Did it ever happen to you, that you felt jealous of someone else’s success? Did a thought ever cross your mind: Why did he or she get it and not me? Did you ever have a sharp criticism of how he or she does things, and thought that you probably would have done it better?
This usually happens when a person has not listened to, or even realized, his or her deep desire, and the other person’s success is a kind of mirror, as if the other person is living part of your unfulfilled stor“.
If we could only turn our point of view at that moment from judgment to curiosity, and examine — what is the reminder of the talent within me, that seeks to materialize in the other person and serves as mirror?
When I read the Torah portion for this week, Korach, in which Korach [the Levite, son of Izhar, who joined with Dathan and Abiram, and 250 chieftains to rebel against Moshe] attacks Moshe and his leadership, and expresses a desire to lead in place of him — I ask myself:
Is Korach’s anger and fierce accusations against Moshe (‘you took on too much power, you are arrogant’) and his arrogant, uncompromising, mocking and painful behavior evidence of a feeling that festered in him — that Moses actually was living part of what his own unfulfilled story was?
The letters of Korach’s name in Hebrew ק.ר.ח.mean ice and teaches me something about his stagnation and rigidity.
Rabbi Nachman teaches that a good open controversy, or argument, leaves a free space among those who disagree, in order to create something new. Bad controversy leaves dissenters closed and rigid in their positions.
Korach chooses to confront Moshe in a rigid and confrontational manner. He ignores Moshe’s speech and mobilizes the feelings of anger, frustration, and jealousy for external action, instead of doing internal work – and in the end, Korach loses the battle.
The Bible recounts, “And the earth beneath their feet opened and swallowed them together with their houses and everyone who had joined Korach, including all his property; and they and all they had disappeared into the bowels of the earth, which covered them completely; and they were lost forever to their community.”
This metaphor of the earth opening its mouth and swallowing Korach and his community echoes for me the debilitating talk of the spies from last week’s parsha, about the promised land that is “a land that eats its inhabitants.”
In the literature this phenomenon is called “realization of the metaphor.”
And perhaps it can also be understood as the fulfillment of an act of shame that can overwhelm one, after a person is confronted with his or her feelings of jealousy? A wish to be swallowed up by the earth, out of deep shame.