“And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab; and they said, ‘We will not come up’.” (Numbers 16:12)
This verse invites us to reflect on characters and their choices. Our oral tradition teaches that in the material world, positive traits are destined to confront their opposites, until the advent of the Final Redemption. In other words, the reason and purpose of goodness is to reveal itself for what it is, in contrast to what is not.
So our Sages they say that the men mentioned in the verse were the exact opposites of what Aaron and Moses represent, which are loving kindness and truth.
This leads us to ponder on what these qualities mean in the context of the Torah. We learned that both are ways and attributes with which the God of Israel relates to His creation (Exodus 34:6-7), all associated to goodness as His ruling ethical principle. Hence their antagonist traits and trends are shaped by the egotistic and self-centered approach to life, that keeps our consciousness incapable to ascend up to the realm of goodness, that has a time and space in the Promised Land.
“‘(…) We will not come up.’” (16:14)
Once we fully realize that loving kindness is bound to truth as its ethical quality, we enter into the quest for truth as what makes love and goodness meaningful. In this awareness we face the moment to moment choices that define our essence and true identity. We are destined to contrast goodness against the traits that oppose it, in order to make it prevail.
We read that Korach and his “evil companions” were swallowed by “the mouth of the earth”, for they shared its inert nature. The more we become dull and insensitive, the closer we are to stones and become part of their realm. Hence our Sages teach us that the punishment of “dead by stoning” meant that, prior to his decease the transgressor was already dead as a stone, due to his transgressions.
“‘Is it a small thing that you [Moses] have brought us up out to a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, but you must make yourself also a prince over us?’” (16:13)
We embrace the truth of goodness when we allow it to direct all aspects, facets and expressions of life. We have said that Moses represents in our consciousness the complete awareness of goodness, by which we are commanded to conduct our thoughts, feelings, emotions, speech and actions.
This awareness is the “prince” that leads us to the ways, means and attributes symbolized by the land flowing with milk and honey.
“And Moses said, ‘Hereby ye shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, and that I have not done them of mine own mind’.” (16:18)
Moses himself corroborates this, because goodness is the divine ruling principle God wants to make prevail in humankind through the guidance of the Jewish people. Korach, Dothan and Abiram are presented in this portion of the Torah to remind us again what is in favor of us, and what against in regards to what is relevant and meaningful in life.
Either, our personal self-centered version of material reality claims prevalence, or loving kindness and truth as founding stones of goodness.
The Psalmist joins us in this awareness.
“Loving kindness and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Psalms 85:10)