Several years ago, Rabbi Debbie Israel, spiritual leader of Cong. Emeth, Morgan Hill, CA and a supporter of Scouting, wrote a d’var Torah for this week’s parasha. We reprint her d’var this week in honor of her retirement from the pulpit this Shabbat. Kol hakovod (all honor to you) for your dedicated service.
This week we read the story of Korach, who led a rebellion of the Israelites in the desert. In this parasha, Korach challenges the leadership of his cousins, Moses and Aaron. “What makes you so special?” he wants to know.
Challenging leadership is often something we celebrate. We are drawn to the emerging leader, the person with fresh, new and creative ideas, a different approach. This kind of person appeals to many of us, the “up and comer” who challenges the status quo. So, what’s so terrible about Korach?
Korach demanded leadership rights because he was driven by jealousy, like the kid on the playground who pushes himself to the front of the line, crying “No fair! It’s my turn.” He’s done nothing to earn this position; he just feels it’s his right.
Korach didn’t have legitimate grievances with Moses and Aaron. But even if he had, his approach was wrong. He didn’t privately discuss his concerns. Rather, he rallied support for himself by gossiping about them and generating dissension. Then he publically attacked Moses, arguing in order to puff himself up. He wasn’t thinking about the greater good. He was thinking about himself.
Rabbi Debbie Israel