The Shortcut Fallacy (Korach)
The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not obtained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Korach is a Levite. He is a cousin of Moses and Aaron. He is as close to nobility as one could get in the fledgling nation of Israel. According to the Midrash he was brilliant, insanely wealthy and was married to an ambitious wife. However, all these blessings and distinctions were not enough for Korach. Still dissatisfied with his lot and envious of Moses and Aaron, Korach proceeds to launch a rebellion against their leadership.
Korach’s rebellion is short-lived and proves fatal to Korach and his followers. A heavenly fire consumes 250 of Korach’s followers, while the rest of the rebels who are part of the sub-group of brothers Datan and Aviram die when the earth miraculously opens to swallow them.
The Bat Ayin on Numbers 16:1 recalls some of the theological arguments that Korach used in his rebellion. One of them was that Korach understood that the ultimate purpose of creation and of human existence is to develop our awe of God, to become wholehearted servants of the Master of the World, the Creator of the Universe. Korach argued that if that is the point, why do we need to bother with the Torah and its commandments. Let’s just meditate and focus on the ultimate awe of God. Let’s get straight to the point without going through the long, challenging, arduous process of learning an endless number of laws and having to be particular about an infinite number of details and nuances.
The Bat Ayin explains that such “direct” thinking was Korach’s fatal mistake. There are no shortcuts to lofty goals. Developing the right connection with God is the loftiest of all goals. It requires study, practice, training, and work. Any accomplishment requires these elements. Even people who are gifted with great talent in any area, still need to hone it, still need preparation and a massive investment of time, energy and resources to achieve their goals.
The Torah and the commandments are the path to connect to God. It is the practice, the investment, the work, the devotion, the focus, the sacrifice. All these things and more are what build the foundation, the conduit and the steps for us to reach God.
Let’s not be afraid to do the work.
To Ira the Starman of Astronomy Israel. For a magical tour of the night sky in Machtesh Ramon.