Rabbi's Letter

July 2, 2019
29 Sivan 5779

How very blessed are we to live in such a free country filled with abundance. Take a moment and give thanks for your family’s journey that delivered your destiny safely into your own hands. We are such lucky souls. Reach out for those still searching for freedom. It is a story that we know. And then, drive safely, enjoy your friends and family and pay your family’s good fortune forward.
Koarch is such an important story for us to wrestle with. He was a passionate young man who heard God’s word differently than the leaders of the tradition heard it. Why he asked, is Moses the only true leader, weren’t we all created equal, aren’t we all capable of being great leaders ourselves?

Korach’s sense of equality is in direct combat with the age old idea of obedience. Korach wants to push the limits of the democratic idea, that all of us are created in God’s image, all of us, and each one utterly ripe with untold potential.

Korach is actually doing exactly what young passionate minds should do, pushing the limits of what is known to reach higher for the questions whose answers haven’t yet been found. 

Obedience alone is ruled and kept intact by fear. Rebellion, as inconvenient as it can be, is the sign of a thinking mind. It’s a push back to the way things are. It’s a wondering if there could be more?

The story of Korach inspires us to wrestle with the tendency to stay quiet with the status Quo with the electricity of imagining more.

It will all come out in the wash of life, yet I so appreciate the impulse to rebel. We were given such deep and complex minds, imagine being satisfied with nothing more than the status quo, never to wonder if there is an alternate choice. Korach’s story is a difficult one. The religious leaders of the ancient world, as in the Modern world,  want us to be satisfied with being told the answer to the tough questions. The strand of rebellion pushes the limits of life into new possibilities. We should welcome the push back in our children, let them develop their uniqueness. Let them search for new answers to the ever new questions that life brings before us.
There is no doubt that Korach does not fare well in this weeks Torah portion, yet we know that the process of maturation for all of us takes pushing back and coming up against the limits, yet we must do this dance to fill ourselves out, to become well rounded and strong in our beliefs. Obedience lacks courage, it just stays the steady, yet life is not steady, and the answers are ever unclear. Let’s celebrate a healthy rebellion in our children and our friends, it will all come out in the end for good.
Thank you all for the flowers that I received on my birthday from the congregation. It was so kind of you and it truly made me feel special. That’s a wonderful feeling. I am grateful.
Thank you to all who have signed up for our Habitat for Humanity Faith Build. We are set to prepare lunch for the builders on the 25 th of August and hopefully many of you have signed up directly on their website to participate in the building. Mitch and Donna are available for all of your questions. We have such a nice group of volunteers, thank you all for joining in this noble endeavor. 
Controversy and rebellions are all a part of life.
A controversy for  heaven’s sake will have lasting value,
But a controversy not for heaven’s sake will not endure
What is an example of a controversy for heaven’s sake?
The debates of Hillel and Shammai.
What is an example of a controversy not for heaven’s sake?
The rebellion of Korach and his associates.

Clearly, the Rabbis felt that Korach’s rebellion was not for the sake of heaven and was therefore NOT worthwhile.  So what was the difference?  Throughout the Talmud, the debates of Hillel and Shammai abound. Each one debates the merits of a position not of the people who hold those opinions.  Unlike Korach, whose focus is not on the issues but rather on the person of Moses.  At the same time, elsewhere in the Talmud, it suggests that: one must not "cling" to a quarrel.

The Hofetz Hayim, a famous Hasidic commentator of the late 19 th and early 20th century, explains the problem of "clinging" to a quarrel.  He says: one who holds onto a "quarrel" or disagreement is in danger of being led towards other transgressions: unwarranted hatred, lashon hara (gossip), tale bearing, anger, insults, humiliating words, revenge, grudges, curses, and hatred.

Korach, in his attempt to debate Moses’ position, does not argue issues or abilities.  Instead, he takes potshots at Moses’ character and, according to the Midrash, falsely accuses Moses of illicit activity.  Like the Hofetz Hayim warns, Korach is led to the transgressions of slander, anger, jealousy and envy, and it consumes him.

The lesson of Korach is a challenge to each of us to be conscious of how we handle ourselves in times of debate or disagreement. Because we are all human, there are times when we lose our temper, when we say things we shouldn’t have, or when we blow things out of proportion.  

The most important thing according to the Torah is mutual respect. We are all allowed to follow our own beliefs while not forgetting to respect those who hold alternate opinions. Love and community must transcend our individual opinions for a higher continuity of acceptance. 

That’s this Rabbi’s prayer this Shabbat!
באהבה ושלום

Shabbat Shalom to all!
הרב אלישבע בת דוד ודבורה
Rabbi Julie Kozlow
(910) 762-1117 ~ B'nai Israel phone