In the Torah portion Korach we read how Korach led a band of 250 men in a rebellion against Moshe and Aharon. Underlying their revolt against Aharon’s High Priesthood was the charge: “All the people in the community are holy and G‑d is in their midst; why are you setting yourselves above G‑d’s congregation?”1

From Moshe’s response,2 “…and you seek priesthood as well,” we readily perceive that Korach and his band desired to become priests. This being so, their argument that “All the people…are holy,” and nobody can set himself above anybody else seems to contradict their desire to be above others by obtaining priesthood.

The Kohanim , the priestly class, differed from the rest of the Jewish people in that the Kohanim were wholly dedicated to spiritual matters. This was especially true with regard to the Kohen Gadol , the High Priest, who was commanded “not to leave the Sanctuary.”3

Their apartness from the general populace notwithstanding, the Kohanim in general, and the Kohen Gadol in particular, imparted their level of sanctity to all the Jews. Thus we find that Aharon’s service of lighting the Menorah in the Sanctuary imparted sanctity to all Jews, and enabled them to reach Aharon’s level of service and love of G‑d.4

Korach, however, argued that just as Kohanim were removed from worldly matters — a quality lacking in the rest of the Jewish people — the rest of the people possessed a quality that the Kohanim lacked: the ability to occupy themselves with worldly matters and transform physical objects into vessels for G‑dliness.

Moreover, since G‑d’s main intent is for this nethermost world to be transformed into a dwelling place for Him by elevating it to holiness, Korach maintained that it was specifically the populace as a whole who were accomplishing this task — not the Kohanim , who were separate and aloof from mundane matters.

Since the Jewish people as a whole possessed qualities that Kohanim lacked, Korach therefore rebelled against the thought that Kohanim in general and Aharon in particular could set themselves apart from the rest of the people because of their ability to impart holiness to them.

Korach and his band’s complaint that “All the people…are holy,” however, did not contradict their own desire for priesthood, for they desired a manner of priesthood totally removed from the rest of the congregation.

This manner of priesthood would not cause them to feel superior to the rest of the Jewish people, a superiority that resulted from their imparting holiness to them, for in their scheme of things they would not impart holiness to other Jews — they would remain totally separate and apart.

But Korach and his band were badly mistaken: It is true that there are different categories of service — Jews who are solely occupied with spiritual matters, and other Jews whose task it is to purify and elevate the physical world through the service of “All your actions should be for the sake of heaven,”5 and “In all your ways you shall know Him.”6

Nevertheless, it is necessary for the Kohanim to bestow their sanctity upon the Jewish people so that they too may aspire to the level of “priesthood,” i.e., that during certain portions of the day, even the “regular” Jew will occupy himself with Torah study and divine service, to the exclusion of all else.

Our Sages imply this when they say,7 “Minimize your business activities and occupy yourself with Torah.” A business person should not only “set aside certain portions of the day and night for Torah study,”8 but should also “steal away” time from his business affairs — minimize his business activities — and dedicate that time to “priesthood,” to the study of Torah and divine service.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. VIII, pp. 116-118.