0 Posted by - June 18, 2015 - Bamidbar, Parsha


Parashat Korah

emotions that control us the most are the emotions that we do not notice. Just awareness of an emotion is more than 50% of the solution. Many times, others can be more aware than we are of the emotions that are inhibiting us, because emotions are blind spots. This is the story of Korah. Despite Korah’s greatness, or rather, because of Korah’s greatness, he made such a grave mistake. The greater the man, the bigger the blind spot.

When coaching students in learning, I am on the lookout for the three F’s. Not the F’s on the report card, but the three F emotions. Fear, Frustration, and Failure. Any fear, such as “I might make a mistake”, or a fear that “I wasted my time studying, if I get less than an 80”, can be classified as a fear and will zap one’s focus. In all areas of performance in life, but especially in learning, the three F’s can “pop the tires” of peak performance. Once the emotion is present, the circuit to the learning brain has been turned Off. And when someone is not able to focus, it is most of the time an emotional issue.

It is not only in school that we need to learn, in which emotions are blind spots. Many people have the mistaken idea that learning ends with the diploma. This is far from the truth. There are many different types of intelligence, such as financial intelligence, intelligence of art and music, and athletic intelligence (how one controls the balance and energy of his body). The most important intelligence, of course, is emotional intelligence. This means how you manage your emotions in order to get where you want to in life.

When someone says something stupid, it does not mean that he is stupid. Most probably, it is because his emotional intelligence was short-wired by some type of emotion. For example, fear of what someone may think, say or do, or fear of failure, triggered by a thought such as “my older brother is more successful”, and mistakenly interpreted as “I am not successful”.

A successful businessman needs to take bold, calculated risks.  That’s impossible when a person is overcome with feelings of Fear, Frustration, or Failure. And, as said above, awareness is more than 50 percent of the solution.  In this week’s parasha, by noticing how a great man like Korah fell, we can learn how important it is to be aware of one of the most powerful emotions. Jealously. And we see what jealousy can do when one is not aware of its presence.

There is a common mistake made about Korah; people can interpret the parsha as implying that Korah was just a jealous man looking for power. After learning the commentaries, it will be clear that this was not at all the case. Korah was on a much higher spiritual level than we can even fathom. He carried the Holy Ark, and he was constantly working on his spirituality and totally separated from all physicality. He had Ruah Hakodesh. He was a highly respected man, in a very holy generation. He was not just a ‘simple guy’. This whole fight was, in his eyes, לשם שמים, for the sake of Heaven’s Name, and he had just one agenda: there was only one thing that he wanted to do – to bring Ketoret in the Holy of Holies. He knew what was at stake, that he might lose the battle against Moshe, but he just wanted that chance, and he believed with every bone in his body that he was right. He let his wife instigate the fight, but, as he was striving for spirituality, he never dreamed that the driving force behind his dispute was jealousy of his cousin, Elitzafan. We know that Korah was jealous, only because our Rabbis teach us this. But, Korah, himself, had no idea that this was the case.

The Masters of Mussar teach us that everyone has jealousy. It is just that there are “different strokes for different folks”. People are jealous of others, whom they feel are in the same boat. Or, others who have the same goal and put in similar efforts, but get far better results. This is why jealousy can be stronger in families. So, if you find that you are jealous of someone, it does not mean that you are weak. It means that you are aware. And it means that G-d is putting you to a test, to overcome it, and to recognize that you are not in the same boat with anyone else. You are in your own boat. And love your boat.

Our Rabbis teach that if Korah would have fought off his jealousy, he would have become a High Levite. Just as there is a High Priest, a title that Aharon deserved for lovingly accepting the fact that his younger brother, Moshe, was inaugurated to a higher position than he, so, too, Korah could have been uplifted had he accepted his position.  (Whenever a person goes through a Nisayon, a test, it is because G-d wants to bring him up a level. The word נסיון  means Test, but it also means to be raised up high, נס להתנוסס . ) Once a person is aware that he has jealousy in him, he is in a much better position to overcome it. Awareness of emotions means that you can now fight them with logic, and not let the emotion rule you.

There is a saying that  “The way to Hell is paved with good intentions”. Even Eichmann was murmuring, before he was hung, “I was a good officer. I was carrying out my orders.” Human morale won’t let a person do something wrong without self-justification. This is the lesson from Korah that we need to internalize.  That a person’s emotions can blind him into justifying the worst behaviors, habits and actions.


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