Parashat Korach – Fundamentals of the Torah’s Inner Wisdom


What is contention, and what is peace in man's spiritual work?

Zohar, Korach (HaSulam, Verse 5) "Korach walked the path of contention. What is contention: distancing and delaying the distancing, and delaying that which comes from above to below. And whoever wishes to delay the correction of the world ("Tikun Olam") will be lost from all worlds. Contention is the distancing and delaying of peace and whoever opposes peace opposes His holy name, as His holy name is called peace."

We see here from the words of the Zohar, that contention is opposed to peace. We see that when there are two people in a state of peace with each other, their opinions are the same – and in any case are not opposed to each other with regards to the particular issue under discussion. As we said in Parashat Shlach Lecha, it is possible to find the middle point between any two levels – and even if they are opposites of each other, the middle point will contain them both, and thus connect between the two.

We learned in the Talmud Eser Hasfirot (Part 3, Chap. 5:3) and this is its verse: "After all, it is known, that between each two levels, there is a middle aspect that contains each of the two sides. So that between the inorganic and the vegetative levels [of created beings], there is a middle level called coral. And between the vegetative and the animal levels, there are 'Ednei haSadeh', (animals that are attached to the earth by an umbilical cord through which they derive their nourishment); and between animal and the articulate being [man], there is the ape". We see that the middle point between animal and man is the ape. The middle point between vegetable and animal is the 'Ednei haSadeh', and between mineral and vegetable are the corals, and so forth.

So, the question is what is the mid-point between contention and peace?

From considering the issue, we can see that peace is the outcome of dissent. Therefore, if two sides are in disagreement, then they are both invested in the issue, whether in order to reach peace – or chas veshalom to perpetuate the conflict. We can see then, that if there is an outcome – i.e. peace, then there must necessarily be a cause that brought about the outcome, i.e., the conflict.
There can be no peace without contention.

As is said by Hazal (Berachot 5) "Man must incite his Good Inclination against his Evil Inclination" and Rashi reads "to make war upon it".

Man was created with the desire to receive. This desire is the absolute creation of the Creator. It was given to man to build Vessels of Bestowal. For man to receive the divine bounty without shame, it requires vessels that he has built through his desire. In other words, man needs to develop the proper intent with regards to his desires to receive: to receive within these vessels the full light, with the intent to bestow.

We see two separate kinds of emanations of the Creator's light: 1) receiving; 2) bestowal.

Receiving is an indirect emanation of the Creator's light, in the sense of an essence created from nothing. Bestowal is a direct emanation of the Creator's light, as an essence created from an essence. These two kinds of emanations developed into two kinds of vessels:

  1. The Vessels of Desires to Receive
  2. The Vessels of Desires to Bestow

The 'Desire to Receive' obtains pleasure from the act of receiving; and the 'Desire to Bestow' from giving. After the second Contraction of Light in the worlds (Tzimtzum Bet), it was lawed that creation cannot bestow pleasure to the Creator, unless the vessels of the Desire to Bestow are used to do so.

These are also two forces in man that are diametrically opposed to each other – the Good Inclination desires only to give. The Evil Inclination desires only to receive. Each Inclination creates a different image in man's consciousness.

This dissention was created by the Creator so that man may reach wholeness, which is peace. In other words, the merging of these two aspects: Receiving  in order to bestow. This is completeness – whereas if each aspect keeps to its own side, there cannot be peace.


How can we bring two sides closer to peace between them, to become one?

The answer is to do so by connecting between them through a third entity. After all, if we try to bring together two opposites, they will never truly meet. The ability of each side to agree with the opposite side, to think through his viewpoint is not enough to achieve wholeness. Moreover, this would create greater contention and battles, ending only in death and destruction.

We seek to reach peace through contention. The popular belief is that compassionate listening brings peace, i.e. listening in order to understand the other side's point of view and motivations – but this is not so. Listening is certainly key, but the main goal is to create a connection between the two sides – which can only be done through a third entity.

Bringing two sides together out of a mutually shared concern is what brings peace. Man, by taking his two opposite desires – on one hand, the desire to receive, and on the other the desire to bestow – and bringing them into unity through the higher aim to do the will of the Creator, compels them to merge into one, bending their very will to this higher reality. Thus, each side can then be inter-included by the will of the other.

The essential point here is that the two sides not give in one to the other, but rather that each must act towards the "Collective-Self" that exists between them. This shared Collective-Self, the highest self, is created through seeking to give pleasure to the Creator. Both of man's desires – the desire to receive and to bestow – by acting towards this third, more exalted, spiritual goal that connects between them –become joined together. This higher point is the 'Whole' ("Klal") that connects all individual points, and in this way, we can bring together even those things that are in complete opposition to one another.

We must emphasize once again, that contention is necessary in order to achieve peace. There is sometimes a kind of illusionary and superficial peace where the two sides hide their true feelings.  While there is no outer expression of their conflict, what seems as peace is only an artificial lack of war. Man must seek within his soul true conflicts in order to generate inner friction. The heat of the inner fire is the melting pot of man's soul, so needful of purification.

Why does man not like war?

The fear of seeking out inner conflicts arises from man's desire for peace, for the lack of war. If an individual does not naturally find his inner conflicts, he must find ways to generate them. As it is written (Mishlei, Ch. 24:6) " For you shall wage war for yourself with strategies". Peace must come, and therefore, before it comes necessarily war – it would be better for us to be prepared, and not to remain complacent.

Peace is evil when it conceals war

The Desire to Receive in man operates according to the Creator's law, as the purpose of creation must necessarily be reached. But this Desire to Receive is also willing to bend itself so that it will receive only in order to bestow. This is so that it can connect with the Desire to Bestow in man. While this aspect wants only to give, it wants to do so in order to obtain the purpose of creation, in order to receive the good and the pleasure contained in the state of adhesion, or devotion to the Creator, with no sense of shame.

Therefore we see that when the two desires in man work to uphold the purpose of creation, then they can complete each other, and make peace with each other. Obtaining this wholeness between the purpose of creation – the Desire to Receive, and the Correction of the World – which is the Desire to Bestow – this is the whole aspect of Receiving Through Bestowal. This is the point that bridges between receiving and giving. This point is realized by bringing each of the two opposing traits into line with the purpose of creation, which is to serve the Creator, blessed be He.

All forms of peace must be made in this way – between man and his fellow, between man and his parents, between nations, and above all, between man and his internal self. This is done by finding the common aim shared by all of his self's desires that can serve as a bridge that connects between all of these points and that of peace – achieving wholeness within himself.

From the above, we see that the mid-point between war and peace is war whose aim is peace.

When we speak of war, we are not referring to physical war, but to the internal spiritual war within man, the outer expression of which can look like a physical war, but sometimes doesn't. It is better that the real wars be waged on philosophical debate and on how to achieve truth, and not by bodies seeking to obtain control over other bodies.

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