Why Most People Choose Korach – Musings on The Tzadik Yesod Olam of the Generation

The Zohar states there’s one Tzadik Yesod Olam in each generation. Below him there are 36 Tzadikim Nistarim in Eretz Yisrael and 36 outside (another passage lists only the 36 in Eretz Yisrael). Below them are 18.000 upright individuals.

This Tzadik Yesod Olam serves more or less as a president and rules (below Hashem). He’s obviously not independent of Him, but has tremendous power to act as he sees fit.

We see that Moshe was the quintessential Tzadik in his generation and who gives a Nitzotz (spark) of his soul to subsequent Tzadikim. Then came Yehoshua. Then things got complicated, as it was difficult to assess which of the Judges were themselves the Tzadikei Yesod Olam. Was Iftach the Tzadik? Or was it Pinchas? Was the Tzadik revealed or hidden? When did his reign end and who took it over? This Tzadik is certainly a man so Dvorah could not have been, but what about Barak?

We don’t know.

Things then became a bit clearer with Eliyahu HaNavi, Elisha, Shmuel (or King Shaul?) and later King David, and a lot later the prophets (which, again, sometimes is not so clear). There are even some opinions that say Mordechai was not the leader of the generation or the wisest of his contemporaries, and that he was scolded for taking time out of Torah to save the Jews (see Massechet Megillah). For the record, I do however believe Mordechai was indeed the Tzadik Yesod Olam.

Whatever the case, in every generation we have this one Tzadik who towers above the generation. Not only he’s above all other people, he encompasses all of Israel and is gifted with super-wisdom beyond our imagination and sometimes even the capacity to make open miracles. Anyone who reads the writings of the Arizal, especially the Kavanot of Shavuot and Sha’ar HaGilgulim can come to this conclusion.

And, as it turns out, Hashem created the world in such a way that there ALWAYS needs to have one such Tzadik, no matter what.

It’s simply a part of the continuous spiritual system put in Creation.

And lest we be – ahem – misled: this Tzadik Yesod Olam is alive, breathing, and he’s made of flesh and bones.

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The Advantages of Connecting to the Tzadik

Connecting to the Tzadik means following his directives, studying his works, knowing his stories, praying for his sake and, yes, fearing him as you’d fear other genuine rabbanim. People don’t realize how much their lives change in connecting to the Tzadik, until they do. Rebbe Nachman explains in Likutey Moharan how true Da’at (self-awareness) and Simcha (happiness) come only from having a connection with the Tzadik of the generation. One who has a glimpse of the otherworldly, overwhelming spiritual level of that individual will get profound advances in his Avodat Hashem, and will earn fear, wisdom, da’at, simcha and everything else.

In fact, a real Tzadik is one who immediately makes you understand your smallness compared to him. No words are necessary, merely being in his presence is enough to inspire you to Teshuva.

Of course, “pundits” who have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about will dismiss everything. Since they are not experientially aware of this reality, they will argue that this concept of “one Tzadik” is anathema to Judaism and there’s no basis for it, only mere references. These are also people who don’t study or reject Kabbalah altogether.

The veil of shame and disgrace

Creation always exists in balance.

This means whenever people sin, spiritual gifts are taken away. Whenever too much good comes, a proportionate amount of evil must also come down to keep the scales of free will aligned. This idea is crucial to keep in mind for anyone who wants to understand the great conspiracies of the world which, as I will explain in another post, happen throughout history.

Now, sometimes, things are not so crystal clear when it comes to the Tzadik Yesod Olam. The generation, especially one as deranged and depraved as ours, has a veil (more like a few blankets) covering the Tzadik Yesod Olam.

The reason is straightforward: people don’t deserve him.

I know it’s harsh, but it’s true. We all like to think we’d be joyously crowning King David together with his family when, in reality, most of us would be like the residents of Ziklag who wanted to kill him. The truth is only a handful of particularly righteous people merited to see the prophet Shmuel anointing him and the oil turning into gemstones.

And so, as it happened with King David, the Tzadik Yesod Olam is therefore seen as one of the lowliest and most debased person, at least in our generation. This shouldn’t surprise us, if we keep in mind that Rebbe Nachman explains that certain exalted levels of the soul can only be attained with shame and disgrace. More on this later.

This also happened with the Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto) who suffered a lot in his lifetime.

The Tzadik Yesod Olam of our generation

Don’t take it from me. Take it from Rav Kook of Tveria, Rav Yoshyahu Pinto, Rav Kaduri Zt’l, Rav Amos Guetta, and many others (I will add more to the list) who said that the Tzadik of our generation is HaRav Eliezer Berland Shlit’a.

Anyone reading his biography (I think we also have one in Hebrew which was published) would find this self-evident, and understand that this is someone that is on a completely different level. I don’t think I can do justice here to explain why this is so, but in the book it says Rav Berland started studying in a “mamlachti” school and would bring the Gemara to the movies, almost died a few times from studying either in prison or outside, suffered tremendous legal and physical persecution for absolutely no justifiable cause, and later in life would also throw checks and money he received for Pidyonot from his balcony to the poor (following the custom of the Ba’al Shem Tov who would sleep without a penny and rely on Hashem from day to day).

And this is not stuff you can fake. Rav Berland barely eats, barely sleeps, and as an 85 y.o. man, prays Ma’ariv from his balcony in Ido HaNavi for around 30 minutes while dancing. It’s quite an experience to go there along with 200-300 men around 20:00.

The absurdities don’t end here, but this should be enough to have an idea.

Concluding remarks

The concept of Tzadik Yesod Olam is 100% based on authentic Jewish Tradition. I don’t think any Rabbi touched this point more than Rebbe Nachaman of Breslov, but you can find it alluded to in Scripture, the Talmud and explicitly in the Zohar.

The Tzadik Yesod Olam, which is in every generation, is an incredibly holy individual. It’s not for nothing that in episodes like that of Purim, the Tzadik (in that case, Mordechai), was the target of intense persecution, both from Haman, as well as the general Jewish populace. It’s in his merit that the generation stands, and, according to Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, that each person gets his Torah from.

The figure of the Tzadik as an individual of flesh and blood is also present in the mystical intentions of the writings of the Arizal, specifically in Sha’ar HaKavanot (“Gate of Mystical Intentions”). There, in the Drush (speech) of Shavuot, the Arizal explains the type and level of light we are drawing on this particular festival and says that the 2 tablets represents the 2 sephirot of Netzach (victory) and Hod (splendor). The fact that Yesod has no mention throughout Pesach, Sefirat HaOmer and Shavuot strongly indicates that it is indeed Moshe Rabbenu, the Tzadik of his generation, who brings it (hence called “Tzadik Yesod Olam”).

It’s worth noting that he is here to serve Hashem and the Jewish people, almost entirely with no self-interest. This I have come to understand regarding Rav Berland.

But this is something that must be experienced personally and with due research.

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Chaim Apsan

Chaim is a teacher and Kabbalah enthusiast. He loves helping Jews connect with true Torah teaching and enhancing their spiritual growth. With a focus on meditation, he guides individuals on transformative journeys of prayer, contemplation, and connection with Hashem. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and kids, and is committed to sharing the wisdom and power of Kabbalah in a genuine way.

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