As I write this article in my office in Ottawa, my mind is elsewhere. I am preparing for my annual trip to New York City where I will be spending Shabbat in the proximity of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s resting place. Thousands of men, women and children will gather to mark his yahrzeit, the date of his passing. This year, his date of passing will correspond with the Shabbat in which Jews around the globe will be reading the Torah portion of Korach.
Korach was a villain. He was a charismatic figure from a royal family. Indeed, he was Moses’ cousin. Yet, he gathered hundreds of other Jewish leaders and created a rebellion. He challenged Moses’ authority. “Why was Moses in a role of undisputed leadership,” he thundered, “and who gave him the right to select his brother Aaron to serve as high priest?”
Korach reminded the people that at Sinai, God had charged the entire Jewish nation with a distinct mission, declaring that they were a priestly and holy nation. Moses had no right to usurp the sacred destiny of the Jewish people because of petty nepotism.
Korach could not have been further from the truth. Moses was a humble man who selflessly served God and loved his people.
Korach and his fellow rabble rousers were severely punished by God.
And so, Korach goes down in history as a villain. Yet, the Torah portion is named after Korach. It seems curious that an eternal honour be bestowed on someone who is less than deserving.
The mystics offer a profound answer. Although Korach may have acted in a way that was completely unacceptable, his motivation was laudable and ought to be remembered and emulated.
Each and every one of us should have a burning desire to participate in the shared mission and destiny of the Jewish people. We should never be comfortable with rabbis or community leaders serving God on our behalf. We must play a role. We cannot only be Jewish; we must live Jewishly.
This sentiment captures the life mission of the Rebbe. He was not satisfied until every Jew played a pivotal role in Jewish continuity. He sent out nearly 4,000 shluchim to encourage and inspire everyone to get involved. He demanded that everyone has a responsibility to share the love of Judaism with whomever they encounter.
The Rebbe was not satisfied with 4,000 Chabad Houses across the globe, he wanted 4,000 right here in Ottawa. His vision was that on a Friday night, there should not only be welcoming Shabbat dinners in the synagogues and official Chabad Houses, but that everyone should open their homes to bring the sanctity of Shabbat to others.
This was the Rebbe’s mission statement. Every Jew must take responsibility for the destiny of the Jewish people by making a personal commitment to Torah and mitzvot and sharing its timelessness with others.
Every one of us do indeed belong to a priestly and holy nation.