“What did he [Korach] do? He gathered together two hundred and fifty heads of Sanhedrin, most of them from the tribe of Reuven, his neighbors….and he dressed them in Taleisim that were completely Techeles.”
“They came and stood before Moshe, saying to him: Is a Talis that is completely Techeles obligated or exempt from the requirement of Tzitzis? He responded: It is obligated. They laughed. ‘Is it possible that a garment of any other type can fulfill its requirement by one strand of Techeles, yet this garment that is completely Techeles will not be exempt?
Korach stages a rebellion against Moshe Rabbeinu, denying the very basis of Torah and prophecy. By ridiculing the Mitzvos, Korach hopes to achieve his objectives, rallying others to his personal crusade. Why then, is it this particular Mitzva that warrants his ire, rather than any one of numerous others that he could similarly object to? Certainly, as with all acts of rebellion, his point of critique is not an intellectual objection, nor is it a coincidental choice, but one that reflects Korach himself, and his own particular worldview.
Let us explain.
What does Techeles represent?
The Torah commands us to place one strand of Techeles upon our four-cornered garments, and this is meant to be a reminder of all the Mitzvos. In explaining how Techeles sparks this memory, Rashi points to the numerical symbolism of the Tzizis; its knots, loops, and strands.
Ramban however, has a different approach:
“The reminder is the string of Techeles, which alludes to the trait that incorporates everything…..’for Techeles is similar to the sea, and the sea is similar to the heavens, and the heavens compare to the Throne of Glory.’ (Menachos 43b)….this similarity is in name [the word Techeles compares to ‘Tachlis’], and in color, and from a distance everything appears in that color, therefore it is referred to as Techeles.” (Ramban, Bamidbar 15:38)
Techeles is a kind of blue that reminds one of the sea and the sky, the clean, crisp image of an unbroken horizon. In actuality, both the sea and sky are not really blue, but they appear to be, and this is for good reason.
In the spectrum of colors, white is the original hue, and it serves as background and source for all subsequent images. Every picture that we perceive can only be assimilated through a mix of colors and contrast, and it is white that makes this possible. When contrast is removed, and when all that remains is an unlimited view, uncluttered and undisturbed by images that hold back our perception, man suddenly has a glimpse of the Tachlis, the goal towards which he was created to strive. Looking at the sea, and towards the sky, he sees blue, Techeles, the infinite eternity.
White is “MeiAyin Basa” and Techeles is “L’An Attah Holech.”
Man’s life, and indeed, the entire creation is an ongoing process of revelation, with each person and every moment serving to actualize a different aspect of the Divine plan. It is incumbent upon man to be aware of this awesome responsibility, and to henceforth direct his attentions towards fulfilling this goal and purpose.
While the strings of the Tzitzis keep him connected, it is the blue strand of Techeles that reminds him of the goal that lies beyond the horizon. With this in mind, man can travel the world and never get lost, anchored to the Torah that gives him direction.
“And they gathered against Moshe and against Aharon, saying to them: ‘You have enough! For all the congregation is holy, and the presence of G-d is in their midst, and why should you lord over the assembly of G-d?’ “ (Bamidbar 16:3)
By what strength does Korach stage a protest against the leadership of Moshe and Aharon? Does he truly believe that he should have been chosen Kohen Gadol?
The truth is, Korach did serve an important role. As a member of the family of Kehas, he was among the Levites that carried the precious vessels of the Mishkan, and he personally was one of the chosen few who carried the Aron Kodesh in its travels through the desert.
It is this quality that connects Korach to the Kehunah, filling him with delusions of grandeur. The high priest as well, is also involved with the Aron, and only he is permitted to enter the Holy of Holies. Because he carries the very same ark, Korach believes that he and Aharon are colleagues and peers.
What differentiates the two?
Korach carries the ark through its journeys, while Aharon sees it at rest.
Korach is part of the process, and Aharon embodies the goal.
Other than Aharon, no man alive is permitted to enter the Kodesh HaKodashim, for in this world, man must struggle to reach his objective, never to rest or take respite. Man’s destination is the world-to-come, and until that moment arrives, he should be aware that he remains forever unfulfilled, his life replete with imperfections.
But Korach senses that G-d is with him, and becomes enamored with his own capabilities, convinced that he is on the right side of eternity. He mistakenly believes that he has already arrived, and that holiness and sanctity are his rightful due. He puts himself on equal footing with Moshe and Aharon, the agents of Heaven.
He feels the Torah is his, and he has no use for Moshe Rabbeinu and his commands.
“At all times, your garments should be white….” (Koheles 9:8)
Man is ordained to wear white, but Korach feels certain that he deserves Techeles, a garment of pure blue, with no further need to be reminded of Heaven.
“Ani Hashem Elokeichem – I am destined to determine and take payment from the man who hangs blue dye on his garment and claims that it is Techeles.” (Rashi, Bamidbar 15:41)
In modern times, numerous pretenders presume to be Techeles, asserting that the world has finally achieved true redemption, or at the very least, is well on the way towards doing so. To the untrained eye, blue dye and Techeles are remarkably similar, and therefore it is only G-d Himself who can reveal the truth.
Techeles alludes to a world beyond our own, and until the time that it’s found, our physical life is incomplete, bereft and wanting. In the absence of Tzitzis, the bond attaching man to the hereafter, mortal man begins to believe that his own existence is self-sufficient, and he rebels against Moshe Rabbeinu and the message he brings down to earth.
Though man continues his drive towards progress, and though the information at his disposal grows daily, we are witness to ever-growing levels of apostasy. As man deludes himself into a sense of complacency, confident that his world is secure, he begins to believe that there is no need for any dimension beyond his grasp.
It is this very world that he finds so comforting that is destined to swallow him alive.
With the advent of stronger and more efficient machines, the man who longs for self-reliance instead begins to disappear, swallowed by a world with little time for ethics, ideals, or conscience.
It is time to don our Tzitzis, a four-cornered garment with white strings, and remember why we are here, never to forget where we are headed.
“….and you will see it, and remember all the Mitzvos of Hashem, and perform them.”
JerusalemViews, Copyright (c) 2000 by Rabbi Heshy Grossman and ProjectGenesis, Inc.