• Parshas Ki Tetze - Rabbi Yossi Goldman
Some arguments are petty affairs between insecure individuals, while others are classic differences of opinion between people of stature, where each opinion is worthy of consideration.

This week’s Parsha tells the story of the mutiny of Korach, a cousin of Moses who challenged his authority. In the end, Korach and his henchmen were swallowed by the earth in a divine display of rather unearthly justice.

The Midrash reveals the behind-the-scenes dialogue between these men. Remember, Korach was no pushover. Besides being of noble lineage, he was clever, wealthy, and charismatic. Korach asked Moshe: Does a house full of holy books still require a Mezuzah? Moshe answered that it did. Korach scoffed at the idea, ridiculing Moshe. The little Mezuzah contains but two chapters of Torah, the Shema Yisrael. A whole houseful of books with the entire Torah won’t do the trick, and a little Mezuzah will? It doesn’t make sense, he argued.

Why was Moshe’s answer correct? What, indeed, is the significance of a small parchment on the doorpost in relation to a library inside? The Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose Yahrtzeit is observed this Shabbos, explained that it all depends on location. The books are inside. The Mezuzah is outside. When there are Jewish texts inside our study and living rooms, it indicates that the home is Jewish. This is as it should be. But what happens when we leave the comfortable confines of our home? Do we then cease to be Jewish?

The Mezuzah is placed at the threshold of our homes, at the juncture and crossover between our inner and outer lives. As we make the transition from private person to public citizen we need to be reminded who we are, and that we take our identity with us wherever we go. There is only One G-d, says the little scroll, whether in our private domain or in the big, wide world.

One of the many works by Pulitzer Prize winning author Herman Wouk is an autobiographical novel titled Inside, Outside, in which he portrays his inner struggle in straddling these two worlds. His pious, Talmudist zayde had a profound influence on him, but so did Hollywood and Broadway. It took him a long time to find his way and settle into an observant Jewish lifestyle while still writing bestsellers.

Being Jewish “inside” is relatively easy. It’s when we hit the “outside” that we encounter temptation and turmoil. The challenge every Jew faces is to remain proudly Jewish in the face of conflicting cultures, curious looks, and often hostile attitudes.

Moshe rejected Korach’s argument with good reason. The Mezuzah does not replace the need for Jewish libraries, but it serves as a perennial reminder on our doorways. As we step out of our home to enter the outside world, it beckons us to take our G-d and our Torah, our values and our traditions, with us.


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