Can a Relationship Survive Dispute? - קרח

Wednesday, 9 June, 2021 - 10:08 pm


Can a Relationship Survive Dispute? 


After Korach's rebellion against Moses and Aaron, G-d commanded Moses to take the pans which Korach's clan used to offer incense and make it into a covering for the Alter. This would remind the people never to repeat the mistake of Korach and his company. As the verse states: 


as a reminder for the children of Israel, so that no outsider, who is not of the seed of Aaron, shall approach to burn incense before the Lord, so as not to be like Korach and his company, as the Lord spoke regarding him through the hand of Moses. (Numbers 17:5)


Based on the words "as not to be like Korach and his company", the Talmud derives that it is a sin to engage in a dispute:  


With regard to the verse: "And Moses arose and went to Dathan and Abiram" (Numbers 16:25), Reish Lakish says: From here we derive that one may not perpetuate a dispute, as Rav says: Anyone who perpetuates a dispute violates a prohibition, as it is stated: "And he will not be like Korach and his assembly. (Talmud, Sanhedrin 110b)


But is dispute indeed a sin? Are we afraid of varying opinions? Aren't there multiple opinions on every single page of the Talmud? 


The very first "division" in the Torah appears on the second day of creation, when "God said "Let there be an expanse amid the water, and let it be a separation between water and water."". The origin of all division in the world is the division between the spiritual ("the waters of heaven") and the physical ("waters of earth"). The purpose of the separation on the second day of creation was in order to create harmony on the third day. The purpose of the second day was to create two distinct entities that could be interconnected, and whose differences could complement each other. The potential for harmony between the spiritual and physical realms is formed on the third day, when dry land appeared, creating the space for humankind whose task it is to bridge heaven and earth by creating a home for G-d in the physical world. 


The same model is true regarding all relationships. A relationship requires two distinct entities that unite to become one. A healthy relationship, therefore, requires both love (the desire to become one) and respect (honoring the distinct perspective, personality and needs of the other), because the oneness of a healthy relationship is not the absence of distinction but rather, on the contrary, growing as a result of the complementing distinctions.   


The Talmud's wording is precise. Korach wanted to "perpetuate dispute", Korach wanted that distinction should be absolute. He celebrated the differences between people because he believed that each person is independent and self-standing. The proper model of Judaism is that the various points of view complement and enrich the experience. The division between people, which gives each person their unique identity and perspective, is there to enhance each other, each contributing their own unique perspective and personality to the whole. The distinction between heaven and earth, which occurred on Monday, was not, as Korach would have it, meant to be perpetuated. Instead, the distinction was the first step to creating harmony as modeled by Moses in the Torah.  

(Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Hasam Nafsheinu Bachayim 5718)


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