Once at a yechidus (a private meeting with the Rebbe) a French Jew discussed an approach-avoidance conflict he had with the chassidim of that country. On one hand, he was attracted by the brotherhood and happiness they manifested, but was put off by certain qualities.

One of the qualities which bothered him most, he told the Rebbe, was what he considered the inordinate affection the chassidim had for the Rebbe himself.

“They learn from me,” the Rebbe replied. “I also have an inordinate love for every Jew.”

Parshas Korach

This week’s Torah reading relates that Korach, a wealthy, intelligent, and spiritually gifted individual, led a revolt against Moses. What was Korach’s complaint? He told Moses: “The entire nation is holy. G‑d is among them. Why do you lift yourself up over G‑d’s congregation?”

A preface is necessary to understand the inner meaning of Korach’s complaint. Korach also wanted to be a leader, the intent of his rebellion was that he would replace Moses. So how could he object to Moses’ leadership position?

In truth, Korach did not object to the Jew’s having a leader. What he opposed was the type of leadership that Moses manifested.

Moses was an absolute authority. He spoke in G‑d’s name. The people listened to him not because what he said sounded right, but because he was sharing with them G‑d’s word. Whether they understood or not, they were obligated to comply.

Korach objected to this. He was willing to give the people democratic leadership. He would suggest a course of action; the people would consider it and make their decision. If they agreed, they would listen. If they did not agree, then they would both consider other alternatives.

What’s wrong with such an approach? From a superficial perspective, nothing. Indeed, that is the type of leadership we are generally familiar with. But there is a problem with such leadership; it never takes a person beyond his own horizons. Since ultimately his acquiescence to the leader is dependent on his understanding, he can only advance to the limits of his own comprehension. Beyond that he is unwilling to go.

True leadership gives the people a vision of a purpose beyond their own understanding and in that way, endows them with an identity higher than their individual selves.

This is what Moses gives the people. Because, as stated above, Moses is conveying G‑d’s word, he is able to expose the people to a good beyond their own understanding, an approach that they would never have thought of on their own.

But how can we know that this is true? Since we cannot understand the depth of Moses’ message and must accept it on faith, is there a way Moses can prove that we should believe in him?

That’s exactly what Korach asked. Moses tried to tell him and his colleagues to relent. Out of his concern for them, Moses pleaded with them not to bring about a confrontation, but they insisted. To affirm Moses’ leadership, G‑d wrought a miracle, causing an earthquake that swallowed Korach and his entire company.

This is not only a historical narrative. In every generation, G‑d sends us leaders like Moses, Torah giants that do not speak in their own name, but in G‑d’s. They give our people the chance to heighten their relationship with G‑d and serve Him in ways that they would not be able to appreciate on their own.

Looking to the Horizon

The above relates to the concept of Mashiach, for in his era, the absolute authority which Moses commanded will return. Mashiach will not only be a Jewish leader; he will be a king.

Why a king? To take our people beyond their own understanding and expose them to an awareness of G‑dliness that they could not receive on their own. On one hand, Mashiach will be a teacher, educating the people and developing their understanding step by step, but his primary function will be that of king, for monarchy requires that a person subjugate himself to king. In that way, he steps beyond the petty concerns of his own ego and identifies with the greater and larger purpose which the king shares with his nation.

What is the source for the king’s authority? He is no more than a representation of the King of kings. Indeed, the entire purpose of the monarchy is to enable the people to deepen their relationship with G‑d. When a person gives himself over to an earthly monarch, it enables him to more effectively subjugate himself to the ultimate Monarch.