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Parashat Korach 5775

Parashat Korach is a very political Sedrah. In the eyes of the modern, liberal, enlightened man (I suppose that’s us…) it might be very confusing. Korach challenges Moses and Aaron’s theocracy. If you will, it was one of the first social-democratic protests. Their first claim was that Moses and Aaron took too much for themselves because all the people are holy, so why do they claim a more important role than others. It’s a strong argument! We are all holy; we learnt that in Parashat Kedoshim, because in each one of us there is a Divine spark. But wait… it gets better.

They continue asking why did they take the people from a land flowing with milk and honey, Egypt, and you have not take us to the Promised Land, we don’t have any land to work and produce from it.

From a traditional point of view it is clear why Korach is the bad guy, but in modern eyes his claims are relevant and interesting! The first claim that they made the people leave Egypt is that they were tricked; they were deceived, taken advantage. We followed you and now we understand we were lied to. The second claim derives from the first one. You promised that it will be ok, that will be good, that we will arrive to the Promised Land, and behold not even a field or vineyard we have! We don’t ask for free food, we are willing to work, even hard as we did in Egypt, but we don’t have a place to do it. None of the promises you made when you took us from Egypt was fulfilled. Moses and Aaron you failed! Now resign and let a better leadership take your place! Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It sounds like the eternal disappointment we have from our leaders and politicians, the feeling of being taken advantage, of being lied to. Our Sages taught us that the discussion here is not about leadership, but about the essence of the argument. The citation from Pirkei Avot is known and very used for this Parashah and still, it is not that easy to understand: “Every argument in the name of Heaven will remain. Not in the name of Heaven, will not remain. What is an argument in the name of Heaven? That of Hillel and Shamai. What is an argument not in the name of Heaven? The one of Korach and his people”. So still, what is an argument or discussion in the name of Heaven and what is not? We don’t know! Big question! On purpose I tried to beautify Korach’s arguments before in order to remind us that his sin is not as clear as it seems on first reading, on modern eyes his claims sound quite in the name of Heaven! And if the Sages are right and his argument is not in the name of Heaven, then it might be that most of our arguments are more similar to that of Korach than Hillel and Shamai’s, even if at the time of the discussion it is clear to us that we are right, that we have pure intentions, that we speak in the name of Heaven!”

Aaron David Gordon, one of the spiritual teachers of classic Zionism, on the peak of the ideological era, taught Rachel the poetess a big lesson on argument matters. He said that an argument that is not in the name of Heaven is an ideological argument! Because an argument not in name of Heaven is one that does not see the people! It is an argument directed to an idea and faithful to an approach. An argument that is in the name of Heaven, in contrast, is one that sees the human being, beyond the ideas, the laws and the ideologies. Because regarding people and life in general, there are no ideologies or laws. Korach was right, we are all holy and we all have the Divine spark. However, he brought this very true idea in order to advance a forceful and selfish agenda. The answer of Moshe to the empty words of Korach was given a couple of weeks ago when two leaders of the people started prophesying in the camp. When Joshua Ben Nun requested from Moshe to put them in jail, Moshe answered “why are you jealous for me, I hope all the people of G’d would be prophets with the spirit of G’d on them”.

The daughters of Tzelophad presented Moshe with a challenge. However, their request was different: First, to be seen as people, beyond the ideological laws of the Hebrews. Moshe, in his greatness, knew to do this! He knew to listen to them; not only to them, but to the Divine inside them. Moshe chose to go by the difficult path and say “I don’t know”, and then to twist and move the whole Torah in order to allow a new answer to appear. Because the person that stood in front of them was before the Torah and was before any ideology. We are lucky to live in the post modern age where all the ideologies crashed, and they did because they were not in the name of Heaven and as the Sages said, an argument not in the name of Heaven will not remain. Meanwhile, their place was taken but a big emptiness and quite a lot of confusion. Don’t be afraid of the confusion and the emptiness, inside it, inside the silence that remained after the fall of the world orders, it is possible some times to listen to the “quiet voice”, the Divine voice that it is not in an idea, or ideology, or our ego…

To listen to the quiet voice it is the hardest thing we will ever attempt as leaders, as movements, as people. It is easier to live under the light of an ideology, of a clear doctrine. It is hard to pay attention to the quiet voice, the internal voice of man. If our compass is too clear then it seems that is not in the name of Heaven. The word in Hebrew for compass, matzpen, comes from the verb tzafun, hidden, not seen. The internal voice is silent, not clear, stuttering, of heavy speaking, Divine. “Hopefully, all the people of G’d could be prophets, with the Spirit of G’d on them”.

Shabbat Shalom!

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