top of page


Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Korach challenged Moshe’s authority and the significance of the mitzvot of tzitzit and mezuzah, based on his misunderstanding, denial or impatience of G-d’s plan and wisdom. How do we learn from his mistake and his aspiration, and how do we express our loyalty and love to G-d through these mitzvot?

by Bing AI

The challenge that Korach made regarding tzitzis and mezuzos was based on his rejection of the authority of Moshe and Aharon, and his attempt to undermine the significance of the mitzvot. According to one interpretation, Korach argued that if a single thread of tekhelet (blue wool) on the tzitzit can remind a person of G-d and His commandments, then a garment that is entirely made of tekhelet should not need any tzitzit at all. Similarly, if a mezuzah with a few verses from the Torah can protect a house, then a house full of Torah scrolls should not need any mezuzah at all (Rabbeinu Bachya on Numbers 16:1). Korach's challenge was based on a misunderstanding of the purpose and meaning of the mitzvot, which are not meant to be merely symbolic or utilitarian, but rather expressions of G-d's will and wisdom (Ramban on Numbers 15:38).

Another interpretation is that Korach challenged the distinction between the kohanim (priests) and the rest of the Israelites, claiming that they were all equally holy and did not need any special garments or rituals to serve G-d. He used the examples of tzitzit and mezuzah to show that even ordinary objects can be sanctified by attaching something holy to them, such as tekhelet or Torah verses. Therefore, he argued, there was no need for Moshe and Aharon to elevate themselves above the congregation (Midrash Rabbah 18:3). Korach's challenge was based on a denial of the hierarchy and order that G-d established among His people, and a refusal to accept His chosen leaders and representatives (Rashi on Numbers 16:1).

From a kabbalistic perspective, Korach's challenge also reflected his lack of appreciation for the unity and diversity of creation, and his desire to impose his own ego and agenda on others. According to the Zohar (3:176a), Korach wanted to be like Moshe, who represented the sefirah (divine attribute) of da'at (knowledge), which connects chochmah (wisdom) and binah (understanding). However, Korach did not have the humility or the balance to achieve this level, and instead he caused a separation and a dispute among the sefirot. He also failed to recognize that Moshe's leadership was not based on his own honor or power, but on his ability to channel G-d's light and will to the lower worlds. By contrast, Korach sought to usurp Moshe's role for his own glory and benefit.

The mitzvot of tzitzit and mezuzah teach us the opposite lesson: that we need to harmonize our inner and outer selves, our individuality and our community, our materiality and our spirituality. The tekhelet thread on the tzitzit reminds us of G-d's throne of glory, which encompasses all colors and levels of existence (Zohar 3:133a). The mezuzah contains the verses of Shema Yisrael, which proclaim G-d's unity and our love for Him with all our heart, soul and might (Zohar 2:125b). Both mitzvot are testimonies to G-d's presence in our lives, and they inspire us to follow His ways in peace and harmony.

However, there is also a positive interpretation about Korach, which suggests that he was anticipating and trying to preempt the way it will be in the future redemption. According to this view, Korach was not evil or rebellious, but rather ahead of his time. He had a vision of a world where everyone would be holy and close to G-d, where there would be no need for distinctions or reminders, where tekhelet would be abundant and accessible to all (Bamidbar Rabbah 17:5), where every house would be filled with Torah and every person would be a prophet (Jeremiah 31:33). He wanted to bring about this utopian state in his generation, but he did not realize that it was premature and impossible without going through the necessary stages of refinement and preparation. He also did not appreciate that Moshe was not an obstacle to this goal, but rather its facilitator and guarantor. Therefore, he challenged Moshe's authority and legitimacy, hoping to usher in the era of Mashiach by force. However, he failed miserably, because he acted against G-d's plan and timing. He also caused division and strife among the people, instead of fostering unity and love. His punishment was fitting for his sin: he was swallowed up by the earth, which symbolizes materialism and concealment. He lost his connection to G-d's light and will, which he tried to attain prematurely and improperly.

Nevertheless, Korach's aspiration was not entirely wrong or unworthy. He had a spark of holiness and greatness within him, which was distorted and corrupted by his ego and impatience. He also had a role to play in the divine plan, as his descendants became great singers and poets in the Temple service (1 Chronicles 6:22-23). His name also hints at his ultimate redemption, as it is related to the word "kerach" (ice), which can melt and become water, the source of life and purity (Zohar 3:176b). Therefore, the Midrash says that Korach and his followers will eventually emerge from the earth and repent in the future (Bamidbar Rabbah 18:15). They will then realize their true potential and join the rest of Israel in celebrating G-d's kingship and glory.

Art: Wonder

2 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page