Tammuz 5 5780

Are You Seeking Recognition?

The story of Korach – קֹרַח takes place at the end of the second year at Mt. Sinai, where the people of Israel were being formed as a new nation, recently freed from slavery. The Creator began forming this new nation by slowly weaning them away from the old habits they had picked up in Egypt, treating them at first like newborn babies. He set up their system of worship in such a way as to not tear them away immediately from what they had known. It would be a process similar to our process of growing from childhood to adulthood. We will witness the true nature of mankind emerge in Korach.

Rabbi Yeshua supposedly stated, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”, but he would have quoted Leviticus 19:2, “You shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy” קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ: כִּי קָדוֹשׁ, אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם. Religious leaders teach their constituents that their goal, their obligation is to attain a state of perfection. No leaders, no human beings are perfect. The Creator gave us “yetzer tov – יֵצֶר טוּב and yetzer ra – יֵצֶר הַרַע” – the inclination to good and evil, with bechirah chofshit – בחירה חופשית free will, leaving us with the responsibility of choosing right or wrong. The great men of the Torah acknowledged their wrongdoings and had the desire to make things right, such as Judah and King David. People have always looked for excuses for their misbehavior, but the Torah teaches us that we need to do teshuva, to return to the Creator, which is why I call Him, the “God of Beginning Again.” The key is that each of us is responsible for our actions and we cannot blame anyone else for our choices.

There is a midrash that speaks of Korach whose name in Hebrew means “to be cold”. It says that he had been powerful and wealthy in Egypt and he didn’t want to leave. Now he saw that his cousins, Moshe and Aaron were the leaders of the people and that he has been passed over for the position of Cohen HaGadol – כוהן הגדול – High Priest, that he obviously coveted. The portion describes Korach’s lineage which was why he believed that he should have been recognized. The same applies to the story of Datan and Abiram as well as On, all first-borns who deserved their double inheritance. This caused resentment among them. They knew Moshe’s history and respected him but were envious that Aaron was chosen, after all, how many times had he failed? Korach was certain that he was the man for the job and refused to accept the inferior position that he had been given.

I dislike when people put words in my mouth or interpret what I have said to prove their point. Half-truths are more dangerous than a lie. Korach said to Moshe, “You take too much upon yourself, seeing that the whole congregation is holy… – -כִּי כָל-הָעֵדָה כֻּלָּם קְדֹשִׁים” taking out of context what Adonai actually said: “You shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy” –קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ: כִּי קָדוֹשׁ, אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם.. Korach inferred that all the people were holy while the Creator was referring to the “process”. It seems like an insignificant difference but by stating it this way, Korach was implying that Moshe and Aaron had placed themselves above everyone, who they said were also “holy”. This led to the rebellion of Korach and the other “men of renown” who formed a “democracy” in which the majority rules; this is demagoguery. Korach and the others suffered the consequences of their rebellion which ended with a plague from which many died. Yet the people still blamed Moshe and Aaron even though they interceded to the Bore Olam on their behalf.

Why doesn’t man learn from the past? They had all seen the power of God over the past two years, yet they caused anarchy against the established order. This is exactly what is happening in the world today. There are a few powerful people who speak half-truths to convince the multitudes who refuse to think for themselves…they have a herd mentality. The theory of democracy and equality states that all are equal and deserve equal treatment. Yes, we all have the same value but we each have been given gifts and talents which prepare us for different roles. We should never be hired to do a job based upon our color or gender but upon our merits and qualifications. A man who is trained to be a plumber should not expect to do plastic surgery. It is true that there is injustice in the world, but equality is not uniformity. Anarchy is replacing order in this day and age.

This portion is very political. We need leaders who stand up for truth and justice and who seek their position out of a true calling rather than the need for status. Many in power today, called “progressive liberals” are actually dictators, the elite who need to tell the rest what to do. That was Korach. The people of Israel at that time had all been doing well; all their needs were met, but Korach wanted power similar to most government leaders today. Even with the Creator in our midst, there are always those who are not satisfied with their role. Instead of working together for the greater good, they place obstacles in our path out of jealousy. The French Revolution cried out for “Equality, Fraternity and Liberty” yet they murdered so many people during their reign of terror and anarchy reigned until the next dictator arose, Napoleon, who restored order. It seems that most people are not happy to live in a just and free society in which they are responsible for their own lives; they need someone to tell them what to do.

The Creator didn’t make us perfect. Don’t look at the speck in the eye of our neighbor but let us examine ourselves. Do you envy others? (see the Tenth Commandment). Do you try to blame others because you don’t have what you want? Let us do a reality check on ourselves, learn from Korach about what not to do, and work to build a healthy community. Stop being religious but be the person that you alone were meant to be. Many are called but few are chosen. This means that everyone is called but very few respond to that calling. The Torah is alive and teaches us how to be the person the Bore Olam meant us to be.