The name of the Torah portion this week is Korach. Korach means "bald." In Vayikra, baldness or bareness unrelated to a normal receding hairline (Leviticus 13:42) was just that, normal, but if reddish-white streaks broke out, it was abnormal and required examination. A similar bald mark of leprosy could break out in a piece of leather:
After the article with the mark has been washed, the priest shall again look, and if the mark has not changed its appearance, even though the mark has not spread, it is unclean; you shall burn it in the fire, whether an eating away has produced bareness on the top or on the front of it. (
Strong's #: 7146
Definition: baldness of head, back baldness, bald spot
If the mark could not be removed by washing, whether it was on top of the skin of leather or under it, the leather had to be burned. If the mark spread, the leather had to be burned. In Korach's case, the mark of rebellion against authority definitely was spreading in the Camp. There is an equivalency of expression in the cited verse. The mark is equated with baldness or bareness; therefore, Korach's name should not be interpreted to imply he simply had a normal beautiful bald pate, but that he was marked by spreading rebellion.
In the earlier purification service for the Levites, the men had been completely shaved and immersed for service. Korach would have been purified as a Levite, so what was his problem finding peace in the great gifts he was given? Was the balding of his body in purification not enough? Was it simple jealousy? Why could Korach not perform the Levitical service of administering the Tabernacle without coveting the priesthood? Why could Dathan and Aviram not run their tribal governments and not worry about Aaron's priesthood?
Were they even wrong to covet the office of priesthood? After all, Paul says the saints should earnestly covet the better gifts, and these men obviously viewed the priesthood as a better gift than what was inside their Levitical and governmental circles. The simple answer is that it is only Messiah who can function in the capacities of both priest and civil governor with peace.
What qualifies Messiah? He came as a servant first. A servant.
What qualified Aaron? He came as a servant. A servant.
Did Aaron make mistakes? Yes. But what was the quality of his character and spirit that made him a leader? Authority comes through obedience. Obedience is learned in suffering. When the plague threatens the camp, Aaron RUNS to stand between Israel and the encroaching plague:
And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people.(Exodus 16:47)
There are people who will do something easy to lend support to a brother. They might make a Facebook post. They might send a consoling email. But how many of those people would RUN to you if you were in mortal danger?
Today we see that public servants were killed in the line of duty in Dallas. As a retired law enforcement officer with the Bureau of Prisons, my heart is aching. I know the feeling. That static of a hot mike comes through the radio..."Attention all radio units..." That means something bad is happening. Someone is in mortal danger. Maybe an officer. Most likely a civilian. In the prison setting, it is more likely an inmate.
Instead of doing what is natural, a law enforcement officer instead starts running even before he or she hears the location of the emergency. It doesn't matter whether it is a brother officer or a civilian or an inmate. We ran. Often I was already through the door to the outside sidewalk before I even heard the destination transmitted over the radio. If you don't hear the location, you run anyway. You just follow the other officers to the danger.
You run. You run to save a life. Or lives.
You run even though it may be an ambush. The disturbance could have been staged to draw officers into housing unit where inmates wait with fire extinguishers and homemade knives. You run anyway. You run to save the innocent and you run to save the guilty. In a prison, every time that radio crackles, every day, several times a day, you run. You run even though you run to save those who hate you. You represent all the bad experiences they've ever had with authority.
You see human beings do things to one another that should never be done. You see it in nightmares. It affects you in ways you can never transmit to someone who has never served in law enforcement. Our staff suicide rate was much higher than the inmates'. Nevertheless, you run every single time. You run to stop the plague of violence and bloodshed. In Aaron's case, he had to run because many picked up an offense that was not their own. The offense, an emotional virus, spread in spite of logic and reason.
I have great respect for police officers, for they run to they know not what. In a prison, all our "civilians" were guilty. A jury of their peers had decided to sequester them from society for a set period. They were in prison AS punishment, not TO BE punished. Wrap your mind around how you would mentally and emotionally work with that mindset each day, but we knew our population.
Police officers don't have that benefit. Each person they approach is an unknown. Maintaining courtesy with everyone can sometimes leave them vulnerable to those committed to attack or who are mentally unstable. Nevertheless, they run. They run to the battle, not away from it. They run frequently without the proper equipment, sufficient backup, and sadly, without the support of the population they offer their lives to protect.
Are there rogues in law enforcement? Until Messiah comes, yes. Are they the majority? No. The Korachs in the world ignore the logic of this. The Korachs work through proxies. They are unwilling to work through problems, unwilling to take counsel, unwilling to accept authority, for it interferes with their own power. Their power is gained by spreading emotional viruses, not by sacrificing their lives even for the guilty.
And politicians continue to prostitute themselves to emotional viruses in exchange for a vote. They present themselves as little messiahs sent to save the world from injustice, yet they probably wouldn't last a day on the beat or behind the fence. Would they go to work every day knowing that they may not leave their shift under their own power? Knowing that their death could be ignoble, and the only thank-yous they'll earn are those given to their family at their funeral?
Law enforcement officers run to the trouble. They run no matter whether you are male or female, black or white, guilty or innocent.
We claim to love the Torah. What kind of "law" enforcers are we? Do we run to stand between the world and the plague, or do we simply stand aloof and spread our emotional viruses? Do we covet one another's gifts and callings? Are we constantly comparing ourselves to one another instead of GIVING light to the world?
We will have to give account for how we've represented the Torah some day. Did we run to reconcile our hurts, or did we let them grow and spread our emotional viruses
take up offenses not our own? Did we let our differences grow into unreasonable hatred, the sin that brought down the Second Temple?
If you know a law enforcement officer, find a way to say thank you. If you know a spiritual leader, find a way to say thank you. If you hear an emotional virus spreading, be the one to insist that the grievant present his or her case to the one with whom is the grievance, not the court of public opinion.
When we stand before the Judge, let is be said of us, "We ran."