Come for a walk down a street here in Westlake, where my family and I live in “suburban paradise.” Beautiful streets, manicured lawns, perfectly aligned street lamps, and flowery trees towering over shiny luxury cars. It’s all glitzy and glamorous.
But what lies just beneath the surface? Chip away at the pavement and start digging, all you’ll find is dirt and mud.
Some people might find that disheartening.
Is everything we see really just a colorful facade, hiding a sad reality?
Are fellow people who appear to be nice really just egotistical and selfish?
To them I say, you’re just not digging deep enough. Under the mud, if you dig even deeper, you’ll find useful minerals, and sometimes even diamonds or precious stones.
And if you dig deeper into the human soul, you’ll find treasures. You’ll find a human spirit with an insatiable yearning for something greater and higher than itself; a connection with the divine.
The noted psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, famously identified the deepest need of a human being as a “search for meaning,” deviating from the perceived belief by his predecessors that the human was basically an animal, seeking nothing more than self-gratification.
The Torah this week tells us the story of Korach’s rebellion against Moses’ leadership.
“We are all holy,” he protested. “Why do you exalt yourselves over the people of G-d?”
In his response to Korach and his followers, Moses explained that his brother Aron’s role as High Priest was ordained by G-d, and that it was not subject to the challenges of mortals.
“You all want to be High Priests? I also want to,” Moses admitted. “But what can I do? I was not chosen for that role by G-d …” (Rashi 16:6)
It seems that, within all the mayhem of the attempted rebellion, Moses had identified a kernel of positivity in the hearts of his detractors. A longing for more intense spirituality, which he wished to channel into something more meaningful.
Sunday, June 13, corresponding with 3 Tammuz, marks the 27th yahrzeit, or anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory.
Perhaps more than anything else, the Rebbe saw it as his life’s-mission to identify within every individual that longing for a spiritual connection, and to satiate it with mitzvahs and good deeds.
At the height of the counterculture revolution in the 1960s, when some establishment people thought the world had gone mad, the Rebbe called on Jewish leadership to recognize that our children are not rebelling; they are banging on our door for direction. All they want is to sooth the longing within their souls; and this we can do by teaching them to the Torah-true values, the time-tested life guide of our people for millennia.
Rabbi Mendel Jacobs is director of Chabad of the West Side, along with his wife, Devorah.