• Nitzotzos

Parshas Korach - Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder 

לַֽמְנַצֵּ֜חַ מַשְׂכִּ֥יל לִבְנֵי־קֹֽרַח: כְּאַיָּ֗ל תַּֽעֲרֹ֥ג עַל־אֲפִיקֵי־מָ֑יִם כֵּ֚ן נַפְשִׁ֨י תַֽעֲרֹ֖ג אֵלֶ֣יךָ אֱלֹהִֽים: צָמְאָ֬ה נַפְשִׁ֨י | לֵֽאלֹהִים֘ לְאֵ֪ל֫ חָ֥י מָתַ֥י אָב֑וֹא וְ֜אֵֽרָאֶ֗ה פְּנֵ֣י אֱלֹהִֽים: "For the conductor, a maskil of the sons of Korah. As a hart cries longingly for rivulets of water, so does my soul cry longingly to You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when will I come and appear before God?" This beautiful kapitel Tehillim is the work of the sons of Korach. But how did Korach's children survive the calamitous fate of Korach and his chevra? Were they not involved in the rebellion against Moshe Rabbeinu? Did they go against their own father. Rashi based on the Gemara in Megillah explains that the children of Korach were indeed part of the rebellion but they managed to survive. How? As the earth opened up and swallowed Korach and his followers, Korach's sons had thoughts of Teshuva and as we know even thoughts of Teshuva are considered like Teshuva. Because of their Teshuva they were worthy of being saved and composed this kapitel Tehillim in honor of the miracle they experienced. What is this imagery they are painting for us? My soul cries longingly for you? My soul thirsts for you? Did they somehow feel disconnected from God even after they experienced such a tremendous miracle? In considering this story something occurred to me. The children of Korach were spared because they had thoughts of Teshuva. Not actual Teshuva but thoughts of Teshuva. It doesn't bother me that thoughts of Teshuva are considered as if you did Teshuva. I can appreciate the fact that we are where our mind is at. What struck me was that no one else, as they were plummeting to the depths of hell, even considered that they were wrong. Not one other person thought to himself, "Boy did we choose the wrong side." All it took to be saved was acknowledging that Moshe was correct and you were immediately saved. The ground has opened up. Surely at this point they know they were wrong and yet somehow they still couldn't accept the fact that they had made a mistake. Korach's children saw their family and friends swallowed alive. They alone survived. What were they feeling at that moment? Relationships have two different modalities, distance and closeness. When two people who love each other are distant from one another there is a great feeling of longing. This is what we mean when we say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. It can be a feeling as powerful as, I don't know how I can live without you. It's such a powerful feeling that when it goes on for too long it becomes unbearable and the couple has no choice but to minimize their feelings for one another. It's why long distance relationships rarely work. On the other hand there is a mode of being very close to someone. It's less flashy and exciting but it is often deeper. When older couples see newly married couples or couples who have just begun dating and are all gaga about one another they often poke fun at this new love. They shouldn't but they do. New love requires passion to bridge the divide between two people. Older love requires depth to maintain the intimacy. If new love is fire then old love is water. Water is not as exciting as fire but it's exceptionally powerful and deep. This is also the difference between thirst and hunger. There is a difference between someone who is starving because he has nothing to eat and someone who is dehydrated. For those who have ever been dehydrated you know what I mean. Your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth as you try to draw out any liquid you can. It's an excruciating experience. This is the feeling a soul has when it is so distant from God. The soul feels as if it cannot bare to be separated from God for even one more moment. The passion is meaningful in that it enables the soul to connect to God despite the long distance nature of the relationship. When does the soul feel this most acutely? When we sin the soul feels exceptionally distant from God but that's not the most painful experience for the soul. The soul is most pained when it sees God reaching out for us even when we are in the throes of an aveira. We feel so disconnected and it pains us so intensely because we also see how infinitely God wants to be connected to us. The sons of Korach had not truly done Teshuva. They considered doing Teshuva. It was good enough to save them but it still remains only "as if." They had the courage to acknowledge that they were wrong and in doing so they were privileged to see God's tremendous love for them. At that moment they were like men who were dying of thirst. They could not stand to be disconnected from God any longer. The result of the intensity of their feeling is one of the most powerful perakim in Tehilim. For me, this particular kapitel has always been the one I most deeply connected to. The children of Korach took their longing for God, put it into words, and shared them with us for the rest of time and for that I am deeply grateful to them. They gave us the language to say what so many of us have been trying to say for so many years. God, I am unworthy of your love. You alone know how much I sin and my deepest desire is to return to you. I don't always feel that way and so I make terrible decisions that I'm not proud of but we both know what I feel deep inside my soul. I am humbled when I see how much you do for me despite my many failures. When will I appear before you? When will we feel connected again?

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