Avoiding The Tragic Fate Of The Great Believer
By Rabbi Avrohom Shmuel Bukiet

The one who withstood the waves ultimately failed when he allowed his intellect to triumph. * How can we immunize ourselves? * Reflections on Gimmel Tammuz

It’s not easy to have faith. The Communists mocked emuna, calling it the opium of the masses. Unfortunately there are certain groups today who believe the same, at least when it comes to emuna in Moshiach’s coming. These people think that our emuna ignores the reality of Gimmel Tammuz. They would be right if they were speaking about blind faith, which is not based on anything and leads nowhere. Pure faith, however, which is based on the sichos of the prophet and leader of the generation, is not a faith that is meant to protect the believer from the harsh truths of reality; rather, it is meant to penetrate reality’s deceptive veneer by revealing the eternal truth, the revelation of Moshiach.

Since true emuna seems to be at odds with reality, the life of a believer in general, and a believer in the coming of Moshiach and the realization of the Rebbe’s words in particular, is quite challenging. It’s hard to constantly fight reality, and doubly hard when the Torah even seems to acknowledge the reality of the concealment. During this difficult time-period, regular emuna, which exists in the heart of every Jew, just won’t do. We need to reveal deeper powers, powers that draw their strength from shtus d’kedusha (folly of holiness).

In order for this emuna to stand up to intellect, including "holy intellect," which threatens to overtake it, we must strengthen our utter bittul to the Nasi and Navi HaDor. We must have the bittul of kabbolas ol, i.e., the bittul of a soldier.

These two concepts - emuna that transcends reason and utter bittul to the Nasi HaDor - appear in the paryshiyos of Korach and Chukas.

We all know Nachshon ben Aminadav for his courageous act at the Yam Suf. Every child identifies Nachshon - the man who doesn’t flinch in the face of a vast ocean - with complete faith. When Nachshon heard the order to move on, he did just that. It’s not hard to imagine what all the intellectuals thought about Nachshon’s move, but his faith persevered, and even when the waters reached his neck and nearly drowned him, he kept going.

Based on the above, it seems utterly bizarre that Nachshon was one of the 250 men who stood at Korach’s side to fight against Moshe and Aharon! (See, for example, Me’or V’Shemesh on Korach p. 164.)

We know from Rashi’s commentary that these 250 men were not just riffraff from the marketplace. They were the elite of the Jewish people, leaders of the Sanhedrin. But how did Nachshon, the master of faith, come to join them?

By reading Rashi we can learn what it was that broke the great believer. Rashi describes Korach’s initial move as follows: "What did Korach do? He stood and gathered 250 heads of Sanhedrin...and dressed them in tallisos that were completely t’cheiles [wool, dyed blue with the blood of the chilazon]. They came and stood before Moshe Rabbeinu and said to him, ‘Does a tallis that is wholly t’cheiles need tzitzis?’ Moshe said ‘it does.’ They laughed, ‘is it possible that one blue thread discharges the obligation of a tallis that is of a different color, yet a tallis that is completely blue does not discharge itself?!’"

Korach was a wise man. He knew that in order to carry out his plan he had to get the establishment, the 250 heads of the Sanhedrin, on his side. He had a serious problem, for among the 250 men were certainly men of principle who would not be easily persuaded to turn against Moshe. He decided to lure them into his ‘campaign,’ by telling them he had a Torah question that he wanted to pose to Moshe.

The question of the entirely blue tallis was utterly rational, for really - what logic can there be, even according to Torah, for a blue tallis to require a blue thread?

Nachshon, the great believer, got entangled in the rational, blue threads of Korach’s net. The great believer, who withstood the waves of the ocean, did not withstand the waves of intellect, and once he began his downward slide, his intellect continued to pursue him until his tragic death in the fire that consumed him and the other 249 men. That was the sad end of a great believer, who in a moment of weakness allowed his intellect to overcome his emuna.

The Rebbe once said that our generation has to rectify the errors of the Generation of the Desert. Let us learn from the story of Nachshon, that nobody’s faith is unassailable, and we must, therefore, constantly stand guard to protect it. Even if we’ve been all right up until now, we have to keep a constant vigil against the constant tests presented by our intellect. The only way to protect our emuna is through bittul. Had Nachshon had only a tiny bit more bittul to the Nasi HaDor, he wouldn’t have fallen.

Only if we have bittul and accept everything that the Rebbe said with kabbolas ol, are we assured that our faith won’t be weakened in these final moments of galus.


Parshas Chukas begins with the necessity of faith that transcends - and even contradicts - intellect. The mitzva of para aduma (the red heifer) is full of incomprehensible contradictions, so much so that the wisest of all men said, "I said I would be wise, but it [the understanding of para aduma] is far from me."

Rashi begins his commentary on Parshas Chukas by quoting the arguments that the Satan and the nations of the world make against the Jewish people’s fulfillment of Hashem’s chukim, and he says that from a strictly rational point of view, their arguments are actually correct. The mitzva of para aduma has no rational explanation. The Torah calls it, "Zos chukas ha’Torah" - a decree of Hashem, which we have no right to question.

Since the Torah says that we have no right to question the statutes of Hashem, it is obvious that we have been given the power to refrain from doing so. The Torah expects us to utilize that power.

The mitzva of para aduma, with its absolute incomprehensibility, expresses the greatness of the Jewish people and their supernatural connection to Hashem more than any of the comprehensible mitzvos do, as explained at length in the maamarim of the Rebbeim.

In Tractate Kiddushin (31a) it says, "They asked R’ Eliezer how far one needs to go in fulfilling the mitzva of honoring parents. He said, ‘Go and see how one idol worshipper, in Ashkelon, behaved toward his father. Dama ben Nesina was his name. The sages sought precious stones for the efod and would have paid a very handsome sum for them. The key, however, was under the head of his sleeping father, and Dama would not wake him.

"The following year Hashem paid Dama back and a red heifer was born into his flock. The sages went to him and he said: ‘I know that if I ask you for all the money in the world you would give it to me, but I ask of you only the money I lost in honoring my father.’"

There’s something odd about this story. Hashem does not withhold reward from His creations, and so He had to repay the gentile for honoring his father, but Hashem has many means at His disposal, and could have arranged for a treasure to be found. Why did Hashem repay Dama by requiring the Sages to go to Ashkelon in order to pay him back?

Perhaps this second meeting between the Sages and Dama was arranged by Heaven in order to underscore the difference between the gentile approach and, l’havdil, the Jewish approach, and to emphasize the greatness of the Jewish approach. The gentile was completely devoted to honoring his father, to the point of suffering great loss for his sake - but this devotion was based on reason. The gentile’s logic obligated him to honor his father. Perhaps he had to use his intellect to overcome his emotions, but the bottom line is that his actions were motivated by rationality.

The Sages on the other hand, came a year later and presented a completely different position. They paid the gentile the amount he had lost for honoring his father, but they paid this huge sum for a cow in order to perform an irrational mitzva, i.e., para aduma.

Divine providence - in order to demonstrate the superiority of the Jews over the gentiles - brought about a situation that compelled the Sages to go to Ashkelon, to a gentile. The difference between the gentile approach and, l’havdil, the Jewish approach, is that even when gentiles are willing, occasionally, to forego huge sums of money for the sake of a mitzva, it’s still a rational calculation. The Jewish people, on the other hand, as a result of their emuna, are willing to do even irrational deeds.

Faith that transcends intellect is what Gimmel Tammuz is about. It’s a day of emuna and utter bittul to the words of the Nasi and Navi HaDor. Since this is the avoda of the day, we certainly receive special kochos with which to carry out the avoda until the concealment over the Geula reality (which already exists) is removed.

Emuna and bittul are also the essence of two other major events that occurred on Gimmel Tammuz, i.e., the standing still of the sun for Yehoshua, and the ‘beginning of geula’ for the Rebbe Rayatz.

The juxtaposition of the two parshiyos dealing with transcendent faith strongly alludes to the role demanded of us now.

The Rebbe said many times, that the hiskashrus between Rebbe and Chassid is super-rational, thus we are confident that every Chassid will ultimately find his way, and the super-rational will overcome the rational, and we will immediately find ourselves standing before the Rebbe MH"M shlita proclaiming, "Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L’olam Va’ed!"


Nachshon ben Aminadav, the great believer, got entangled in the rational, blue threads of Korach’s net.



This year Gimmel Tammuz fell out between Shabbos Parshas Korach and Shabbos Parshas Chukas. The Alter Rebbe taught us to "live with the times," i.e., the weekly parsha, and so we can surely find a connection between these two parshiyos and Gimmel Tammuz.



If we were to define the essence of Gimmel Tammuz in two words, they would be emuna and bittul. Ever since Gimmel Tammuz, we’ve had to strengthen our emuna in all of the Rebbe’s teachings, so as not to veer from them even a hairsbreadth, and even when they don’t seem to accord with logic and reason.


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