This week’s Torah portion, Korach, tells about the controversy with Moses initiated by Korach and his followers. His argument went as follows: If every single Jew is a member of a holy nation, then no one person is greater than another. Why are you, Moses, entitled to special privileges? Jews can only stand united if absolutely equal rights are afforded to all, he claimed.
The Torah teaches that this claim – taken to its logical conclusion – leads to the opposite of unity, so much so that Korach’s controversy with Moses became the yardstick by which all dissension among Jews is measured.
Moses alluded to this in his answer to Korach: “In the morning G-d will show who is His.” Moses explained, according to the Midrash, that the same way that G-d has created natural divisions between night and day which complement each other and form a cohesive whole, so too has He created distinctions between different types of Jews, all for the sake of the unity of the Jewish people.
The world was created so that each creation has its own natural boundaries and limitations. These boundaries enhance the world’s natural order and give it structure, for everything has its own particular purpose and function to perform. Unity among G-d’s creatures is attained only when each one works within its own framework and fulfils its own role. Harmony is maintained only when we adhere to the Divine plan, interdependent, performing our different allotted tasks. If one creation tries to assume the role of another, the result is disharmony and dissonance.
The distinctions between Israelites, Levites and Kohanim (and even among priests themselves, between ordinary priests and the high priest) are not arbitrary. Each distinction reflects the type of soul given to each Jew, which correlates to his particular task in life and way of serving G-d. G-d desires that each of us fulfil our own unique mission in life, not that of our neighbour. True unity is only achieved when we respect the differences between us.
Each Jew is blessed with different strengths and qualities, and we are enjoined to pool these disparate resources together for the common good. Every Jew, whether Israelite, Levite or Kohen, is indispensable and is part of this greater whole.
The lesson we learn from Korach is also one which is applicable today. Some think the path to true unity and peace lies with breaking down barriers which exist between men and women, Jews and non-Jews, and different faiths and ideologies. The Torah, however, teaches us otherwise. It is only by maintaining and respecting inherent differences that we can achieve unity and true peace.