We live in an age of radicalisation. Of extremism. Everything is seen in either black or white and people are forced to choose between different values but Korech comes to teach us that it doesn’t have to be that way.
As individuals, we are each made up of many elements, our personality, temperament, skills and capabilities. Many believe that to achieve growth and perfection we must build our positive traits and eradicate the negative ones. This is only partially true.
Matzah symbolises our spiritual side, our desires for greatness, humility and kindness. Maror symbolises the physical. Some sources go so far as to relate it to our negative inclinations. Vegetables in Egypt were a sign of the wealthy bounty of the fertile Nile soil. But like so much materialism, for us they became the bitter taste of slavery. Materialism and the physical pursuits can start as wealth and the pursuit of luxury, and end up as a form of slavery.
We would have thought that spiritual growth involves separating the Matzah from the Maror; the physical pursuits from the spiritual ones. Instead, we sandwich that together with Maror. Korech teaches us that instead of attempting to uproot the evil inclination entirely, a better way to deal with it, is to “Korech”, to sandwich the bad with the good and channel it for the positive.
As a society, we must remember the words of King Solomon “Do not be overly righteous” (Ecclesiastes 7:16). One who does so, will isolate themselves from the world, and from themselves. “Beautiful is Torah with the way of the world” (Ethics 3:2). Taking Judaism seriously means taking our material drives and instincts and finding a way to integrate them with our higher drives. Alone they may taste bitter, but sandwiched within our higher drives they can help us to be more balanced, more reasonable, and more wholesome people.
Inner balance and harmony lead to a more tolerant, less extreme worldview. And then we can start to do a broader ‘korach’ - allowing a national integration bringing together people who are of greater and lesser spiritual inclination.
Hillel, the great spiritual teacher who lived most of his years in poverty, also taught the need to care for one’s physical needs. He once told his students on his way to the bathhouse that he was about to perform a great mitzva - taking care of his body. He likewise taught us never to reject anyone, but to “Love peace and pursue peace” (Ethics 1:12). It is Hillel’s sandwich that forms a metaphor for his worldview.
May we taste, with Hillel, the joy of our multifaceted selves, and our multifaceted world.