Parashat Korah

Finding Ourselves Through Others

What are the consequences, or even the possibility, of separating ourselves from our communities, like Korah did?

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Yet our rabbinic tradition implies that Korah's taking of himself reached a new level. In challenging Moses and Aaron, he raised himself above his followers while accusing Moses and Aaron of that very same offense. In reaction to Korah's revolt, perhaps Moses fell on his face to emphasize his recognition that, despite his exalted status, we are all equal, with none either superior of inferior to another.

Like Moses, we realize that we can't easily separate ourselves from those who are part of our lives. For example, we cannot separate ourselves from our families: We are both dependent on them and interdependent with them. While it is our responsibility to teach our children, we also need to learn from them. Perhaps on Shabbat, sitting there among the knives and the forks, the food and the candlesticks, we can learn to enrich and enhance one another. We can learn all the elements of charity, devotion, trust, patience, bravery, kindness, generosity, admiration, enthusiasm, loyalty, joy, love, and hope. In doing so, we become dependent on those around us even when we seek to lead them.

Our Rabbis teach what it means to be an effective leader when they ask, "Where shall we find the Leader of Leaders?" According to Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a, the Messiah can be found at the gates of the city, bandaging the hands of lepers, reducing their suffering. The Messiah does not separate himself from the community; rather, he identifies with the community of those who cannot help themselves. The Talmud teaches that we find ourselves as leaders through service to others.

As we, the crooked timber of humanity, strive to lead our daily lives, struggling to become more wholesome and decent, let us take the example of this parasha to heart and be reminded of the consequences of separating ourselves, like Korah, and of the virtues of remaining one with the community, like Moses and Aaron.

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Rabbi Douglas E. Krantz is the spiritual leader of Congregation B?nai Yisrael, Armonk, N.Y.