The Spies, Korach and the Magen David

Moshe Kempinski

It is not happenstance that the rebellion of Korach and his cohorts immediately follows the sin of the spies. They are simply two sides of an impaired relationship with Hashem.

Regarding the sin of the spies the Baal HaTanya asks

“What led the other ten spies who were clearly chosen because of their spiritual greatness, to fail? Why would men of such great spiritual awareness not want to physically enter the land of Israel?” He then explains that these men experienced the highest spiritual experiences that mortals can envision in their walk with HaShem through the wilderness.. They experienced G-d’s great hand in Egypt and at the Red Sea and they heard the Divine voice at Mount Sinai. They lived in the desert but they drank from the miraculous well of Miriam and ate of the manna from heaven and were protected in their voyage by the very clouds of Glory. Why would they want to leave all of that purely spiritual experience and lower themselves into a land where they would by necessity become involved with the physicality of reality. They believed that spirituality is best separated from the physical. They lived and depended on Itrauta DeLe’ela ( Stirring from Above)

If we ignore the possible personal motives behind his actions and declarations, the plain text shows Korach pointing in another direction

Korach was saying “for the entire congregation are all holy, and HaShem is in their midst. So why do raise yourselves above the HaShem’s assembly? (Numbers 16:3). He was declaring that the people do not need Moshe and Aharon to lead them in the directions brought down from Heaven . The people, he believed, will ,by their inherent holiness bring that direction down into this world. In his understanding it was all about Itrauta Deletata( Stirring from Below),

It is true that our mystical tradition describes that for redemption to occur, there had to be an “awaking below” (itaruta dilatata) to bring about an “awakening above” (itaruta dile’ela).

During the Exodus from Egypt we see how liberation and redemption awaited a small but powerful “turning” on the part of the people: “…and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried out, and their cry came up unto G-d by reason of the bondage. And G-d heard their

groaning….” (Exodus 2:23-25)

They had been beaten down until they thought that they were beyond redemption. Yet the oppression around them brought out from the depths of their soul one clear and plaintive cry. “And their cry came up unto G-d.”( ibid)

And we then hear: “And G-d heard their groaning.”G-d was waiting for, a stirring from the people (itrauta delitata).

Then we see it again at the shores of the red sea

On the seventh day of Passover the Israelites stood at the edge of the Reed Sea. When the Egyptians were coming from the back and the desert was closing in on the sides, they cried out in fear. “And Moshe said unto the people: Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of HaShem, which He will work for you today; for whereas ye have seen the Egyptians today, ye shall see them again no more forever. HaShem will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus14:13-14)

Yet HaShem wanted and expected more from them: “And HaShem said unto Moshe: Why are you crying out to Me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.” ( ibid 14:15)

The spiritual ingredient which heralded the miracle and tore the sea apart was the fact that the people simply “went forward

Yet the lessons of the sin of the spies and the rebellion of Korach teaches that when those two approaches are divorced from one another the results are destructive and the efforts are doomed to failure.

The spies had erred by preferring to wait in the desert until G-d’s strong arm would scoop them out into the land of promise. Regrettably there are many amongst of our people, whether consciously or not, doing the same thing today

Korach on the other hand was declaring that we do not need to wait for the strong hand of G-d to act .In fact he believed that the people of Israel could in fact be the strong arm of destiny and bring about eternal changes .In the land of Israel, today, there are some, who consciously or not ,still hold by that view.

The Magen David which has become such a clear sign of Judaism and the State of Israel is usually translated as the Star of David but is actually literally translated as the Shield of David. The Shield is a statement of protection and this Shield is built out of two triangles or arrows pointing in two opposite directions. One arrow points towards the heavens while the other points to the earth. One symbolizes the relationship between G-d and man and the other between man and G-d .Mystical tradition describes it as the “Stirring from Above” and the “Stirring from Below” .The shield of protection in our lives needs to be made up of two directions. When one approach is separated from the other, the shield of protection is diminished. “He is a shield for all who look to him for protection”.-( 2 Samuel 22:31)

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