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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
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Korach and the Three-Fingered Salute

Since the three fingered salute is being used as a sign for evil – as the Primordial Snake was in years past – our work now is to invest ourselves in publicizing the opposite.
Air France union officials perform the reverse Nazi Quenelle salute at a union rally.

Air France union officials perform the reverse Nazi Quenelle salute at a union rally.
Photo Credit: EJP

Jewish thought is filled with examples of opposites. We can either listen to the good or evil inclination, a tzadik (righteous person) or rasha (evil person), etc… there are no shortage of examples. But it appears that we now have one more.

If arabs have made a three finger salute to celebrate the kidnapping of three precious Jewish boys, then with the intention of counteracting the evil of this salute, we should promote the opposite. Since the three fingered salute is being used as a sign for evil – as the Primordial Snake was in years past – our work now is to invest ourselves in publicizing the opposite.

We should learn to “live with the times,” to live life in the light of the weekly Torah portion. Thus we would expect to find some allusion (and rectification) to this recent headline in the timeless teachings of the Torah.

But before we discuss the Torah portion of Korach that we are now in, let’s first quote something from the sages related to our present Hebrew month of Sivan.

Blessing Threes

When beginning the Hebrew calendar from Nisan, Sivan is the third month. But this isn’t the only three for Sivan. As the sages state:

“Blessed is the Merciful one who gave a threefold Torah to a threefold people, by the third, on the third day, in the third month.”

In this quote, God is referred to as the “Merciful One.” God’s attribute of mercy is itself related to the number three, for it is the third of the seven emotive attributes of the soul.

Thus this is our first prayer for this post is that our three — Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali — should immediately be blessed and redeemed by the Merciful One.

One People United

Now we turn to our present Torah portion of Korach.

Korach’s claim was that “The entire congregation are all holy,” but why isn’t this claim considered just?” On Mt. Sinai it says, “And you shall be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” and in the Torah Portion of Kedoshim the entire congregation were told, “Be holy”!

The truth is that each member of the Jewish people does have something in common. Each and every one of us is a part of the “holy nation,” and everyone has a Divine soul that is “an actual part of God above.” Nonetheless, holiness comes at various levels: there is the special holiness of every Jew; there is the special holiness of the kohanim (priests) that ordinary Jews and Levites don’t have; and there is the holiness of Aaron, the High Priest, which is referred to as “holy of holies.”

But while Korach’s egalitarian approach may seem more considerate of the “individual rights” of every Jew, it promotes the opposite. Korach could only see individuals that live individual lives. From his perspective, we live in a divided world in which there are only individuals and countless details.

This week, however, we witnessed true unity. Not from the arabs who claimed to have become “united” together, but from the true unity of the Jewish people rallying around, and praying for, these three boys.

Thus how would we envision a rectified, holy version of the three finger salute? That it should serve as a reminder as to true Jewish “salute” of unity. While there are some Jews who serve as the heads (i.e., leaders) of the Jewish people, and others as the feet to carry out the directives of these heads, we all share the same body. Whereas the ‘unity’ of the arabs is the height of disunity, the unity of the Jewish people remains always an essential part of our being.

About the Author: Yonatan Gordon has spent most of his past 13 professional years in the world of Jewish publishing. He was the Marketing Manager at Kehot Publication Society (publishing arm of Chabad) for the better part of six years. He is founder of the website Community of Readers.


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2 Responses to “Korach and the Three-Fingered Salute”

  1. Hesh Meister says:

    The three-fingered salute, Jewish style, signifies the letter Shin, first letter of G-d's name, as it appears on the mezuzah.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have been pleasantly astounded at the unity of the Israeli (and other Jewish) people since this horrendous kidnap. Ignore Ban Ki Moon and his gang of ne'er-do'well in NY. Cry out to the Almighty One Who said He will rescue you from the pit. Read and recite Psalm 57 for those boys. They may be doing that just that as well. After all, they are students of the Word.

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