July 1-2, 2022 Parashat Korach
3 Tamuz 5782
Who is in charge, how are our leaders selected, and what should we expect from our leaders? Our Torah reading for this week poses these socio-political questions.
Moses has just sent spies to scout out the Land. The spies returned with mostly negative reports, and the people learn they will wander in the desert for 40 years and will die before reaching the Promised Land. Did Moses fail at leadership? He led us out of Egypt but can’t get us into the Land. Conditions are ripe for a rebellion. So it is no surprise when Korach, a member of the tribe of Moses, gathers some people together to confront Moses and Aaron: “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and the Eternal is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the Eternal’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3)
Korach’s question is a valid one. Who appointed Moses leader anyway? And for how long? The Rabbis of the Talmud say that this argument between Moses and Korach was really about Korach’s ego, not about seeking the best outcome for the people. Korach was jealous of Moses, say the Rabbis, and he only wanted power. But the people were stuck in the desert with no hope of getting out. They lost trust in Moses so maybe for them, Korach had some appeal.
The great Orthodox sage Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik said that Korach’s mistake might have been that he really aspired to be a king, whereas Moses wanted to be a teacher. (We even call Moses Moshe Rabbeinu – Moses our teacher.) It’s a subtle distinction. Kings seek personal and familial elevation; Moses wanted to elevate not just himself but the entire people. In Jewish tradition, our leaders are teachers. Teachers have influence that remains long after political battles are over. Korach’s rebellion was for himself for the moment; Moses had a vision for all for the future.
In a dramatic climax, Moses and Korach are arguing, and the earth opens up and swallows Korach and his followers. We, the readers and students of Torah, are left to conclude that the leadership of Moses is preferred. Despite his mistakes and missteps, the legacy of the teacher lives on.
Please join our Shabbat celebrations in the Synagogue (masks required) or on Channel 1960
Friday at 5:00 PM: Shabbat Blessings in the Dining Room
Friday at 6:30 PM: Shabbat Evening Service
Saturday at 10:00 AM: Shabbat Morning Service followed by Blessings in the Dining Room
Candle lighting time for Shabbat for the city of Mission Viejo: Friday evening at 7:47 PM
Shabbat ends Saturday evening at 8:48 PM
Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Sherman