camp is built around and centered around. Nobody can walk in there. God's cloud hovers there. God speaks to Moses there. Then, all of a sudden, it's, "okay, pack up". Now it's just wood, and beams, and gold and sticks. And, like you're saying, pack it up in the U-Haul.
Rabbi Fohrman: All right, Ami, very interesting. How do you tie all this together with a bow? Where are you going with this?
Ami: Okay. So now look at that last really strange word. "Dissolving" or "swallowing" the Kodesh. What does that remind us of in the story of Korach?
Connections to "Swallowing"Rabbi Fohrman: There you go with the earth again. Because the earth swallows these people alive. That's kind of what you opened this podcast with. That really strange thing that God creates out of nowhere. The swallowing of these people alive sort of evokes the swallowing of the Kodesh. The swallowing of the Holy Ones.
Of course, what does Korach want to be? He wants to be the Kaddosh, which, strangely, is exactly what Moses calls him. Right? The whole argument about what's the Kaddosh, what's the Kaddosh? Who are the Holy Ones? As Moses says, "v'yoda Hashem et asher lo v'et ha'kadosh," God will select the one that is holy for Him. He's going to be that leader; he's going to be that Aaron. Fascinatingly, the holy gets swallowed in the story of Korach as well in their death. Ami, this is terrific. You get a prize. Give that man a free donut.
Ami: I want to also just read out the textual echoes in the Korach story. When Korach and his band of 250 men stand up to Moses, "vayomru aleihem rav lachem," they say you've got too much going on, Moses, "ki kol ha'eidah kulam kedoshim," the entire people, the whole nation are all kedoshim, they're all holy, "u'vetocham Hashem," God is within them. Those words also, "vetocham Hashem" kind of remind us of the Tabernacle as well. God says, "V'asu li mikdash v'shachanti betocham," I want to dwell in my Tabernacle, in my holy place, among the Children of Israel.
Rabbi Fohrman: This, by the way, suggests that there's a, that in the ideal world, God isn't just dwelling within the abode of the Holy of Holies. Somehow, through that vicariously at least, He is dwelling within all of the people and it's that sort of democratic egalitarian vision that, at least on the face of it, Korach seems to be trying to uphold, or if not uphold, at least hide behind.
Ami: Right. He's using these words, "we're all holy." Moses sets up a test for God to show us who's the holy, who's the true holy here and what happens is that Korach's holy ones, so to speak, get swallowed. "U'val'ah otam v'et kol asher lahem", "va'tivlah otam," it's that same language of swallowing up. So where we first encounter Kahat's job, we're shown a warning, don't let them come so close to the Holy of Holies so that they'll see the holy being swallowed up and they'll die.
Rabbi Fohrman: Ironically, once the child of Kahat seeks to become the holy, then what happens to him is what the job of his family was supposed to do to the holy, to be there to carry it. After it is swallowed, he becomes swallowed.
Ami: He becomes the one who's swallowed.
Rabbi Fohrman: If you choose to become the holy, then what's going to happen to you is you're going to get boxed up in the earth this time and swallowed.
Ami: So we're seeing here these, the first time we see Kahat's job there in the Tabernacle, they're warned that they should not come to see the holy being swallowed. Then when we see what happens with Korach, the descendant of Kahat, he himself says we're the kedoshim, we're the holy ones and he gets swallowed. So it's a bit bizarre. It's a bit strange. What are we supposed to make of this? I'm just wondering, do you have any thoughts here, Rabbi Fohrman, any direction we can go with this?
Rabbi Fohrman: I mean, it's the first time I've seen it, so any thoughts I have are very tentative. It seems like a little bit of a mystery to me, but it feels to me instinctually that to understand the resentment of Korach, which, as you say, on the face of it comes from nowhere, it seems like it comes from somewhere. His resentment seems to be linked to the family of Kahat.
Understanding Who Are the Kohathites in the BibleRabbi Fohrman: Now, the question is what the nature of that linkage suggests. What light does that shed on his resentment? Is he resentful because he feels that his family has been shortchanged? Is that he feels that the job of being the packers of the Tabernacle is somehow inherently problematic and degrading when everyone should be holy, when there's this great Holy of Holies which is exclusive and it's our job to take that exclusive thing and make it normal for everyone, the kind of thing that could just be carried around in a box?
So it's almost like our job was to make it normal for everyone. Our job was to make it this thing that everyone could access, that you could just carry and that wouldn't hurt you. So maybe that's the ideal form of the holy. Maybe it's almost an elevating of the role of his family that what we're doing is the real holiness and what Aaron is doing is fake. He's just one guy in the middle of the Holy of Holies.
What we're doing is democratizing everything. What we're doing is taking it and it's a box and you can touch it and you can't die and it's still the holy and it's still this godly thing. Maybe that becomes the paradigm for what the Tabernacle really should be and if you take that out of the Tabernacle and transfer it to people, then that means that there's a kind of democratization not just in the structure of the Tabernacle but in those who serve the Tabernacle.
It's not just about Aaron as the untouchable. It's about the real people who do the work or the packers who make this accessible to everyone. Those who can make things accessible, that's the greatest thing in the world and maybe that's where Korach is coming from.
Ami: So what I hear in that is along the lines of Korach's claim, like the democratization of holiness. Everyone is holy. Look at me, you think the Tabernacle is so holy; I pack it up in a box and carry it on my shoulder. Everyone can have equal access to this.
Rabbi Fohrman: Well, I wouldn't say that. In other words, that's not a denigrating of the holiness of the Tabernacle. It's a transmogrifying the understanding of holiness, as he says, "rav lachem ki kol ha'eidah kulam kedoshim," that holiness has to be understood in a democratic purview, otherwise it's not holiness. Therefore, the true holiness is the holiness of the U-Haul, not the holiness of the Tabernacle as it functions. Only there does the godly thing become egalitarian and democratized and available for everyone without dying. Maybe.
Ami: So I'm curious, going back to those original verses about Kahat. Why is it dangerous to touch the holy? Why is it dangerous to see the holy get covered? What's the big danger there?
Rabbi Fohrman: What it seems to evoke is that – and again, this maybe is beyond the scope of our talk – but, you know, there's that famous Ramban, Nachmanides that suggests that the entire enterprise of the Tabernacle is a recreation of the Sinai experience. What the Tabernacle is fundamentally is a reaction of the mountain, but whereas the mountain was a work of God and the Tabernacle was a work of man.
We talked about this length, or I talked about this at length, in an Aleph Beta extended audio course that I recommend to you guys, The Golden Calf, Shattered Tablets and a Calf of Gold. It's a 13-part lecture series with a 250-element chiasm that spans the entire second half of the Book of Exodus at the last three lectures of it, last three hours of that.
The climax of that chiasm is the link between the mountain and the Tabernacle; the man-made structure evokes the God-made structure of the mountain and is even holier than the mountain. But back at the mountain, you had language too. You had to be careful not to touch lest you die.
By the way, if you go back to Sinai, Ami, one of the strange things about Sinai is remember all that back and forth between God and Moses? God says, "Moses, go down and warn the people. Tell them not to touch." So he goes down, warns them and comes back up and God says, "Warn them again." Moses says, "I just warned them. They already know not to do it. I told them."
Ami: They can't touch the mountain; I told them not to.
Rabbi Fohrman: God says, "Just go down and warn them again. I'm telling you, warn them again." What's that about? Why do I have to hear how many times he has to go back down and warn them? The answer, the way I understand it, is Revelation is a tricky thing. Revelation is when the God who's beyond space and time becomes eminent in the world.
So what happens is that the mountain becomes God's embassy in the world. Now, the tricky thing about an embassy is that the embassy looks -- an embassy in New York of Uruguay, it looks like it's a part of New York. It has the same grime of New York. It has the same subway entrance next to it in New York, but it's not a part of New York. Legally, it's a part of Uruguay. That's the way embassies work.
The same thing with the mountain, it looks like a mountain and feels like a mountain, it touches like a mountain, but if you touch the mountain, you die because it's not part of the world of space and time. It's a world beyond space and time. It's God's embassy in this world.
So God says, "This is really dangerous." There is a subtlety here. It looks like a mountain. There's this cliff. You touch this mountain and there's a cliff, and you fall off into nothingness and you die. So warn them again. Warn them again because they can't trust their senses in this case. That's the same thing with the Tabernacle. In the Tabernacle, you can't trust your senses. It looks like regular gold, it looks like regular wood, but you touch it and you die because it's the mountain on wheels. So be really careful.
The role of Kahat is supposed to be the role of the people who are the most connected to this, who sense the danger of that transition and need to be sensitized to it. Korach is degrading that and saying, "No, what this is all about is that it can't hurt you and it shouldn't hurt you and it's best when it doesn't hurt you." It's almost a misunderstanding inversion of his family's heritage.
Ami: So I would say along those lines, Kahat actually is in the most dangerous position of anybody. Kahat actually carries the Holy Ark on their shoulders. Kahat touches the most sacred Kodesh Hakodashim, the Holy of Holies and they run the biggest risk of the whole thing losing its special, unique status.
So the one thing that keeps them separate from the Holy of Holies are these cloaks of blue, this whole ritual of the priests covering things so they don't see it. If they see it, they're going to die. If they touch it, they're going to die.
On some level, if you violate that fundamental boundary between human beings and holiness, there's something destructive about it. That boundary needs to be maintained, and Kahat's job is to maintain that boundary. It seems to be exactly that boundary that Korach is railing against.
Rabbi Fohrman: By the way, it's interesting that the blue dye should be the boundary coverer. If you think about the blue dye, of course, your mind immediately goes to Chazal about the blue dye, what the Rabbis tell us about the blue dye. Do you remember what the Rabbis tell us about the blue dye?
Ami: The blue dye. So the Gemara, I believe it's in Menachot, says, "t'cheilet domeh l'yam," the blue, indigo dye is similar to the sea, "v'yam domeh l'rakiya," the sea is similar to the firmament, the heavens, the sky, "v'rakiya domeh l'kisei ha'kavod," and that blue of the sky is somehow similar to God's throne of glory.
Rabbi Fohrman: Do you see how that is so evocative in light of everything that you're talking about here? The blue dye is the thing that somehow touches both eminence and transcendence. Something I noticed, by the way, when I went to the blue dye factory – there's a blue dye factory in Israel where you can actually watch this dye being produced, and it comes from a snail, the chilazon. They've identified this snail, they think.
If you look at the snail, there's an interesting thing about it. It's only found in certain places off the coast – the Mediterranean coast. When you look at it – they have these snails, actually, that you can see in an aquarium – is that they're perfect, perfect camouflage with the sand, which is that you can't distinguish them from the sand.
The dye of the snail comes from the dirt in the sand and you just can't tell the difference between that and the earth. Somehow, once you excrete the dye, then the dye magically looks like the ocean which the snail is in and then that looks like the sky and that looks like the firmament and that looks like the throne of holiness.
So what is the blue dye? The blue dye is the transition color between the transcendent world and dirt, just regular dirt of our world, the earthy, human, frail existence of dirt and of water and of very, very physical stuff. Therefore, the blue dye becomes that which you cover this ark in and the ark, again, is this thing that comes from the transcendent world and is right here and is in our world and it gets covered with blue dye.
Somehow, here are the children of Kahat, lifting up this blue dye and aggrandizing and saying this blue dye is what it's all about, that ability to make that transition and somehow not die. Somehow, there's something in there that leads to Korach's downfall.
Ami: You know, I want to go back to that other Midrash Chazal that you mentioned that the Rabbis say Korach dressed everyone up in 250 garments of all blue dye. Where did Korach get 250 garments of blue dye from in the desert?
Rabbi Fohrman: Probably from all these cloaks of blue in the family heirloom. If you're connecting the cloaks of blue that he dresses these 250 in with the cloaks of his heirloom collection of the bigdei t'cheilet, the cloaks of blue that covered all of these implements, then, metaphorically, it's almost like he's swiping the cloaks from those implements.
Now, when he swipes the cloaks from those implements, what he does is he exposes himself to death. He exposes himself to the fire and fury of the holy, which is that it's not boxed up anymore, safely in the U-Haul. The special covering that keeps it safe is not on it anymore.
Therefore, the holy which is meant to be something that a human being could enter in the right way, at least Aaron on Yom Kippur or at least the people of Kahat could carry, in his drive to make the blue dye accessible to everyone and saying it's all about the blue dye, somehow the holy has become deadly. Picking up on that thought, it's almost like, Ami, what did the people of Kahat have their most direct contact with, the holy or the blue dye?
Ami: The blue dye, really.
Rabbi Fohrman: It was the blue dye. So what was the holiest thing that they were directly in contact with? The blue dye. So it's almost like they were looking at that and saying that's the most amazing thing. That blue dye, that's the most fantastic thing there is. Here, look at this blue dye. Dress everybody up in these robes. Isn't that blue dye the most amazing thing in the world, that thing that can cause this transition from sea to sky to light? That's the best thing in the world. Who cares about the thing that the blue dye covers. But in doing that, you remove that and then, all of a sudden, the real holy becomes deadly because you're misplacing, you're misusing, the blue dye, which may be somehow is what these guys are doing.
So, Ami, it feels to me like there's a grand mystery that you've begun to uncover. One of the things that I feel with these grand uncoverings, and I wonder if you feel the same, is that this kind of learning requires, among other things, great patience.
Sometimes watching Aleph Beta can be a little deceptive. You look at this 10-minute Parsha video, it looks like a nice, quick lesson, you say it over at the table and it's great. It took me 10 minutes to watch, it probably took those 10 minutes to prepare. It doesn't take us 10 minutes to prepare and it doesn't even take us 18 hours to prepare.
It's jigsaw puzzling. Sometimes when you're putting together a jigsaw puzzle, you see a little bit of a picture, you don't know what it means, but you know it means something. You put it off there and you let your mind ruminate on it and you sleep on it and sometimes, years later, you see something else and it all clicks and you begin to have an understanding. You've got to keep these things in the back of your mind and as you go forward and as you learn, things start to resonate with us more and more and it becomes more and more meaningful.
So, Ami, you and I have begun, I mean, you've begun, to uncover something magnificent here. What it means, I think you and I have just begun to uncover. I think with careful sifting, more clues will come. The meaning of the Torah seems to be getting across to us. We'll again emerge out of that water and into the sky and take the shape of some sort of throne of holy glory as we begin to see it.
I think it requires patience and I would offer our listeners out there in Aleph Beta Land or in Parsha Lab Land, which is, you know, what do you guys think? Look this over, look at the text carefully. Are there any clues that Ami and I have missed? Are there more pieces to this puzzle? There usually are. You can send us back e-mails. There should be a link on our page on the website. If you want to just send us an e-mail, it's simple. It's firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know what you think.
Ami: Thank you, Rabbi Fohrman. This was a great exploration to do with you.
Rabbi Fohrman: Thank you. Ami, I really have to hand it to you. You're on to something amazing. Beautiful, magnificent, Ami, so thank you so much. This is Rabbi David Fohrman wishing you a very good week. We'll see you next week at the Parsha Lab.