This week’s Torah portion is found in Numbers 16:1-18:30. This parashah is the most famous of the revolt sections. It tells the story of Korach’s attempted coup d’état. Within the Torah’s five books, this is the most politically charged text, and in a time such as ours, with great political divisions throughout the land, it presents both challenges and great insights.
Korach argues that Moses, who represents the central government, has become too powerful; that decision-making should be spread evenly throughout the community.
The issue of power, of which the parashah speaks, is one that has plagued political scientists and social reformers ever since. How much freedom is too much? Because Judaism is a religion of questioning rather than blind faith we tend to question all forms of authority.
To question is never easy and ever since Korach, we the Jewish people have struggled with maintaining a fine line between support of our leaders and being too critical of them, between the realization that leaders must seek consensus and the realization they cannot make every decision according to how the political winds may blow at a specific point in time. The art of questioning has forced us to seek to balance personal and communal responsibility, to find ways to argue with each other and yet come together and learn to accept that others may have different viewpoints from those that we hold.
Perhaps it is for this reason that the text teaches us that while we must judge our leaders with a critical eye, we must also avoid falling into the trap of cynicism and crisis management. To do so is to encourage those who hope to gain power through self-promotion and agitation.
In times such as ours, where so many are convinced that only they are correct and the other is wrong, this section reminds us of the arrogance of certainty.
Just as in the days when we travel through the Sinai desert on route to Israel we too live in a time of hyper-political sensitivity, where both sides have ceased to listen to the other and seek to overwhelm rather than to bond.
In the Biblical text, the end of the revolt comes with the ground swallowing up Korach and his men and all of their families. As we in the United States approach our 242nd Independence Day from British tyranny, this section forces us to ask: Have we learned how to listen to each other or shall we too be swallowed up by the sands of political discord and arrogance?
Youtubes of the week:
A little bit of humor to make you smile.
Greatest lawyer ad ever!:
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Mexican Jewish film festival humor: