Candle lighting time is 8:30
Last week I mentioned that the Children of Israel were required to spend forty years in the dessert after the false report of the spies. Of course, forty years with a dessert such as this would not have been all bad, except maybe for your cholesterol. And they would have definitely been much, much better than forty years in a desert like this:
Last week it was the spies who tried to deceive Moses. This week we find Korah, Dathan, and Abiram leading an outright revolt against Moses and Aaron. Many times when I write about the weekly parshah I study chabad.org or aish.com, two excellent sources that I recommend to you if you would like to learn more. But today I will go no further than our own Chumash, edited by Dr. J.H. Hertz, C.H., late Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, for his excellent commentary which is found on page 638 of the Chumash.
“In the last Sedrah we had seen the people threatening to appoint a chieftain who was to take them back to Egypt. It was ominous of further serious revolt. When the rebellion broke out, it was widespread though not homogeneous. On the one hand, there were those who were discontented with the leadership of Moses. They were led by Dathan and Abiram, of the tribe of Reuben, the tribe that once possessed but had now lost the birthright in Israel, and was, it seems, chafing for the recovery of that primacy. On the other hand, there was Korah – himself a Levite – and his followers, who were aggrieved with Aaron, to whose family all priestly privileges were now confined. These two groups of malcontents worked separately, and they were in the end cut off by entirely different acts of God. Their punishment was a signal, since the vindication of Moses and Aaron had to be complete. Otherwise, anarchy would soon have destroyed national unity; and, in its trail there would have followed the total frustration of whatever Divine Mission was in store for Israel in the arena of history.”
The commentary further describes Korah as a demagogue who would use any weapon to discredit Moses out of jealousy of Moses, and to promote himself as the leader of the Jewish people without regard for the good of the people.
We are all too familiar with those who govern not for the good of the people who have entrusted their governance to their leader, but rather for the power that they can themselves obtain through governance. In recent times we need look no further than the Stalins, Saddam Husseins, Shah of Iran, and others of their ilk who put themselves and their goals ahead of those over whom they governed.
And the Haftorah which follows Korah demonstrates how rule over the Jews by Korah or someone like him could have been disastrous for the our people. Again I turn to Rabbi Hertz for commentary.
“In the Sedrah, Korah and his associates complained unjustly of the rule of Moses; in the Haftorah, the people displayed ingratitude towards their devoted leader, Samuel, and clamored for a king to take his place. Both Moses and Samuel protest their utter disinterestedness in the service of the people.
Samuel was the last and greatest of the Judges. The task was one of extraordinary difficulty. Moses created the nation; it had disintegrated in the wild anarchic times of the Judges. Samuel had to re-create it, and rebuild it out of ruins. He found a loosely-knit body of tribes and left them a united people. Although himself opposed to monarchy, he made a national monarchy possible. But at the foundation of it, he laid firmly the Biblical conception of the responsibility of the ruler to God. This is one of the main differences between Israel and the other Eastern nations of antiquity. Whereas in Babylon, e.g., a limited monarchy would have been deemed a contradiction in terms, in Israel it is the people that is in possession of sovereign rights, and the king is under the law. The Jewish king was bound to respect the liberty, honour, and the property of his subjects, and his powers were strictly limited by the fundamental laws of the Torah. Prophets, psalmists, and sages all conceived of the king as a shepherd of his people, whose sceptre should be a sceptre of peace, piety, and righteousness.”
This kind of governance must have been the kind of governance that our forefathers envisioned when they created a government whose powers were limited by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and who, as it was said in the Declaration of Independence, are,”deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” And, as Abraham Lincoln declared in the Gettysburg Address, it must be a, “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Certainly not the kind of government that Korah had in mind.
The Annual meeting of our Congregation will be held on Sunday, June 23, at 2 p.m. in the Shul’s Social Hall. Refreshments will be served. We hope to see you there.