Fear of Hearing the Truth is Nothing New, but the Phenomenon Has Certainly Reached New Heights in This Generation
In the introduction to the book “Em Habanim Smaicha”, which was written during the time of the Holocaust by one of the great rabbis of Hungary dealing with the obligation to live in the land of Israel, the following is written (page 37): “And so my words in this book are intended only for those who want to know the truth the way it really is, and for those who are willing to stop and listen to the words written here. I am not demanding: ‘accept my views’… and whoever would like to refute what I say, let them refute only with direct proofs from the words of our sages as I have brought, and only then will I debate them, with the help of G-d.”
Rabbi Issacher Teichtel, the author of this book, was caught in a strange situation. His efforts to persuade (religious Jews!!) of the correctness of his argument fell upon deaf ears. His lack of success was not for lack of proofs or convincing logic, but rather due to the fact that people simply did not want to seriously confront the proofs, sources and sheer logic that he brought down to support his words.
This is why he prefaced his book by saying that his words were intended for the “person who wants to know the truth”. After all, one would assume that everyone wants to know the truth, and the argument only exists as to what that truth really is. However, this is not so. There are some people, and many times it is the majority, who do not want to be convinced
Korach Was Not Interested in Hearing
This was precisely the situation with Korach. Our sages reveal in an astonishing midrash the following idea: “Now Korach who was prudent – what was the reason for his folly?!” The famous answer is that, “His eyes deceived him” (see Rashi), and we have dealt with this at a previous time. However the midrash brings down another answer, which may be even a more basic one: “all these arguments Moshe presented to Korach (i.e. tried to convince him) – and you do not find Korach having a rebuttal at all. This is because he was clever in his wickedness. He said: If I answer Moshe, I already know that he is a wise man and will defeat me in a debate, and I will be forced to appease him. It is better that I do not talk to him. When Moshe saw that there was no point, he separated himself from him.”
The above midrash is both amazing and shocking. Korach knew that if he entered into a dialogue with Moshe, he would be convinced of the folly of his ways. Therefore, he avoided speaking to him. His need for “kavod” (honor) so burned inside him that his greatest fear was to be convinced that he was wrong, thus forcing him to a band on his dream of taking power. This is the deeper answer to the question Rashi poses: “Now Korach who was prudent – what was the reason for his folly?” He did not see! He covered his eyes from seeing!
One may think that such behavior is an aberration reserved for the extremely wicked. However, a closer look will reveal that this is a very familiar trait. Very often a man sins and is well aware that this is a bad thing. Yet, he represses this idea in his mind so that it won’t interfere with his everyday life. He knows that if he listens to someone, even to his own inner voice, he is liable to be convinced. Therefore, he closes all his senses and continues on his merry way.
Why Is “The Truth Absent”
This is the sickness our sages referred to when they said that “the truth will be absent”. It is important to realize that this doesn’t mean that the truth itself will be absent. G-d forbid! The truth exists and can befound. But the sages mean that we will cause a situation in which the truth will be absent, by our ignoring it, concealing it, mocking it, and banning it from being heard by the masses… Never before was there a period of time where the truth was so logical and necessary, yet at the same time, so absent. This is because the leaders of today are so terrified by it. It is obvious to them that if the truth were heard, it would conquer the hearts of the masses. Therefore, those in power exercise all measures necessary to silence the truth: Disqualification, mockery, defamation, harassment, and prison.
By so doing, they avoid the painful truths, so as not to get “confused by the facts”.
Our People Want to Listen!
“When Moshe saw that there was no point, he separated himself from him.”The moment Moshe saw that the problem was not that Korach is wrong, but rather he wants to be wrong – he let him alone and let the ground swallow him up. But this is not always the case. Sometimes, as a result of education and surroundings, a person is immersed in falsehood, yet is willing to speak and willing to listen. He has no special interest to remain immersed in falsehood. For such a person, there is hope.