Yom Rivii, 17 Tishri 5780
Hol Hamoed Sukkot Wednesday, 16 October 2019
Parashat Korach 2014

Parashat Korach
Rabbi Andrew Goldstein
21st June 2014

I once read of a Seminar called “How to deal with difficult people”.· It claimed to teach you how to cope successfully with such unpleasant characters as the know-it-all, the complainer, the nay-sayer, the yes-man, the dictator and the trouble maker.· A course all rabbis should perhaps go to…certainly Moses needed such help, for his leadership was confronted by all such types.· You have to feel sorry for Moses: read the Torah at this time of year, week by week, and the rebellions and moaning never seem to stop.· And the rebellion of Korach was the most dangerous.· And yet you have to have some sympathy for Korach.· Its our democratic upbringing that brings this out:· Korach was only exercising his democratic right to ask why Moses and Aaron alone were the leaders of the Israelites.· Our sympathy wells up as we read of the dreadful punishment Korach and his band receive for daring to question the leadership: being swallowed alive into the earth.· But maybe our judgement of democracy is called into question at this very moment.· Britain & America went into Iraq to establish democracy…but well its not that easy, and our vision of democracy may not be immediately appropriate in· places like Afghanistan or Egypt.· The West urged the Palestinians throw off the yoke of dictatorship and go for democratic elections, but then didn’t approve of the democratic result.· No its not so clear cut.· And I think it natural to have some sneaking sympathy for Korach. Even though in the Torah story he really was just a rabble-rouser out to grab power himself.· However even such folk do not deserve to be swallowed up alive, even if sometimes we might wish the Biblical miracle to be repeated with those who nag and pester us.

The rabbis of old went out of their way to vilify Korach and defend Moses.· In one collection Korach dressed his followers in taleisim made all of blue, with completely blue fringes. Korach asked Moses: “are these garments kosher?”· “No” said Moses.· But if we attached fringes with only one blue thread· they would be kosher.” · It was all pettiness, seeking excuses to challenge Moses & challenge the Torah…all without· real serious, constructive intent.· Maybe just to poke fun at the leadership:· and isn’t that a modern trend, to seek trivial ways to denigrate our leadership:· be it politicians, Prime Minister or the Queen.· Criticism IS legitimate, but petty sniping for self centred purposes is not helpful to either the leadership or the good of society, or the nobility of the sniper.

Pirke Avot asks: “Ezehu gibor?”· Who is mighty?· “Hakovesh et yitzro”…those who can subdue their impulses.·The greatest strength is to do battle with the negative impulses with in ourselves, for they sap our enthusiasm, stunt our growth,· can poison our relationships, and lead to chaos in the society in which we live.