Korach! What a portion! Right on the heels of the reports of the spies and the failure of the people to have “faith” in their own vision and the vision of God, comes a major rebellion against the leadership of Moses. Korach, incites the people, creating an undercurrent of unrest and distrust, using language that is designed to raise fear. Korach accuses Moses of a sort of elitism, citing his seeing himself, according to Korach, as being above the common people (Numbers 16:13).
Was Korach blinded by his own desire for power and thus was prone to make outlandish statements which were designed to incite and stir doubt? Was this only a blind power play? Or, as some have suggested, was this another example of Korach’s own inner sense of inferiority. Talmud remarks that “One who seeks to disqualify another projects his own defects on him”.
Let me suggest that, as with the last portion. Korach can have real meaning for us as we get a little older. With that life experience can come, we hope, a sense of perspective. Some of the things we were angry about, or rebelled against when we were younger, have gained some understanding. We may come to realize that anger, especially misdirected anger based on our own own needs or insecurities, can be destructive. After all, look what happened to Korach. That anger and rage led to his own destruction, as it often does to people who fail to learn how to control and master their own emotions. Perhaps that is a message?
We can learn what really is worthy of our anger. It is usually not about “us”, but often, that anger can serve as a motivation for social change. Certainly one of the hallmarks of much of Boomer aging is the growing desire to “give back” to society. We see this all over the country.
This is an age where we learn to harness the “anger” we may feel regarding issues of injustice or social dis-connect. The response can be a creative one, where we channel what is best in us to engage in solution building. In doing so, we can realize some priorities in our own life. To rebel against those injustices is a calling. To fail to act in some small way, eventually does lead to destruction. The rebellion of Korach can symbolize a moment in our own lives when we move from self interest to social interest, from self to society.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.