Communism and Tassles

“‘And Korach took‘. What parsha precedes this episode? – ‘Speak to the Israelites concerning the making of Tzitzit (fringes).’ Korach stepped forward turning to Moses: “You say, “Put on the fringe a thread of blue (Techelet) wool.” What about a garment that is itself a blue colour, would it not be exempt from the blue thread?” Moses replied, “It is obligatory to have the blue thread.”  Said Korach, “A garment which is all blue is not exempt and four meagre threads do the trick!?” (Tanchuma, Korach)

This Midrash is a little puzzling. It is obvious from the context that Korach had not come to Moses to ask an objective Halacha of tzitzis. He had no interest in the laws of tzitzis; he was asking a rhetorical, philosophical question. He asked Moses, why something perfect would need an outside element to enhance it. Moreover, it is not possible to add perfection to something that is complete already. In the same manner, all of Israel witnessed God’s revelation at Sinai, therefore they are all equal in their understanding, and clarity of God’s Existence and Laws, thus Moses’ position is superfluous and even counterproductive.

This argument is clearly articulated in the bible, “And they rose up before Moses and Aaron, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty… men of renown, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, and the Lord is among them.”(Numbers 16:2-3). Therefore, when Moses answered the question halachically he dodged the real question. In fact, in the whole story of Korach we do not find that Moses rebutted Korach’s argument, which implies, consequently, that he agreed with Korach’s thesis. Besides that we can ask, why indeed does the Torah rule that a blue garment requires tzitzis? The verse also states that Korach had two hundred and fifty influential personalities in his camp, which implies that there had to be at least a partial true point in his argument.

Let’s talk about communism. The theory is that all humans were created and therefore should remain equal. There should be no difference and privilege of an individual or a group over the rest of the population. That is in the economic, social, educational, and racial realms. Perhaps most importantly, that there should be no governing class that controls their constituency. The power of the people should forever remain in the hands of the public. In the practical sense, there would be a circle, the baker, butcher, tailor, shoemaker, dentist and physicist would provide their respective services to each other in perfect sync, thus everyone would have what they need while contributing their part to the community. Sounds like a fairy tale, right? Wrong. It is a complete nightmare! Historians estimate that in Stalin’s three-decade dictatorship he murdered roughly three thousand people daily! That gives him the badge of honor of being the greatest murderer of all time! He shares that honor, obviously, with the philosophy that enabled him to reign with terror, making communism the most murderous ideology of all time.

So, where did this beautiful, humanitarian, and Utopian society fail? How did a theory of abolishing jealousy, greed, and competition, evolve into a regime of murder and barbarism? The answer is simple. The aforementioned Utopia can only survive if the players sacrifice their ego completely for the best of the community. Practically, if the baker decides that he works harder and contributes more than the dentist does, he will withhold his bread; thereby starve the population until they agree to pay him as he wishes. The dentist, however, does not have the extra money to buy bread so he starts charging as he wishes. Eventually, the whole circle falls apart and everyone is taking advantage of each other. Meanwhile, there is no governing class to punish the criminals, so the weak are left to the mercy of the strong that will take advantage of them as they desire. Power gives room for more power, and the final ruler is anarchy and chaos. (see Mishna Avos 3:2).

Korach was the founder of modern communism. He envisioned a society of selfless and altruistic Jews that will give themselves for the general community in beautiful harmony.  His prophesy was that of a perfectly woven tapestry of sky blue, which is complete and perfect in its very essence. Moses did not disagree with Korach’s theory; he was just one-step ahead. Moses understood the nature of his people he saw the inevitable deterioration of the short-lived circle, and paved the way for the morrow. If we can listen in to their conversation, we can hear Moses telling Korach, “Listen, you will admit that your all-blue garment does not need tzitzis only as long as it is perfectly blue. The second that even one tiny thread loses its color, it will destroy your whole tapestry into to shreds. Maybe now we do not need a single fringe to keep the whole garment in order and focus, but tomorrow will inevitably call for it!” Indeed, in the commandment of tzitzis, we can identify Moses’ explanation for the need of the single blue strand, “…They make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue.” (Numbers 15:38)

The sages take notice that it was Moses, not God, that decided that Korach be swallowed alive. What triggered this unprecedented behavior? As we mentioned above, Moses did not disagree with Korach, rather with his timing, therefore Moses did not think Korach deserved to die. Moses foresaw the day that there will be peace on earth, God will abolish jealousy and greed, and then Korach will be brought out of the ground, still alive, to implement his vision. Korach never died, he was postponed. His children sing psalms with him from the ground, awaiting their day, “A psalm for the Sons of Korach… Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shal look down from heaven (Psalms 85:10-11)

With Moses and Korach we cry, pray and yearn for the day that... “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

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