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Use Tools, Not Used by Tools

It has been nearly two weeks since I have been at yeshiva in New Jersey. Ever since arriving and beginning to get into the swing of things, a lot has been transpiring, including some really insightful lessons, one of which I hope to impart to you here.

Since last week we have been learning maamarim (discourses) in preparation for this Shabbat. It is a special Shabbat not only for the powerful lessons we can learn and apply from the Torah portion of Korach, but this Shabbat is also the yahrzteit (anniversary of passing) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Thousands of Jews will be at the resting place in honor of this powerful day.

One of the maamarim we learned was delivered on the date of this coming Shabbat (Tammuz 3) in the year 1958. It is based on a maamar the previous Rebbe gave on 12 Tammuz 1933, 6 years after he was released from jail for spreading Judaism in Soviet Russia. The discourse is a deep analysis of the words in Tehillim 66:9 (psalms) “The One who kept our souls alive and did not let our feet stumble.” Throughout the chapters, the Rebbe relates the verse to the Torah portion Korach and the miraculous liberation of his father-in-law on the 12th and 13th of Tammuz.

There are several personal lessons within the discourse, but there’s one special insight into an effective and holy approach to life derived from the Torah Portion. Korach, who was Moshe Rebbeinu’s cousin, had an argument with Aharon and Moshe about priesthood and what made them “elevate themselves over The Eternal’s congregation? (Korach 16:2-3). In short, Korach recognized that the entire congregation are Children of G-d and there was no need for a leader like Moshe. At first glance it seems like Korach had a selfish intention; however, the Rebbe explores that he was quite a brilliant visionary. On a deeper level, the argument between Korach and Aharon was about the ultimate purpose of how the physical world and the spiritual worlds interact. Korach recognized that the physical world is actually the essence of G-d, but he thought the spiritual world was not necessary to yearn for. In other words, Korach thought "the grass is not greener on the other side.”

The key lesson the Rebbe derived from Korach’s argument is that there are two approaches to Avodas Hashem (spiritual development):