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Parashat Korach 5782 — 07/02/2022

Beginning with Bereishit 5781 (17 October 2020) we embarked on a new format. We will be considering Rambam’s (Maimonides’) great philosophical work Moreh Nevukim (Guide for the Perplexed) in the light of the knowledge of Vedic Science as expounded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The individual essays will therefore not necessarily have anything to do with the weekly Torah portion, although certainly there will be plenty of references to the Torah, the rest of the Bible, and to the Rabbinic literature. For Bereishit we described the project. The next four parshiyyot, Noach through Chayei Sarah, laid out a foundational understanding of Vedic Science, to the degree I am capable of doing so. Beginning with Toledot we started examining Moreh Nevukim.

Bamidbar 16:1-18:32
Rambam now turns his attention to the roots ram, meaning “high,” and naso’, meaning “to bear” (as a burden):

High [ram] is an equivocal term having the signification of being elevated in space and of being elevated in degree, I mean to say in exalted station, nobility, and great worth. Thus it says: And the ark was lifted high above the earth. In this passage I the first sense of the term is employed. It also says: I have placed on high one chosen out of the people. Forasmuch as I have placed thee on high from among the dust. Forasmuch as I have placed thee on high from among the peoples. In these verses the term in question has its second meaning. Every word derived from heightening [haramah] has this second meaning when occurring with reference to Gd. Thus: Be thou heightened, O Gd, above the heavens.
The term to bear [naso’] has similarly the signification of elevation in space and of elevation in degree and abundance of good fortune. The verse, And they bore aloft their corn upon their asses, uses the word in its first sense. And similar instances are frequent in cases in which the word is used to signify carrying and transporting, for this implies lifting in space. The second meaning of the term is found in: And his kingdom shall be borne aloft. And He carried them and bore them; Wherefore do you bear yourselves high? Every mention of bearing that occurs with reference to Gd, may He be exalted, has this latter meaning. Thus: Bear Thee on high, Thou Judge of the earth; Thus saith the High, [He that is] borne on high. In these passages, the word means elevation, exalted station, and great worth, not height in space. Perhaps my saying elevation in degree, exalted station, and great worth, creates a difficulty for you. For you may ask: how can you consider that many notions are included in one meaning? However, it shall be made clear to you that in the opinion of those who have perfect apprehension, there should not be many attributive qualifications predicated of Gd; and that all the numerous attributive qualifications indicating any exaltation of Him and of His great worth, power, perfection, bounty, and various other things, refer to one and the same notion. That notion is His essence and nothing outside this essence. Chapters on the names and attributes will reach you later. In this chapter my purpose is to show that the words: The High, [He that is] borne on high, do not have the meaning and signification of height in space, but of elevation in degree.

We have already come across the roots alo’ / to ascend and yarod / to descend, and the three roots for approaching / coming near / touching. In all cases there is a meaning that relates to ordinary space, and a symbolic / figurative meaning when applied to Gd. Our roots are the same. “High” and “lifting up” both refer to a space that has a distance function and a reference point. “Higher,” then, means farther from the reference point in a specific direction. “Lifting up” means making something higher. This is the common meaning of the words, a meaning we are all familiar with from our everyday experience.

According to Rambam’s “negative theology” none of these terms’ words can properly be applied to Gd, yet Scripture does use them in a figurative sense. Of course, strictly speaking, Rambam is correct. Since Gd is transcendental to the entire creation, including all the concepts that we use to parse our experience, nothing we can possibly say to describe Gd or Gd’s attributes will be true, as our words and our concepts are all tied up in our limited experience and understanding. We can’t say that Gd is good, but we can say Gd is not evil, etc. The negative is open-ended, thus leaving room for Gd’s infinite nature.

From the point of view of creation, it is a different story. In creation there are boundaries, space, time, distance, all the various attributes that we find in the physical world, and try, in our poor way, to apply to Gd. This appears to be a two-step process. First we move from the literal, physical meaning to the figurative meaning. Thus the king may sit on an elevated seat (physical meaning) but that is symbolic of his elevated station in the kingdom. He is “above” everyone else in the sense that everyone else has to obey his orders. Power flows “downward” from the king to his ministers and governors, etc.

The second step is to apply the figurative meaning to Gd. This is only possible from the creation-eye view of course. Since Gd is the ultimate source of energy and intelligence for all of creation, He can be described as being “on High,” as everything flows down from, i.e. is dependent on Him. That’s also why he is also described as King, as in our previous analogy. The creation-eye view requires “contracting” Gd (equivalent to our saying that Gd “contracts” Himself) so that He can be treated with the figurative meaning of the various terms we have been discussing. When Rambam describes the way that the figurative meanings of various words are applied to Gd, he is essentially taking a creation’s-eye view. When he insists on a negative theology, he is taking the Gd’s-eye view. There is really no contradiction between the two, they are simply two different perspectives on the same thing.

I think that this approach is what Rambam is hinting at in the latter part of this chapter: For you may ask: how can you consider that many notions are included in one meaning? … all the numerous attributive qualifications indicating any exaltation of Him and of His great worth, power, perfection, bounty, and various other things, refer to one and the same notion. That notion is His essence and nothing outside this essence. In other words, from our (creation’s-eye) view, there are multiple ways to describe Gd, but from Gd’s perspective He alone is, unified and unitary, not made of parts. All our descriptions are partial, but Gd’s essence is that “He is One, there is nothing beside Him.”

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Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Korach

“Korach” means “baldness, ice, hail, frost.” By leading an insurrection against Gd-chosen, Moses, Korach showed baldness of spirit, iciness and frost of heart and a hail of deluded thought.

Parashat Korach reminds us that what is important in life is to live in harmony with Gd, not to worry much about our status relative to other humans – “to love Gd with all our heart, all our soul, all our might” and to “love our neighbor as ourself.”

Korach, Moses’ first cousin, along with 250 other leaders of the Children of Israel challenge Moses’ right to lead, claiming that all of Israel is holy and Moses should not place himself above everyone. They did not love Gd with all their heart, soul and might otherwise they would have felt Gd’s leadership flowing through Moses. They did not love their neighbor as their selves otherwise they would have been happy for Moses to be such an open person that Gd could flow through him.

Korach and the others forgot that Moses was selected by Gd, not by himself, to lead the Children of Israel out of slavery and into the Promised Land: They forgot that when the 10 Commandments were given out, all of the Children of Israel were frightened that they would die if they heard any more of Gd’s voice: they requested Him to give the rest of Torah to Moses – so they also placed Moses above them, more pure, more capable.

Moses pleads with the Levites to be grateful for what they have been given but they do not listen.

Moses tells them (Korach and the 250 men) to bring their fire pans (the pans through which they make offerings) and we will see whose offerings Gd accepts.

Gd tells Moses He will destroy the rebellious.

At the appointed time, Moses tells the people of Israel, paraphrase. “We will see who Gd wishes to lead. If these people die a natural death, then they are right. If not, then Gd has appointed me to lead.”

The ground opens up and Korach, Datan and Aviram are swallowed up while 250 are consumed by fire.

Moses’s genuineness is confirmed.

We see a lot in Torah of complaining, sinning, Moses pleading for forgiveness for his neighbors, the Children of Israel. A lesson we can learn from Moses is to be open to Gd, to love our neighbor as ourself, to plead with others to be open also, and to plead with Gd that he forgive those who lack openness.

In such ways, little by little, person by person, we help to create a world in which harmony, respect, friendliness, love, contentment, fulfillment exist.

In this world, Torah is experienced not just as words in a book but as the living eternal reality of the liveliness of Gd, of One. We function
not just as our individual selves but as Totality functioning through all.

And this world is the Real World – achievable soon. Let’s continue creating it and request that Gd bring it NOW!

Love and Love and Love,

Baruch HaShem