The Great Debate by Ruchi Koval
Question: If you have a room full of Torah scrolls, does it need a mezuzah on the door?
1. Yes, of course. Every room needs a mezuzah, no matter what.
2. No, the Torah scrolls obviate the need for a mezuzah.
3. It depends on how many Torah scrolls there are.
4. Only if not all the Torah scrolls are in perfect condition.
What would you respond?
This question was posed by Korach, a first cousin to Moses, Aaron and Miriam. Korach was a brilliant man with leadership skills who took things down the wrong path. His was a classic case of talent, brains and ability combined with unhealthy character traits. The result? Disaster. Korach staged a full-scale mob rebellion against Moses because of envy over various relatives’ appointments to leadership.
His rebellion took the form of intellectual sparring and debate posing, an emotionally twisted state of jealousy, camouflaged as logical discussion.
The answer to the above is (1). When the Torah tells us to do something, we are responsible to learn all we can about it. We should research the reasons, ask tough questions, seek answers. But, as soon as we arrogantly twist our intellect to suit our emotions, we are asking for trouble. No one is smarter than G-d. Korach’s question about Torah scrolls and mezuzahs was a thinly veiled complaint about G-d’s selection of leadership. He felt that the Jewish nation was like a room full of Torah scrolls – each person holy, smart and worthy. Therefore, why do we need a mezuzah – why do we need a leader at the head? Shouldn’t the presence of so many copies of the entire Torah obviate the need for a small scroll that’s just a tiny excerpt of same Torah?
Korach’s line of thinking was very logical. Its only flaw is that he thought he was smarter than G-d. G-d said put a mezuzah on your door, no matter what. Don’t overthink it. How did such a thing come to pass? Korach was a spiritual person who saw, without a shadow of a doubt, what G-d wanted. But, his character flaw – envy – twisted everything. When our emotions dictate our logic, we are in trouble and are no longer able to see clearly.
There isn’t a single person in the universe who is too holy to be vulnerable to character flaws. Our purpose in this life is to become the best versions of ourselves we can. This means, being so honest about our flawed emotions and character – admitting when we feel jealous, angry, confused, ignored – so we can more healthfully do something about it.
Korach never admitted he was jealous. That would have been beneath him. Instead, he constructed intellectual debates to make his emotionally-driven needs seem more legitimate. It is this we are warned against. It is this we are asked to be careful with. It is our character that needs close examination if we are to achieve our greatest potential.