Is Socialism Kabbalistic? | Korach 5784

Korach has always been a misunderstood character in my opinion. His name, which means bald or chilly, implies a negative connotation, like Disney villains whose names signal their role as the bad guy. It is clear he is going to be the villain in the story.

Yet from the actual story, it isn’t quite clear why he was considered such a villain.

The ambiguities begin with the very introduction of Korach. “And Korach took,” the parsha begins—but never really explains what he took. Nearly all the commentators weigh in on this. Rashi explains, based on Onkeles’s translation, that the language “took” refers to his adversarialness—Korach removed himself from the mainstream by arguing with Moshe.

But why begin by introducing Korach in such a vague way altogether? Whatever the term ויקח, “and he took,” refers to, would it not have been easier to write it out more clearly?

Korach’s actual rebellion is also quite unclear. The Torah describes it as follows:

וַיִּקָּהֲלוּ עַל־מֹשֶׁה וְעַל־אַהֲרֹן וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵהֶם רַב־לָכֶם כִּי כׇל־הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים וּבְתוֹכָם ה’ וּמַדּוּעַ תִּתְנַשְּׂאוּ עַל־קְהַל ה’׃
They combined against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and God is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above God’s congregation?”

Doesn’t Korach have a point here? The Jewish community is entirely holy—is it so awful that he pointed this out?

Rashi cites the Medrash that adds more detail to the complaint of Korach:

"אֵלֶּה קְרוּאֵי הָעֵדָה" — וְהִלְבִּישָׁן טַלִּיתוֹת שֶׁכֻּלָּן תְּכֵלֶת, בָּאוּ וְעָמְדוּ לִפְנֵי מֹשֶׁה, אָמְרוּ לוֹ טַלִּית שֶׁכֻּלָּהּ שֶׁל תְּכֵלֶת חַיֶּבֶת בְּצִיצִית אוֹ פְטוּרָה? אָמַר לָהֶם חַיֶּבֶת, הִתְחִילוּ לִשְׂחֹק עָלָיו, אֶפְשָׁר טַלִּית שֶׁל מִן אַחֵר חוּט אֶחָד שֶׁל תְּכֵלֶת פּוֹטְרָהּ, זוֹ שֶׁכֻּלָּהּ תְּכֵלֶת לֹא תִפְטֹר אֶת עַצְמָהּ?

Korach came before Moshe dressed in garments entirely made of the blue dye, known as techeles, and asked Moshe if such a garment still required tzitzis. Normally tzitzis have one string made of blue, here Korach asked if the entire garment was made from that dye, would a blue string still be necessary?

Where on earth did the Medrash find that a central part of Korach’s complaint against Moshe had to do with tzitzis? Of course, the last parsha ended with the commandment to wear tzitzis, but why did the Medrash make this imagery so central in the story of Korach?

To understand all of this, let’s explore the fascinating history of the Jewish confrontation with socialism.

Read the rest on Substack, and listen to the full shiur above!