The Kotzker Rebbe is reported to have instructed his Gabbai to seek a Chazan with a good heart. A good heart, he said, is so much more powerful than a good voice.
Chazal often ask why one particular portion of the Torah is placed next to another, albeit apparently unrelated in content. Why it is that the portion of Korach is juxtaposed immediately before the portion of Chukas, since there is very little evident connection?
I once a heard that Rav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik O.B.M. titled the rebellion of Korach, ‘the common sense rebeliion’. He pointed out that the claims of Korach in and of themselves seemed perfectly reasonable and in line with logical common sense. Korach spoke of equality and demonstrated his claim with the arguments, if a garment requires only one thread of techeiles in each corner, then a garment made entirely of techeiles should surely be exempt from this requirement; if a single mezuza is all that is needed on a doorpost then a house full of Torah Scrolls must surely be exempt from adding this small extra piece of parchment.
It’s difficult to fault this on logical grounds. Yet Korach was a rebel. He led a rebellion against God and the Torah. Where did he go wrong?
Here’s another question, relevant each and every day but too rarely thought about. When we pray we are supposed to consider ourselves standing directly in front of God. This presents a dilemma. What is God? What are we to imagine? As soon as we have any visual association of God, we’ve gone wrong! It doesn’t matter whether you’re thinking of some kind of energy, or the ‘man with a white beard’. It’s all wrong! We can’t perceive God at all.
So what exactly is it that we’re not only meant to be doing in theory, but which ordinary people seem to have being doing successfully for thousands of years, and continue to do so on a daily basis?
The key is understanding deep relationships. Deep relationships are not based on intellectual comprehension; they are based on the workings of the heart. That’s true for a friendship, a marriage and for our relationship with God.
Korach claimed that if you can’t comprehend it, if doesn’t fully make sense to your brain, then it can’t be true. Therefore, he reasoned, that Torah, which has apparently illogical elements, can not be ultimately true, and so Moshe must have falsified it.
Chukas teaches us about the totally illogical Mitzvah of the Red Heifer. The Mitzvah begins with the words, ‘zos chukas haTorah’. “These (like these) are the statutes of the Torah’. There is an aspect of the Red Heifer which applies to all Mitzvoth, and for that matter to all of religion. Moshe counters Korach by emphasizing that not everything depends on logic; after all logic is a function of our human minds and not necessarily the ‘mind’ of God.
Moshe’s answer to Korach was that his leadership, and of those leaders that he appointed, were based on the word of God. How can that be countered or questioned by logic?
The human being is capable of transcending logic. This is how we have loving relationships; this is how we are able to pray. Tefilla is avoda she’b’lev, it’s about the heart, about a relationship with our Creator. We can stand emotionally before God, even though we are incapable of any mental image at all, we can talk to God, and we manage to do that all the time. There is no contradiction. Service of God is not only about logic, it requires a relationship with God that logic does not always grasp. This is what Korach didn’t grasp.